Sunday, 24 April 2011

Easter Weekend

What an incredible weekend so far!  It’s been a hot weekend in the UK with a high pressure firmly established over the country.

22 April 2011
On Good Friday, as I had only just arrived back in the UK from Canada at 06:30 that morning, I judiciously decided that it would be best not fly that day due to jet lag.  So instead, Steve flew the Mosquito on what turned out to be a pretty good day.  He flew from Sandhill Farm to Didcot, Edgehill, Birdlip which was a 171km around the Brize Norton Zone at 85kph.

23 April 2011
After a good night’s sleep, I was able to plan out a reasonably sized cross country for Saturday 23 April.  I took off shortly after 13:15 and initially struggled to stay airborne over the Uffington White Horse.  Almost immediately, the trim on the Mosquito failed.  This meant that I was now having to push and pull the stick constantly with no respite for the whole flight, but more irritatingly, there was a constant noise with every single movement that I made with the stick as the trim uselessly rubbed against the ratchet on the stick. 

Several other gliders were heading from the M4 up the ridge at Uffington towards Didcot, and I could hear others calling out good climbs in the Oxford area, so I knew it was soarable.  Eventually I was able to work out which side of the developing clouds the lift was on and I climbed through 3000 feet and headed back towards the airfield to go through the start line. I started at 13:40 (rather late for the time of year and the size of task I was planning) and headed off towards Didcot Power Station which was the first turning point.  Another pilot from the Club, Peter Scheiwiller in an LS4, was also doing the same task and had started about 5 minutes ahead of me.  I soon caught up with Peter and spent the next 20 km leading the way from Didcot North towards Bicester.  The thermals were good, some at 5 or 6 knots, and before long I lost Peter.

I was aiming to fly at 85 knots between the thermals and all was well until I flew past Buckingham and then became concerned about the Daventry airspace.  The cloudbase now being above 5000 feet, parts of the Daventry airspace are at 4500 feet and 5500 feet and it would be very easy to bust the lower part of the airspace.  I think that whilst worrying over the base of the airspace, I lost some valuable time in the area South of Daventry.  By now I had been airborne for some time and I was beginning to find that I had an increasing pain in the left side of my little toe as the pressure of the side of the rudder pedal pushed hard against my toes.  I changed my seating position, lengthened the rudder pedals, but I could not relieve the pressure.  There were times over the next couple of hours that I literally screamed out in agony.  As I neared Husbands Bosworth, the second turning point, I have to admit that I was very tempted to land in order to relieve the pain, but I became more determined than ever to complete the task.  Just before I reached Husbands Bosworth, I came across Peter again in a thermal; so he had overtaken me somewhere along the second leg.  I turned Hus Bos and headed South.  Ahead it looked less promising with fewer clouds, but those that were around were now towering cumulus, so I stayed further to the East over Northampton. 

I left Northampton and gradually descended to 2000 feet near Silverstone; this was the first time that started to look around at the fields in case I need to land out.  Ahead there was a good looking cloud and as I searched well below the case, I found a fantastic  5 – 6 knots of lift and took this to cloudbase with many more gliders coming in and joining me.  This gave me the incentive to really push on faster now and I found another very good climb at Oxford. 

I was heading towards Lasham and the time was now past 16:00, so I needed to start to think whether Lasham was going to be achievable.  At this point, Peter called me to ask whether I still intended to carry on and I encouraged him to continue as there was an excellent climb at Oxford, and I would take a look further along track and let him know what the conditions are like. 
There was another good climb at Harwell, but I could see that ahead there were fewer clouds and potentially less thermals, so I called Peter and said that I would turn Chieveley and then head for home.  Peter replied that he would turn Didcot, which is a slightly shorter task, before heading home. 

I turned Chieveley and took a climb just past the turning point before setting the heading for Sandhill Farm.  I now had sufficient height for a glide all the way back (around 30kms).  I completed the task which was 262kms at 81kph and landed just before 17:00.  Peter found himself in a bit of a hole at Didcot and struggled to climb back up.  He eventually succeeded and landed 45 minutes after me at Sandhill Farm.

