It originally looked like a post cold frontal day but that was not to be as the front sort of curled up and escaped stage right into the North Sea leaving us with murky milky looking air and thin top cover.
I had the day and so after some breakfast at Cote I got off to the hill not forgetting anything at all which is progress this year.
No one was up when I arrived, which rather made me wonder if I had made a good choice, but, a day laying about in the grass was better than facing Thameslink trains and so nothing could go wrong.
Takeoff was a bit iffy – I ran hard but felt nothing most of the way – only towards the fence did I get a kick and off I went rather abruptly but thankfully.
Not much going on at all really – the air felt weak and there were not so many thermals so nothing to write home about – however, I was in the air and that in itself was enough to bring a smile as really I was never in any danger of having to take a bottom landing.
The best part of the flight was following a pair of Red Kites out front together with Youngy to find the best line of lift of the day up to 1660amsl
Landing I opted for the bowl field as the worst feeling air all day consistently was in front of takeoff and so I took the bowl option and no problems.
Waking up to discover flyable weather is becoming a thing, the charts were not in good shape, the wind was on the hill and in these days one cannot be picky.
Remembering my basebar and forgetting my sunglasses I set off, The day was windy looking, the roads were busy my mind a mess meaning going flying felt cleansing.
Nicos had already flown when I arrived, the air looked wet and milky, but the wind felt steady enough so I rigged, got ready and doing just a few things differently, different bags – different clothing while flying I managed to drop my car keys while doing my final checks. One day it will all go smoothly.
The air was ok, felt secure, was warm and devoid for the most part of any real thermals, the fields were dark and so should really have worked but remembering the charts this was predicted. I had one good thermal all day.
Once things started to get turbulent I decided to land – sped about a little to lose height flew out a little and made a nice approach too high at first then better later discovering once I had that I had lost my keys – Dave Mathews found them for me :)
Later still, in fact as soon as I was home I jumped on my bike to do the Dyke Ditchling loop I like so much.
Driving away from a flyable hill is one of the things in life that just does not feel right, driving away with vigour feels perverse especially when I have not flown since November.
It was that time and moving flat that took my basebar to the corner of the garage and then not to the hill that first time out in a while, an understandable mistake, lucky for me it fitted with the character of the air, meaning a later takeoff was better than an earlier one. Lucky me.
Nerves had me wait for a little at launch to gather myself and be ready to go, once away however it just felt good, simply good, nothing complicated, just really nice to be back in the air.
Ridge soaring is like flying comfort food, easy, contained, simple but so satisfying, add a few easy thermals and it becomes quite tasty too.
After flying out to the A27, using up my height looking for something out front, I returned to the hill in dead feeling inert air, compelling a landing.
My landing was great, nice approach, the right heights, the right feeling and the right ending.
When my glider settled on my shoulders and I walked back in I had a very easy smile…
Listening to your own advice is a trick that takes a bit of work, arriving and keeping to myself, rigging, flying waiting until after to really talk about it at any length has helped with recent flights. Nothing wrong with it at all but drifting into conversation will easily see a chunk of the day pass faster than is decent.
Launch then was late but into good enough air, the paragliders were legion more than I liked especially after on came out of wingovers straight and lever aiming right at me but looking back behind him – needing me to dive to slip under him.
I chose to use the height I had to go to the trig point and try there in peace but it was not to be – I did try and scratched a little in each bowl, even down at the trees for a few beats.
My landing was ok – I had plenty of speed and waited for the downslope to end but waited a tiny bit too long and saw a wing the right one drop just as I flared meaning I kind of rolled the aframe and the nose untidily on landing but kept my feet ok.
Others had really good flights up at 3000ft in great looking clouds.
It was an overcast forecast and a little windy but it was a chance to have a few flights and more importantly a few landings. I was a little nervy after last weeks parking congestion so felt some tension when I was setting up.
The air was lumpy and a bit wild so each approach was full on but each landing was nice and soft. It felt nice to be flying, more than nice.
