Under leaden skies

With autumn looking like it would properly arrive in the forthcoming week, Saturday 16th September looked like it could be the last hurrah. With RASP predicting 4+ stars for the middle of the afternoon, what could possibly go wrong? (I think you know the answer to this!)

The rain I drove through on the way to the club was as expected. It would clear… it did eventually. But the trough to the west wasn’t quite far enough over to the west. The result was a north-easterly wind and leaden skies. Not good for much…..or was it?

A lack of ground activity associated with the expected circuit flying and cable-break practice, along with a gallery of pundits looking intently towards the north, indicated that something was not quite as expected – gliders were actually staying up! Tim Fletcher and Andy Farr had found a rich seam of lift on the DOWNWIND of our ridge. The best area of lift was often well into the valley, although it did appear to move around throughout the day.

Various explanations for this lift were offered – from wave initiated by Salisbury Plain to ‘shear wave’ caused by air masses with differing wind speeds (I won’t try and explain!) 

This consistent and usable lift lasted for the duration of the day, averaging around 2 knots, with occasional areas of up to 4 knots. There appeared to be a distinct layering of the air with wind speed higher and visibility much better above about 900′. Many extended flights were had to over an hour, mostly between 900′ and 1,100′.

The unexpected nature of the lift made it one of those special days that will live long in the memory of all those who were lucky enough to experienced it, and was one that makes gliding such an engrossing sport.

As we closed the hanger doors at the end of the day, Red Kites were still soaring in the lift. It was definitely one of those ‘you should have been there’ days!

2 thoughts on “Under leaden skies”

  1. It was indeed a surprising day, but RASP is essentially just a ruse to lure unsuspecting pilots to fly ☺. I was hoping that I would be able to fly DDA after my morning shift in the winch, which according to RASP should have been eminently possible, with 5 stars forecast for 3pm. As it happened, I launched with my wings nicely splattered with drizzle, which was rain by the time I reached the trees. So instead of those amazing flights, which I had observed from the winch earlier, I had a lesson in aerodynamics and the increase in stall speed with wet wings: I felt pronounced buffeting at 43kts. With dry wings that doesn’t happen above 38kts in the Std Cirrus. After that damp squib, Greg and I decided to put DDA in its box for the good of all: we knew conditions would improve if we did that, and so it was. It was nice to observe the Jacobean formation flying, by which I mean James Farr and James Peace, at the end of the day, majestically making use of those conditions Simon described so eloquently.

  2. Not to mention the very tasty home-made flapjacks that Shane’s wife had made to bring to club members at the launch point. Needless to say, they were rapidly devoured by all of us.

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