First XC on the Downs!

Summary of flying for Saturday 22 September 2012
Total Hours0h 30m
Best Height Gain2,050 feet
Total Flights1

From Thursday I'd been watched the forecast and Saturday looked to be a potential Swanborough day. Sure enough, Saturday came and permission had been obtained to fly Swanborough. I arrived around 10am and started to rig my hang glider. John B. was out with the South Downs Hang Gliding school and it was good to see so many fledgling pilots readying their gliders, some of which were destined to do their first soaring flights.

As I readied my hang glider I assumed it was going to be a scratchy soaring flight. This was visually confirmed by those already flying, so I didn't prepare for anything other than this. This would be a decision that I would later regret, but for the moment, I focussed on getting safely into the air.

The hill at Swanborough drops away very quickly, so standing a little behind the edge can result in some turbulent air. This unsettled my glider so I slowly crept forwards until both wings settled down. Clipped in and after I scanned the air in front of me, I launched and joined the established flight pattern. Some were a couple of hundred feet above me, but Nicos, Paul and myself hunted for lift together. A couple of students from the school launched and made a pretty good attempt at staying aloft. We gave them plenty of space, remembering the stress of flying with others when I learnt!

It wasn't long before I was in something and I slowly began to 360 in lift. The sky was busy, but I felt confident flying in this company. Inadvertently I realised that flying in company has the additional benefit of allowing others to show you where the best lift is and before I knew it, I was orbiting a thermal with Paul and slowly climbed and drifted over the back. As we got higher, we joined Nicos who thermalled an adjacent core or the same thermal [who knows?], but in the opposite direction to Paul and myself. Eventually, we all established a similar pattern and continued to climb. Luke on his rigid, passed by until one by one, everyone else left the thermal to return to the hill.

I think it was John B.'s words from my last flight at Swanborough that inspired me to continue to climb and drift downwind, or, it may have been the thought that I may not have made it back to the hill, but who cares, I was off on a mini XC! It was at this point I regretted not attaching the video camera.

At 2,080 feet a.t.o, which looked to be cloud base, the thermal dissipated and I set off in a south westerly direction. With my eyes focussed on the ground for potential landing options and the blue expanse of see in front, I passed over Woodingdean and headed towards Brighton Marina. As I approached Roedean, a helicopter passed directly underneath me reminding me that I should really keep a watchful eye out here as many pleasure flights from Shoreham Airport venture along the coast.

There appeared to be many different landing options ranging from golf courses, school playing fields etc. But with 1,600 feet to spare, I wasn't quite ready to land. As I Looked westwards I could see Brighton extending all the way along to Worthing, very urban and very landing unfriendly! To the south; well, I'd run out of land; just the English Channel, so, with minimal options, I concluded that I would land somewhere below. This of course gave me plenty of time to pick the best option. I was undecided with between the large mini-golf course or the triangular field across the road to it.

I orbitted the field as I descended and spotted lampposts around the mini golf course so opted for the adjacent field. I dropped quickly and set-up my landing approach. I was eager to land in the first third of the field as the later end didn't look very inviting with a large fence that bordered it. On my final, as I passed between parked coaches and skimmed along the field, I discovered my chosen field was actually on a significant gradient and my glide matched it! I was able to get my toes to the ground and ran off the landing.

Down safely and parked beside the road, I was joined by some observers that were very interested in my exploits. After some friendly conversations, I was left alone. It suddenly dawned on me that I hadn't even considered going XC and as such, hadn't prepared for it. No ties, no bags, no means of getting back! Fortunately, I had my phone and camera [the camera was for evidence!]. I left various messages for the pilots on the hill to let them know I was down safely but was unable to get through to anyone. After an hour it was time to call in a big favour! With the loan of a friend's car, who also watched over my glider, I returned to the hill to collect my car and glider bag with which I was able to recover my glider, and most importantly, the friend of which I now owe big time!

Flying Log(s)

TypeHill Launch
DateSat, 22 Sep 2012 - 11:30
GliderAirBorne Sting 3:168
Duration00h 30m
CommentsNE; landed next to Brighton Marina.
Height Gain2,050 ft
Distance6.1 km
Total Hours54h 41m

Total Flying Statistics

The total flying statistics up to and including 22 Sep 2012:

Total Hours54h 41m
Longest Flight1h 20m
Gliders Flown4
Unique Sites Flown20
Best Height Gain3,000 feet
Total Distance26.5 km
Furthest Flown13.4 km
Total Flights220
Hill Launches102
Winch Launches99
Aerotow Launches19