I had been thinking that Sunday would be out with the cyclists right up until Saturday night and a quick check on the weather showed it to be NE and nicely on the hill.
It was with some long-lost enthusiasm that I got everything ready and started off to Bo Peep, a feeling that I have not had for far too long – I think having a nice goal this year and feeling that my landings are something I am happy and confident with all my confidence has returned.
Flying was fine – the air was a little lumpy but bright and quite beautiful. I managed to approximate a few thermals and feel happy in one of them in fact the air was interesting enough to have me drop the plan to do touch and goes and just stay there and enjoy myself for a little while.
My first approach saw me overshoot which in the wind we had I was very surprised about – the second approach was along the same line and from similar heights but I was drilled at the last 50 ft and ended up landing between lots of gliders – with luck I managed to miss all of them but in doing so I did one of my uprights.
In all I felt better today and with everything fixed look forward to the next time with gusto.
Sometimes things happen when you least expect them too, they are necessarily confusing and after if you are lucky they leave you wondering what on earth happened there…
Now I have thought a little about it I realise that I was bitten hard by a very benign set of circumstances. While flying I learn a lot by quietly listening to others, observing them thinking about what’s best and then trying these things out, in this case my conclusions in error conspired to back me into a very risky corner indeed…
Listening to people talk about glider efficiency for example, comparing sink rates, stating the most altitude attained each flight as a badge of efficiency and skill, stating that flexies only glide best with arm fulls of VG… all that and my Wills Wing T2 being so good flying comfortably with plenty of control even with arm fulls of VG.
Further generalised comments that people fly too fast on the ridge, me feeling like I wanted to fly at the correct speed, feeling I was one of those flying too fast, so I invested a vario with a pitot tube and was flying it for the first time this weekend.
All these things meant that I thought I was doing well, that I was doing well and often above most of the other pilots so I was thinking it was all working.
However so it turns out I was slowly teaching myself to fly right on a dangerous knife edge, an edge I crossed on this Sunday afternoon, resulting in me falling through the air both me and my glider confoundingly out of control.
Just to add a bit of spice once I realised I was out of control I went to deploy my reserve, thought it was my last chance, flailed about, grasped the handle, pulled but felt it slip out my fingers… leaving me to watch the ground coming up thinking – bollox –
My glider now all on its own then gently flew off away from the ridge into safety, into space, the moment was over, I and it was ok.
Seeing the ground and waiting to hit it actually felt like a moment of calm clarity – maybe at that point I relaxed and let the glider fly… maybe it was then that I was saved.
I love my Wills Wing… it let me learn a long list of important lessons in that moment, left me free to tell the tale…
I felt the glider suddenly yaw, bank and slip in a weird way, I instinctively opposed that vigorously then hung on as it all went a little mental for what felt like ages. I had stalled and entered a spin, a witness on the ground told me that he watched what looked like a wingover but one that left me diving fast towards the ridge soon disappearing out of his view. Not good, he thought.
Once it was all over, flying confused and worried that I was still on this knife edge into the void I looked over my wings looking for damage or a rigging error I could see nothing wrong. I felt the air was nice and lifty still even well out in front so I gently returned low to the ridge and thought to continue my flight.
While doing this I checked my harness which is when I saw that my failed attempt at deployment had in fact removed both pins and partially opened the reserve container. By this time I had gained enough height to top land, so very gently I made a direct approach worried I may have a deployment so keeping movement to a minimum but happy to have another nice landing with my new Rotor harness.
this post was made into an article for Skywings
Later I would re-closed my reserve container – pack away my gear all the while reflecting that I had been extraordinarily lucky. I am not at all sure I would have survived the impact had I hit the hill on my closest pass.
Ill now take time correcting my previous assumptions, practice deploying my reserve, we all should do that more, a lot more. At my closest approach to the ridge, feeling like I was buggered, I freely admit I did scream a little like a girl. I defy anyone to do differently.
While looking out the window of my train home I noticed that the wind looked NE – since Swanborough, the obvious site for such conditions but not one we can freely choose to fly in these days, che peccato, vero…
Not sure if it had too much east I drove up anyway thinking laying about in the grass would be preferable to lying about on my sofa watching telly.
