Friday, 20 July 2012

Gransden Club Class Nationals 21 - 29 July 2012

Gransden Club Class Nationals – 21 – 29 July 2012
Steve came out to Gransden Lodge Airfield early with Michael and his girlfriend Natalie in order to place the caravan and pitch the tent and the plan was for me to go to work, leave in the evening and bring the glider trailer.
When Steve arrived at Gransden however, the grass in the camping area and across the airfield generally was flooded, and it was still raining.  I arrived at 23:15 that evening and promptly got the car and trailer stuck in the normal parking area.  I had to ring Steve and ask him to rescue me with the Land Rover.   In the morning I could see just how bad the grass surfaces were …. Really bad!

I later found out that Steve had managed to puncture a long, wiggly hole in the caravan side.  He’d been instructed to put the caravan in a small area between too old, ramshackle farm buildings, and as he drove through the narrow entrance, the caravan wheel had dropped into a hole, tipping the caravan to one side directly onto the corrugated iron.

Steve has also managed to rip the rear step off the back of the Land Rover because of the acute angle he was forced to back the caravan in at.  He also poked a tent pole through the large tent!  We also discovered that the large gas fridge that we use in the tent was not working properly AND the new airbed we bought in France had a leak….All of this and the competition hasn’t even started yet!!!

The Club Class Nationals runs until Sunday 29 July and it is just myself flying in an attempt to achieve a good position for the British Team.  However, the entry list reads like a ‘Who’s who’ in gliding and I don’t hold out much hope.

On the weather front, we are being promised better, warmer weather, but the evening closed overcast and pretty cool.  I’m not even sure if the weather does improve, whether the Club will allow us to fly because of the poor state of the airfield; that would be such a shame if the weather at last becomes soarable or even raceable, and we can’t even launch because of the water-logged grass. 

Issoudun Friday 13 July and Saturday 14 July 2012

It was overcast and drizzly this morning when I climbed out of bed and very much colder than in previous days; it certainly didn’t look very good for flying.  This was confirmed at briefing when the Director declared the day to be ‘cancelled’ for all classes.
We had received an offer from Brian and Gill Spreckley to visit their home and small holding so that Michael could take a look at their sheep, which we eagerly took up.  After lunch we set off to their home which is about one hour’s drive South of Issoudun Airfield.  It’s a wonderful place that they’ve spent the last few years on building, extending and improving.  They have a fair amount of land on which they have in previous years had pigs, and this year they now have sheep.  Gill also has a reasonably sized vegetable patch and a polly-tunnel under which she is growing tomatoes, peppers and pumpkins (accidently as she thought they were melons!).
We took a tour around the various fields to see how they were reclaiming them from the wild and it was surprising just how hilly and UK-like it was compared to Issoudun which is very flat with extensive arable farming.  The weather just rained and rained and rained and everyone kept telling us ‘it’s not normally like this…should have been here last year’..
In the evening we went out for an evening meal with the whole British feminine (and crew) contingent, which was very pleasant.
Saturday 14 July
My goodness me, another torrid night with storm-force winds that rattled and shook the whole tent.  There are poplar trees on the South West side of the camp site and the wind howled through them all night keeping us all awake.  At one point, it went deadly calm as if it was the centre of the storm and then shortly afterwards, the wind and gust let rip once more.  It was so severe that Steve got up at 03:00 to check on the glider that was rigged next to the trailer as we were concerned that either the glider or the trailer would move and cause damage; he was not alone, there were several cars driving up and down the glider parking area checking out the situation.
At briefing, yet another Area Assigned task was set.   This was duly drawn on the map and programmed into the glider.  We then proceeded to grid squat with the 18m class in front of us on the grid.  Yet again, because we didn’t fly yesterday, I was on the front of the Feminin Class.  This is a nerve racking time because you are never quite sure when the launch is going to take place and you are forced into hanging around the glider, and as a female, it isn’t always easy to make a last trip to the toilets either…
So there I was sitting in the cockpit at the suggested time of first launch.  The Director said the magic words for launch and the 18m were hurled into the ever darkening sky upon which is was possible to see heavy rain heading in the airfield’s direction. 

