I arrived at the Devil's Dyke for 10:30 am and was already surprised to see so many gliders in the air. The weather forecast had predicted strong, gusty WNW winds in the morning, easing as the day matured. As I walked towards launch it was evident that it was strong so I decided to begin rigging my glider with the intent of flying it later.
After witnessing a couple of lively landings, one of which resulted in a broken tail fin and another almost landing on a bus, I retreated out of the wind to enjoy some hot coffee and pre-packed lunch!
By mid-day things were starting to look good. I had rigged my glider at the back of the field and by the time I was ready, the route to launch was obstructed by gliders at various level of assembly. After some careful manoeuvres and a couple of gliders being moved, I arrived at launch. The wind was westerly, which ruled out the Truleigh Run. It was a sunny day and there were plenty of spectators watching and as they clicked away with their cameras/cell phones I launched. A glider in front of me had already launched and turned left, so I turned to the right - headed for the modellers bowl.
The first part of the flight consisted of beats back and forth along the pub hill. Traffic increased as more and more pilots took to the skies and I found myself flying away from the hill to stay comfortable. The bottom landing field was being ploughed and generated a slow but reliable amount of lift. I considered this the reason why I was able to maintain altitude similar to those in the main ridge lift. Occasionally I bumped into a thermal and was able to execute 360s; in doing so, I drifted slowly toward the main areas of traffic where I had to leave the thermal (I'm still not confident 360ing in high volumes of traffic).
There was an area of lift just north of the modellers bowl (just over the road) which appeared to be work well. Several times I pushed forward; at one point, as far as Fulking's cricket ground where a match was underway. The U2 definitely has an improved glide/sink ratio compared to the Sting 3 and as I was able to confidently push further out of the ridge lift than I had before and still glide back to the ridge.
This set the main pattern of my flight; height gained in ridge lift the push out the front as far as I dared! My luck didn't last and on my final push out and return glide I re-joined the ridge half way down! As I glanced up at the traffic I realised that others struggled to stay up. As I beat back and forth about 50 feet above the tree-tops I decided to bottom land. With my harness unzipped and my legs free, I headed off to the east ready for a long westerly approach into the bottom landing field. This was the area I had flown in earlier which seemed to generate lift and much to my surprise, as I turned on to final, my vario beeped. I couldn't have been much higher than 100-150 feet above the bottom landing field so took an unusual step (for me) executed a low level 360. The vario once again emitted a couple of beeps and by the time I had completed my 360, I had gained maybe 20 feet!
I looked up at the Dyke and saw 3 hang gliders had set up their bottom landing approaches. They were still above me and again I pushed out over the road and executed another gentle 360, just north of the modellers bowl. Again, my vario beeped! I couldn't believe my luck! I had climbed above the first of the hang gliders that had now set up for their bottom landing and I still climbed slowly in this weak but consistent source of lift. For 3 minutes I worked this and gained maybe 50 feet. 3 hang gliders had bottom landed and an additional one was headed in my direction. For around 7 minutes myself and the other hang glider thermalled this area of lift together. I was out climbed purely because I didn't dare go into the modeller's bowl which was surrounded by trees but in hindsight, this provided the most efficient climb!
Eventually I made it back to the ridge and still climbed, albeit a little slower! After a few more beats along the ridge, all the hang gliders had now either bottom or top landed. A few paragliders had now launched and it wasn't long before I was again below the ridge! There was no low save this time around, so I set up for a bottom landing (this had been my goal for today; a nil wind landing on the U2 160).
Compared to my Sting 3, I was surprised by the glide of the U2 and for a few paranoid moments, was worried about landing too far west in the bottom landing field. I had, like my earlier plan, set-up my approach from the adjacent field to the bottom landing, so had plenty of space!
As I started my final approach I was surprised by the length of the glide and as the remaining energy diminished, I flared hard and gently landed the U2; it was uneventful, something that I hadn't expected! As I glanced down at my watch I realised that I had just broken my longest flight record by 3 minutes! Yay!
I missed him on the day, but one of my friends (Barry) was at the Devil's Dyke practicing his photography skills for his photography club. Barry has kindly allowed me to publish these photographs below...
|Flight Type||Hill Launch|
|Glider||Wills Wing U2 160|
|Launch Date/Time||16 May 2015 / 13:15|
|Flight Duration||1h 43m|
|Comments||W-WNW 10-20mph. Day started off too windy so I waited for conditions to improve. Great low save as I was destined to be first to bottom land but wasn't; ended up bottom landing. First on U2 - no problems!|