I had a lovely little sunset flight that reminded me of one of my very early flights I made in similar conditions on my old WW Eagle. I was very happy flying about while watching the light change – looking over at Piddinghoe knowing that this is my last night there ahead of leaving and divorcing my wife.
During the flight I was kept company by a rather irate pair of Buzzards, they kept me in sight and squawked quite a bit but mostly they were just beautiful and added to the magic of the night.
Getting to the hill, rigging and flying in one smooth uninterrupted motion was really nice and saw me in my glider feeling very relaxed and quite in tune with everything. I was happy in the air today and connected to my glider more than for a long time I think in part because I was not thinking about things too much – I was less mindful of flying and maybe not talking to people before left me more clear inside me than maybe after talking and speculating on the conditions and the day where others negative comments about this or that can actually kind of infect my own thinking and decision making.
Landing was a little crap as I made a short approach and landed in the rigging area in the wind gradient – I had plenty of speed on and so felt it but was not affected by it and made a good landing – I was a little unhappy at my decisions however as it was risky landing there.
Overall it was a lovely flight to define an ending in a positive way.
I was late to the hill after having to take my son to the airport and so after a whole morning in the car I spent an afternoon on the hill.
The air looked amazing all the time I was in the car, even when I got to the hill it continued to look good all the time I was rigging and then as I was walking to launch everyone landed reporting that the sea breeze was in and the air was dead.
I waited for a while – walked and talked and waited and drank tea until it had blued out and the breeze felt on the hill enough to have a go. I could see the PGs getting up a little in cycles so on seeing one start I had a go.
It was nice to cling on for a while have a go – then land all in 10 minutes – but great all the same – so much better to have a go and fantastic not to be bothered by a likely bottom landing seeing that my confidence is back and flying once more is peaceful feeling and fun – full of friendly chat – full once more of wonder and adventure…
A lovely flight feeling free and easy all day, a feeling I have been missing for so long now, in the air, on the ground, among all the others, it was just beautiful to find myself with this way after all this time and effort.
The flight itself was ok, my launch felt sloppy and I then struggled to get my feet into my unfamiliar harness. However once I was established I felt comfortable. The new hang loop with a shorter drop left me feeling natural and comfortable.
My plan was to do a few flights so I would practice my landings and launches so later after only 10 minutes flight time when I was returning to launch for my first landing I flew along the path out in front I happened to blunder into a nice climb and so that idea just went right out the window.
The air felt nice and active but I was a bit tense and out of practice making it so physical I actually broke into a sweat, which unhelpfully also steamed up my goggles :-) Later I would feel a little nauseous and so I went to land rather than risk feeling ill in the air. Obviously I need to get out more… :)
My landing was in rough and turbulent air but it was great to feel such easy authority over my glider. My new Rotor harness is just exactly what I needed, it has in its own way saved my flying – thank you so much Rotor… amazing.
After a long time off I had become far to anxious to fly – I had even thought to give away all my gear – why persist with something that made me feel so bad inside, continuing seemed somehow masochistically insane.
In the end I knew that if I was patient then a day would come where everything I needed would line up and this was that day – after so long finally my heart felt set free to fly.
My launch was a little weak meaning I had a close encounter with a bush and my landing was affected by me not figuring out that the wind had changed so had some tailwind component and significant ground speed – but – my new Rotor VultoS harness was bloody fantastic. I was left feeling so much more free to feel and control my glider all that struggle to keep upright in my old Cosmic had gone and in the end my landing was fine I felt in control and poised ready rather than trailing and forgotten.
From the day before when I had been too windy and cold – another day when I de-rigged without a flight – one of many.
What a long and difficult journey, I made it, survived, I knew what I needed the patience to wait for it to be right and had to walk away from many days where it was possible to fly but where I was not happy inside me enough.
In the end when I landed I became deeply emotional, had to pause for a little bit to feel everything course through me… once unclipped I gave Ozzie such a hug he complained I was hurting his back :)