As I sat there thinking, he can’t be serious, surely the Director won’t send us too, the rain began to fall.  In this photo you can see the situation from my perspective.  I tightened my straps and prepared, just as the Director scrubbed the day for us. 
So that was it, the end of the competition in France; no further chances to improve my position.  Overall result for the British ladies was:-
1-      Liz Sparrow
5 – Gill Spreckley
7 – Helen Hingley
25 – Kay Draper
26 – Claudia Hill
28 – Jane Nash
31 – Ayala Liran
In the evening there was a huge Closing Ceremony and party with food, wine and prizes awarded to everyone.  It was a great experience to fly in France; I wish the weather had been better for gliding so we could really ‘get our hand in’.  Maybe next year…..?

Thursday, 12 July 2012

Issoudun Thursday 12 July 2012

I really didn’t want to get up this morning when the Boulanger van horn sounded, I was so tired.  I had in fact slept very well (other than dreaming of a mid-air collision that I apparently witnessed during the competition..), but still felt so tired.  But the bread is so good…so had to drag myself out of bed.

We put the glider on the grid, row 8 was now the 4th row from the front, so I knew that once the launching started, I would be off in the first wave of take offs.  However, as you can see from this photo, the weather didn’t look particularly promising.  The Met Man at briefing had described a short gap between fronts early in the day that we might be able to complete a task in, before heavy rain in the evening.
I haven’t mentioned the ‘tugs’ yet.  There is an impressive 13 tow planes, or tugs as we call them.  Most are Rallyes and I’ve had a couple of tows behind Rallyes at 85+ knots, when the maximum specified aerowtow speed is 81kts, it leads to an interesting and extremely rough tow.  The Cirrus does not take water ballast and therefore I’m extremely light; too light in fact for some of the conditions we’ve been having.
At briefing we were set a 1:30 hour Assigned Area Task, basically around the Chateroux prohibited airspace, which would be physically impossible to do in the set time, because we’d actually have to fly further than the task lines in order to fly around the airspace.  The Director realised this at the briefing when Dave Draper commented on it to him, and he agreed to set a Task C on the grid, if he needed to ‘fall back’ the task distance.
In the photo below, I wasn’t praying, Michael caught me programming the instruments and it’s easier to do kneeling beside the cockpit.

The Director cancelled the Open Class group who were on the back of the grid, and then shortly afterwards, he cancelled the Libelle Class who were on the grid in front of us.  This then put me in number one position on the grid! I’m never too happy when at the very front of the grid, because there always is a bit of a panic when they start launching and you end up rushing. The Director then set a new task, another Assigned Area Task which you can see drawn on my map in the photo below; it all looks rather complicated and that’s because it is.  You can also see that I’m wearing gloves; it was really cold today.
The Director delayed the launch two or three more times and then eventually scrubbed the day for everyone that was left on the grid.  So it was back to the parking area once more and on with the covers.
This gave me the chance to go for a run.  After a quick visit to the shops and a drive around Issoudun to look at the old centre, I quickly changed into my running gear and went for a run around the perimeter of the airfield, which turned out to be 5.3km.  So at least I was able to get some kilometres in for the day!  Thankfully, there’s no photo of me running (not that I’m aware of anyway).


Wednesday, 11 July 2012

Issoudun Wednesday 11 July 2012

Bread purchased, breakfast eaten, glider on the grid, work emails started, second ‘petite dejeuner’ eaten, then it was briefing time!
Today the Director admitted his error at yesterday’s briefing, and duly declared today to be the ‘second best day of the week’!  The task set for today was another Assigned Area Task of 1:30 hours and a take-off time of 13:00.  The Met Man declared that there would be no rain, at which point the heavens opened and the rain hammered the tin roof!  We’d left the tent open and the chairs outside, so several items were sopping wet.
Map marked, lunch made, glider programmed, route planned, we were back to grid squatting as the sky was still overcast and dark.
Launching was delayed through 13:30, 14:00 and finally started at 14:15 as the weather brightened up, with the Standard Class and we were stream launched directly afterwards. 

