Saturday, 30 June 2012

Shenington Regionals Saturday 30 June 2012

I took this photograph last night, looking towards the West at about 19:00.  You can clearly see the formation of the lenticular wave bars due to the strength of the wind.

Early this morning there was a tremendous, heavy downpour of rain that bounced off the aluminium roof of the caravan and woke us up.  As I walked Django, the sky was around 6/8ths cloud and through the gaps you could again see the wave bars.  I judged the wind to be South West 20-25kts (hence you can see the glider tied down and ballasted).

Briefing was held at 11:00 at which the Met Man gave an interesting overview of Thursday’s weather in that there had been 13 fronts (warm/cold/occluded/trough) across the country during the one day…most unusual.  The cause of all of this appears to be the Jet Stream which is much further South than normal and which is causing many more Lows to be sweeping across the country, bringing the wet and windy weather.
The weather for today was forecast to be very windy, at times sunshine and at other times showery.  A task of 81.2km was set – Edgehill – Watford Gap – Northampton West – Edgehill (EDG-WAT-NOW-EDG).
We were to be gridded in the 8 acre field, but then pulled out onto the short hard runway to be launched.  This was an attempt to launch further into wind and to avoid the curl over problems associated with the previous day, but there’s not enough room for all 30 gliders to be pre-gridded on the short runway.

I elected to go to the back of the grid, and here you can see JEV beneath the rather turbulent looking sky.
First launch was delayed and a Snifter was launched.  The snifter managed to stay airborne, but rapidly drifted away and found it difficult in the gusty conditions.  The launch was delayed and delayed further until a re-brief was called at the front of the grid.  The Director had been informed by the Met Man that there were two troughs approaching us, one just to the South of us and one in Wales heading in our direction.  The plan was to re-task and hopefully launch us after the first and before the second trough.  The new task was now 83.3km Edgehill – Bidford – Deddingtopn – Banbury West – Edgehill (EDG-BID-DED-BA1-EDG).  Launch was duly delayed for 30 minutes, but the Director didn’t take into account the timing for the approaching trough which hit us and dumped a load of rain across the airfield which then created much dead air. 
The launch was delayed, delayed again and again, until eventually the day was scrubbed at 16:00.  A few pilots elected to fly anyway.

Tonight is the Shenington Gliding Club 1940s Hangar Dance.  I’m not much of a dancer at all, but I’m really looking forward to it!  I will report on how it all went tomorrow….
As regards the weather for tomorrow, well we are all hoping the wind will reduce in speed and that it will dry out a little.  Only time will tell…

Friday, 29 June 2012

Shenington Regionals June 27-28-29 2012

Wednesday 27 June 2012
Well apparently, it’s the second wettest June on records, and we are not at the end of June yet – it therefore could be the wettest ever recorded!

Wednesday dawned dreadfully gloomy as I walked Django.

We were told to rig and grid in the ‘8 acre’ field which we all did, but the weather was not to materialise and eventually after many delays, the day was scrubbed.

The best I could make of it was a run that I did around the village and the airfield, so at least I managed to complete 5kms!

Thursday 28 June 2012
It was really, very hot and humid all day today.  A formal briefing was held at 11:00 today.  The Met Man gave his best performance, but the material he had to present was poor from a gliding perspective.  As soon as he’d finished, an inflatable shark emerged from behind the screen and motored its way around the hangar – what a sight!  Highlight of the day as it was scrubbed.  Sadly, the day improved dramatically during the afternoon and it was probably suitable for a short task. 

Friday 29 June 2012
The briefing today was progressively put back one hour after the other.  At 15:00, there was a sudden flurry of activity and a briefing was hurriedly held at 15:10.  You could tell it was hurried as they re-used  the previous day’s task of 84km from Shenington to Wescott and return (EDG-WEC-EDG).  The wind was howling from a South-West direction and we were required to grid at the Northern end of the field.  This would put us in a position whereby the take-off run would be behind the ‘bund’ around the Karting track.

I had already commented to one of the organisers that I thought that the curl-over from the bank and the cross wind would be too near the limits for some of the tugs.

The view on the grid at 16:00 looked terrific – however, what you don’t get the impression from the image above is the wind strength.

A Snifter was launched and he and the tug pilot reported back that the launch was extremely rough due to the curl-over from the bank.  Shortly after that, the Director scrubbed the day.

So all in all, a pretty awful three days. 

I’ve spent all the time that we were not rigging/gridding/de-gridding, completing the knitted tank top that will form a part of Steve’s fancy dress for the 1940s Hangar Party that will be held on Saturday evening.  I never want to see a knitting needle again for quite some time…..

