Soaring in the Rain

Summary of flying for Sunday 24 November 2013
Total Hours0h 16m
Best Height Gain0 feet
Total Flights2

As I drove down the A23, I saw nimbostratus clouds reaching towards the top of Truleigh Hill and a gold band of light sandwiched in between. If it was flyable, height gains would have to be limited! With that closing thought, I saw PauL L. from the Suffolk Coastal Floaters rapidly approach from behind. I waved a hello as he and Darren passed and I assumed they were headed for Firle. When I arrived there was no sign of them. A quick phone call and it was established that they had headed to the Devil's Dyke. With the knowledge everyone was at Firle, they opted to join us.

The field at Firle was in quite a state (many cows!) so I rigged my glider on the A-frame. A couple of paragliders had taken to the air which revealed that the air wasn't particularly buoyant. With so many other pilots I decided to launch before the airspace became too crowded. One of the paraglider pilots waiting on the hill assisted me to launch, performed a hang check and steadied the glider for me. The wind was a little gusty and had a small amount of east in it. I took off, cleared the launch area then moved into the prone position. As I pushed my feet into the pod I felt some constriction around my calves and for a moment considered I wouldn't be able to get my legs into the harness, but with an additional push, my legs were in but something back there didn't feel right!

I had now joined the usual established procession of glider traffic. The lift was best described as iffy so I flew with the VG cranked on for better performance. In this configuration, I was able to maintain a height 50 to 100 feet above the majority of those in the air. The traffic increased as those below finished rigging their gliders and took to the air. With a mix of hang gliders and paragliders, all at different experience levels, I had to keep a close eye on everyone. At one point I looked below and saw John Mc exceptionally close to a red ribbon hang glider pilot. At the time I thought it a parallax illusion but later learned from John that it was indeed, too close!

As the traffic increased, I decided to return to the top landing field to allow others the space to fly and for me to remove myself from the medley. As I landed, the wind increased significantly and I struggled ground handling my glider back to the rigging area. Eventually, I set the glider down, unclipped and enjoyed a hot coffee. Out towards the front of the hill I saw a wedge of rain upwind slowly moving towards us. I decided to sit the next hour out and assess the conditions. The rain shortly arrived and those already flying landed. I enjoyed another coffee and conversation under the shelter of John's Sting then the conditions improved and a glimpse of blue sky appeared.

One by one hang gliders began launching back into the sky. I ground handled my glider back to the front of the hill and was ready to take-off again. I waited a short while for a gap in the traffic then began my launch run. Like my earlier flight, as soon as I went prone, I struggled getting my feet into the harness. After I had reviewed the video footage later it was obvious that the cord to pull the pod closed had wrapped around the harness. I will be using my new harness on my next flight!

I turned to the right and headed towards the plantation and despite the wind strength, I struggled to climb. To add to this, I started to feel rain drops on my face! Ironically, I had only spoken to John Mc earlier about the effects of flying a wet glider and I had now found myself in that very situation. As I looked to all the gliders above me, they had all acknowledged the rain and headed for the top landing field. I had now sunk below ridge height and reluctantly contemplated the bottom landing field option. However, I was determined to top land and after two more beats close in to the hill and with a bit of luck, I had climbed back to ridge height.

Everyone had now landed and I desperately tried to climb to a height suitable to attempt a top landing. Again, this was another subject I had discussed with John and Damien earlier; 150 feet above take-off appeared to be the optimum height. The rain had increased in intensity and despite this, I was able to climb higher. I slowed my glider down as much as I dared when the vario beeped and flew as efficiently as I could! Something appeared to work and I reached the magic 150 feet above take-off. With the rain now established as a constant drizzle, I pulled the bar in, swung the glider around and dashed towards the top landing field. The wind had also increased and being mindful or my earlier top landings, decided not to drop so far back as I had previously. The net result, was a gentle touch down on the track. That was enough for me today, so, like all those around me, I decided to pack up and head home. Unfortunately, so had all the cows, and home for them was the area where we were all packing up!

Flying Log(s)

TypeHill Launch
DateSun, 24 Nov 2013 - 12:00
GliderAirBorne Sting 3:168
Duration00h 10m
CommentsN; 15-20 mph. Rough air. Got busy so top landed.
Height Gain0 ft
Total Hours65h 16m

TypeHill Launch
DateSun, 24 Nov 2013 - 14:00
GliderAirBorne Sting 3:168
Duration00h 06m
CommentsN; Started raining so had to get enough height for a top landing. Top landed ok.
Height Gain0 ft
Total Hours65h 22m

Total Flying Statistics

The total flying statistics up to and including 24 Nov 2013:

Total Hours65h 22m
Longest Flight1h 20m
Gliders Flown4
Unique Sites Flown20
Best Height Gain3,000 feet
Total Distance30.2 km
Furthest Flown13.4 km
Total Flights248
Hill Launches122
Winch Launches105
Aerotow Launches21