I was able to stay airborne without too much difficulty, in fact the main problem was the sheer number of gliders milling around the start line waiting for it to open, and at times, there were gliders far too close for comfort.  I started at 15:42 with Liz and Ayala starting shortly after me, but they decided to return back to the start and re-start again.
I had no problem flying to the first sector and even managed to fly further into the sector than I’d originally planned, mainly to take advantage of a cloud street.  The potential problem area would be the second sector, but in fact I managed to find suitable thermals, but this is where Claudia and Ayala ended up landing out. 
I flew out of the second sector into a problem area; Liz and Helen ad caught up with me and I followed them out of the sector, but as I was already lower than them, I found myself in an area of poor lift and really struggled just to stay airborne.  The others continued on their way as I drifted inexorably towards the final sector.  Eventually I was able to make my way under a decent looking cloud, and I was able to enter the sector and climb up to 3500ft which gave me more than enough height to return to the airfield and complete the task in 2:21 hours.  At least I’d managed to get back home, but it wasn't a particularly fast time.
I need to keep working on my speed between thermals, because what I’m finding is that the Cirrus is much noisier than the Mosquito and I tend to fly far too slowly.  I guess I need many more hours in the Cirrus before I’ll finally feel completely at home in it.

Tuesday, 10 July 2012

Issoudun Tuesday 10 July 2012

Urrrgh!  Another night without much sleep… apparently, Ella, the Black Labrador owned by Dave and Kay woke up in the night and had a coughing fit; I actually thought it was one of the blokes being sick.  Whatever, it woke me up in the early dark hours of the morning and I never returned back to sleep, but gradually became colder and colder until the sound of the Boulanger van horn at 06:50 made me get up to buy the fresh bread.
We removed the soaking wet covers off the glider and laid them out in the oil seed rape field to dry whilst we placed the glider in row 8 as per the gridding instructions and then  went to briefing.  The Director announced that today was expected to be the best gliding day of the week, and they duly lengthened all the tasks accordingly.  So, for the ‘Feminin’ Class, they set a 311km fixed task, with a first launched planned for 12:15.
Time was tight, so I quickly made a sandwich for lunch and went out to the glider to programme the instruments.  I have to say that the weather didn’t look particularly hopeful considering the Director’s predictions.  In fact, the Brits all went back to the camp site to make tea….what else would we do?  We pondered the day and Steve stated that he didn’t think we’d be flying at all today, at which everyone called him anything that they could to do with being pessimistic!
First launch was delayed, and then delayed again and again, until at 14:30 the Director scrubbed two of the classes, just leaving us and another class on the grid.  He then finally scrubbed us at 15:00.  So much for the Director’s assumption that this would be the best day of the week!!!  Steve was right after all!!  So, back off the grid again and back to the glider parking area.
We tentatively decided to go back to the Super Market to buy some provisions.  First I tried to use my debit card in a cashpoint machine but it wouldn’t work/be accepted, just as I suspected from my attempt yesterday.  We therefore managed to get some cash using my credit card, and then pay for the shopping using the same card.  Back at the camp site, I phoned the Bank again and had them telling me that there was nothing wrong with my card, and that I’d successfully spent £35 at 12:40 today.  We’d not been anywhere, had not used the card because I was not able to, and were by now getting extremely frustrated with them because they were insisting that the card had not been stopped.  As a precaution, as I couldn’t use my card anyway, they have now put a stop on that one too.  We are down to the one card which, as Steve was now on the phone talking to a manager, I heard him repeatedly say that they must NOT stop this last card that we are currently using.  Watch this space…My normal response is not to tell someone not to do something if you don’t want them to do it!
I have to say that not all the bad luck is just going our way; Ayala broke her front tooth on the crusty French bread, and Ella the Black Labrador has picked up several ticks, and became so unusually unwell that Dave and Kay took her to the vet.
We can only wait and see what tomorrow brings.