It was a great flight – I was in agony with my left foot three quarters of the way round and also had no trim on the glider, but I could have done better at finding the best  lift first time and making sure I left the weaker thermals sooner, and perhaps I could have increased my speed to 85 – 88kph.  This is what I must work on the next time I fly as well as making sure I’m much more comfortable.  Now it’s time to fix the trim…

Tuesday, 12 April 2011

Weekend of 9 & 10 April 2011

Saturday 9 and Sunday 10 April 2011
Well it’s been another interesting weekend weather wise.   With a high pressure area firmly over the UK , the weather has been pretty stable with a reasonable amount of haze.  There were some weak thermals at times up to 2500 feet on Saturday, and on Sunday as the high strengthened ahead of the forecast cold front, the inversion increased in depth and the haze became much worse.  Needless to say, although we rigged the Mosquito, I did not fly it.  It was the perfect opportunity for Steve though to hop in and have an hour and a half local soaring.
Instead of flying the Mosquito, I did my duty flying the Maule M6 aerotowing as well as several instructional flights in the K13 which I enjoyed.  I need to complete 10 instructional hours before June when we depart for the Women’s World Gliding Championships, as this is the requirement laid down by the BGA that I need to meet in order to keep my Full Cat rating, so at least it gave me the opportunity to complete some hours towards this.
We decided to camp out at the weekend, because although not fantastic gliding weather, Michael had asked if he could camp out with a friend from college.  It was pleasantly warm during the day, but the temperature quickly fell away during the evening and night time, which wasn’t too bad as we were well prepared.  It gave us the perfect opportunity to test all the camping gear to make sure that we had everything ready for the World Championships.  Every bit helps!
Close to the Gliding Club is the village of Sevenhampton.  This village is famous for the beautiful church where Ian Flemming, the author of the James Bond books, is buried.  I took the opportunity on Saturday evening to walk with Michael, Hayley, Kevin and Django (the dog) across the fields to the church to show them Ian Flemming’s grave.  It was a beautiful evening and a lovely walk.

Tuesday, 5 April 2011

19 March 2011 - I finally flew my Mosquito!
One of the other British Team members contacted me by email during the week to find out if I would be flying at the weekend.  Because I was on duty Aerotowing at the gliding club (Sandhill Farm), I couldn’t join Liz and Ayala at Lasham for the take off.  So it was decided that they would take off from Lasham and I’d take off from Sandhill and we’d meet up somewhere around the task which was Hungerford North (HNN) and Andover (AND).
Steve and I rigged the Mosquito, I set the instruments and prepared the map and was airborne before any other club member had even got their glider to the launch point.  The conditions were fairly blue with the occasional haze cap, but I did find several thermals that were 2.5 – 3 knots average and after an hour of local soaring, I decided to make a run for Hungerford North, which is the M4 Motorway junction.  As I neared the turning point, I began to lose height and dropped to below 2,000ft.  I decided to head towards the town itself, a detour from track, but it paid off and I climbed at 3.5 knots to 3,000ft enabling me to leave the thermal, turn the turning point and head of towards Andover.  Bu this time, I had heard Liz and Ayala on the radio and called them to find out where they were and it turned out that we were all heading towards Andover at the same time which was great!  We met up in a thermal over the town and I turned the turning point before deciding to head towards Lasham as I’d already turned Hungerford.
The conditions heading towards Basingstoke were OK, but not fantastic and I arrived at Basingstoke without sufficient height to clear the town or to land at Lasham.  I spent a good 20 minutes searching the town and flying in zero sink before a small thermal began to burble.  I worked hard to find the core and eventually found sufficient height for a safe glide to Lasham.  I had already determined that it would not be possible to glide back to Sandhill Farm and had therefore called Steve out to retrieve me, so he was already on his way with the trailer. 
Liz and Ayala also successfully made it back to Lasham and came to meet me on the landing area as I was inspecting my rather flat tailwheel…another task for the week ahead.  At least I’d completed 83km and had ‘brushed off the cross country cobwebs’.  All the instruments in the cockpit were working fine which was a relief as both the artificial horizon and the turn and slip had had to be removed in preparation for the World Championships as cloud flying is forbidden.
The weather has been so awful in the UK that I’ve not had the opportunity to practise flying in my glider at all.  So, instead I decided to spend some time and go through the necessary paperwork.
The Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) subscribes to the World Anti-Doping Regulations.  The Anti-Doping Rules are sports rules that govern the conditions under which sport is played, and these regulations are also applied to gliding competitions, so it’s really important that I get to fully understand them.

Have you ever read the rules?  I was quite shocked!  I assumed that there would be one long list that you need to read and understand and then take great care in what you eat and drink in order to avoid going anywhere near the limits.  But it’s nothing like that.. there are in fact three lists –

One whereby prohibited substances are prohibited at all times; a second list where the substances are prohibited during the competition and thirdly there is also a list of substances that are banned in particular sports – this includes gliding and this latter case, the substances are alcohol and Beta Blockers.

It is my personal duty to ensure that no Prohibited Substance enters my body.  The Women’s Gliding Team do not have an enormous support team of coaches, Team Captains or nutritionists to assist us in ensuring that we are aware of the regulations, so it is entirely up to me.  I do not take any medication, but never-the- less, it still worries me that it could be so easy to be eliminated from the competition by something apparently trivial.  The tricky part is that the lists have the chemical names in the main rather than ‘products’, so each ingredient needs to be carefully checked out.  Watch this space!