Monday, 9 July 2012

Issoudun Monday 9 July 2012

Today was overcast when I woke up, and worse than that, the Boulanger did not come this morning!  Michael was so disappointed.
We had breakfast and then decided to rig the Cirrus in preparation for gridding ahead of briefing.  Once at the trailer, it dawned on me that we only had one wing trestle, the second one was not in the trailer, nor inside the car.  We must have left it in the field the night before….This was not a complete disaster, but it would be a loss of a very good trestle that we had only just had professionally made for us in Germany.  So we decided to put the wings and tail on the glider, then Steve would drive back the 65 kilometres back to the field with Michael to search for the trestle.  Whilst they did this, I prepared the glider and Liz very kindly helped me put it in position on the grid with her car.
Back at the camp site, we were all discussing the previous day, and my phone rang, it was Steve, he had been rushing back to the airfield and in the process was caught speeding by the Gendarme and was therefore now following the police vehicle to the nearest cashpoint so he could withdraw 90 Euros to pay the speeding fine.  More haste less speed sprang to mind. 
It was almost briefing time and Steve called me again; he had tried to withdraw cash from 3 cash machines and his card had been refused at all three; great.  We had already had one experience of the card not working, had already phoned the Bank who had sworn that Steve’s Mastercard had not been affected or stopped.  He couldn’t talk anymore and hung up on me.
At briefing an Assigned Area Task of 2:30 hours was set.  Still no sign of Steve.  It was now 11:45 and first launch was due at 13:00.  I had programmed the instruments in the glider and got as much ready as I could, but I would still prefer to know that he was OK before I took off.
A short while later, Steve and Michael arrived at the airfield.  He’d been able to leave his Driver’s Licence with the Policeman and had some strict instructions to meet him again on the A20 near McDonalds where he would be holding the next speed trap.
Steve did make it to the Police Officer and duly paid his fine…  He also called the Bank, who apologised profusely, as they had cancelled the incorrect bank card.  That certainly wasn’t helpful with the predicament that Steve was in at the time!
First launch was delayed as the weather was not very good. 

It was delayed a couple more times before I was launched at 14:45.  At least today, I was able to stay airborne even if the weather was not brilliant.  I climbed to 3500ft, was rained on, but still managed to start at 15:57, just before the rest of the British contingent.  I never quite managed to catch up with them though; they were always just that bit higher than me and further in front.  Today though, I did manage to fly round the whole task; I didn’t complete quite as much distance as the other Brits, mainly because when I got to Area 2, the weather didn’t look that good ahead and I decided to just pop into the sector and turn for the third area.
 I was pleased that I’d made it back, but knew that my speed wouldn’t be particularly fast, probably more average than anything.  Part of the problem was that I didn’t was to overdo it and end up in a field again.
We parked up the glider, scrubbed it down and put on the covers.  I then went into Issoudun town in order to fetch a McDonalds (at Michael’s request) and to purchase fuel.  We first stopped for fuel and we daringly tried out my credit card (same account as Steve’s), which thankfully worked fine.  We then stopped at McDonalds to purchase a meal, however my debit card would not be accepted.  The Bank had already admitted to stopping Steve’s credit card instead of his debit card in error, could they have stopped my debit card as well in error – perhaps cancelling mine instead of the one Steve lost?  (Hope you’re keeping up this this saga).
The end (hopefully) to this case, is that Michael found Steve’s ‘lost’ debit card in the car beneath the passenger seat…
Go on then, hazard a guess, what else could go wrong?  I bet you couldn’t even make up a better story than this.

Issoudun Sunday 8 July 2012

Today dawned cloudy and very windy after an incredible night of thunderstorms with lightening that lit up the whole sky, thunder that rumbled through the airbed, and rain and wind that tilted the tent over sideways.
As usual, we were woken by the horn from the Boulanger Van which drives around the campsite every morning at 06:50 and rather rudely wakes us all up.  I do however get up each morning at this time in order to buy my bread, just like a true Parisian!  Michael has taken a particular liking to the Pain au chocolate and croissants that are made fresh daily.
We decided to rig the Cirrus just ahead of the rain and then went along to the 10:30 briefing.  A triangular task of 209 km was set.  We waited for the last of the incoming togs to land and then placed the Cirrus on the grid – we were the first out on the grid today, not surprising really looking at the windy and overcast skies.  Today I was on the second row at the back of the grid, behind the 18m Class and the open Class, then at the back of the Feminine Nationals, so I knew it would be a while before I was launched even once they started.
Eventually the call came over the airband radio that one of the classes was scrubbed (Open Class) and that they’d be re-briefing the task for the 18m Class.  A short while later, they re-briefed us on the front of the grid; this time we received an Assigned Area Task with a minimum time of 1:30 hours.

It was a late start and I was launched at 15:30, but I had great difficulty in getting sufficient height in order to be able to go through the start line, and frustratingly, I could hear all the other GB ladies starting.  Eventually, 45 minutes later, I gave up and landed for a re-light.  The sky looked better and this time I was able to climb and to make a start at 16:45. 
I headed up a cloud street behind a couple of other gliders and had what I thought was a reasonable run, until I turned in lift and then saw Issoudun airfield not that far away – the wind was so strong I was struggling into wind to gain any distance at all.  I continued on and on, had a couple of low spots and eventually found myself working carefully along a cloud street towards the Western area,  I only needed to clip inside the area, then I could turn downwind and rapidly make it to the second area, then home.  But no matter how hard I tried, maybe I chose the wrong route, maybe I’m not used to the performance of the Cirrus, but I couldn’t get myself into the zone.  I lost more height and along with a Libelle nearby, found myself in a small thermal, struggling at 1000ft as I watched the Libelle land in a field.  I had already picked my field but I was determined to get away if at all possible.  I was so low, I was literally flying around some kind of mast or aerial.  Eventually the lift picked up and I climbed to 1500ft and headed into wind.  Down at 800ft now, I found another area of lift and started to climb, but the drift across the ground was ridiculous and I decided I was being stupid to continue to try and decided to land instead. 
The field was a stubble field and I flew over wires and standing crop in order to get low enough to touch down early in the field as there were telegraph poles across the field.  I touched down and rolled to a stop – it was a little bumpy and stoney, but it wasn’t a problem.  I was however bitterly disappointed as I’d heard the rest of the GB women getting home.
I walked around the field to try and find the entrance and after a short while, a white van stopped and a Frenchman asked me if everything was OK.  I tried in my school-girl French to explain that I’d landed my glider in a field, that I was OK and that my crew was on its way, however, gliding, planes, landouts in fields etc. were words that were not a part of the teaching I received at school and I resorted to good old fashioned pen and paper in the end to explain my predicament.  Eventually, as I continued my walk around the field, I came across two entrances over the ditch that surrounded the whole field, made a note of them and returned to the glider.  I gave Jennifer a call on the way back to talk about my situation and she informed me that Andy Murray was in the process of being beaten by Federa at Wimbledon.  Two minutes later and she texted me to say that Murray had lost. 
After an hour and a half had past, Steve and Michael arrived with the trailer and we de-rigged and finally arrived back at Issoudun at 21:30. I learnt on the way that one of the female Libelle pilots had crashed her glider on the edge of the airfield in an attempt to get back to site, and she had been rushed by ambulance to hospital.