Tuesday, 26 June 2012

Shenington Regionals – Tuesday 26 June 2012
As I walked Django first thing this morning, the first thing you noticed was the temperature – it was already a very warm 12 degrees Celsius.
The sky however, was already 8/8ths strato-cumulus.

And the view towards the hill to the West of the airfield did not improve matters.

At briefing at 10:00 the Met Man described an oncoming warm front which would only thicken the cloud further and therefore reduce any opportunity for thermals.
The Director therefore scrubbed the day.

Shenington Regionals Sunday 24 & Monday 25 June 2012

Sunday 24 June 2012
Sunday’s weather was declared unsuitable for flying by the Met Man and the day was duly scrubbed.  Other forecasts I had seen all indicated that it would brighten up in the afternoon, and sure enough it did and it was glorious….But once a day has been scrubbed that’s it, there’s no going back.  I’m certain there were several pilots cursing under their breath, but I did speak to one pilot who flew who said that he anyway, was unable to stay airborne without using his engine.  So maybe the Met Man was forgiven after all.
Monday 25 June 2012
It was my turn to fly and we duly placed the Cirrus on the grid as requested by the Director of the competition.
At briefing, the Met Man described a lot of top cover with the possibility of a 3500ft cumulus cloud base and potentially 3 knot thermals.  He stressed that the weather would cut off very early in the day at around 15:00 – 16:00, so it would be important to get started early.
The Task Setter set an Assigned Area Task from Shenington to Tewkesbury, Silverstone and home, with a 20km radius circle around Tewkesbury and a 70km ‘wedge’ at Silverstone.  The time set to complete the task was 2.5 hours.  The idea behind this was that the task would be ‘even’ for the large spread in handicap of the gliders…I was not too sure, because the weather was not all that good, I felt that it would be advantageous to the ‘big ships'.
Maps marked, instruments programmed and I was ready on the grid, but the ‘Snifter’ was not reporting back particularly good thermals at all.  I therefore made the decision with Steve to pull out of the 6th row of the grid and go to the back.  This would hopefully allow more time for the better weather to develop.
I launched behind a powerful Cub tug at midday and released at 2000ft.  It was hard.  The cloud base was 2200ft and thermals very weak.  However, I managed to stay airborne and eventually the cloud base rose to 2800ft and I decided to make a start at 12:55.  I could see other gliders, all be it big ships ahead of me and I took the best route beneath the darker areas of cumulus.  I was getting 1.5 – 2kt thermals and the working band was 2500 – 2000.  I tip-toed my way to the West, over the ridge and out towards Evesham.  I suddenly got my best climb of the day – a 4 knot thermal and took it to 3500ft before heading further West, before finally turning back inside the first sector to head Eastwards just South West of Evesham, in the hope I could pick up the same thermal on the way back; no chance, it had gone.
I continued in straight lines getting lower and lower, only finding small climbs and found myself back at Shenington.  I could have easily landed there, but decided to carry on to the East to try and get into the second zone.  But it didn’t look good ahead at all as it was completely overcast and therefore little heat on the ground.  I flew over Banbury and found a small climb and continued East of Banbury.   I could see a hopeful line of some lift, but it was in the direction of Hinton in the Hedges which was a prohibited zone for the competition.  I pushed on, but realised that there was nothing ahead and that I’d have to turn back to try and get some lift.  I picked out a couple of fields, one of which was next to a road, but had cattle in it, but it still looked the most promising.  The fields at the moment are fully cropped and the only hope is a cut silage field, and with all the wet and windy weather recently, there’s not many of those.  Additionally in this area, there is a huge amount of ridge and furrow fields which are unlandable.
I turned to fly over a small village and was able to find small amounts of lift.  But no matter how hard I tried, it became obvious I was going to have to land out.  I finally chose a field that looked like silage, but with a slightly rougher texture.  On the approach, I’d have to overfly the pylons, descend, fly the approach over a road and roundout slightly uphill.  I touched down, opened the airbrakes fully and rolled to a stop.

The field turned out to be a set-aside field, I think it was last year’s oilseed rape which had grown a huge amount of thistles and when I spoke to the farmer he said that he’d cut the field recently and sprayed it with weedkiller.
I called Steve and he set on his way to retrieve me with the Land Rover and trailer.
As I waited, a large wedge of blue sky arrived, the temperature rose and beautiful cumulus clouds developed…..if only I could have stayed up long enough for that patch to arrive.

There was a very pretty poppy field next to where I landed, from which you can also see the development of the cumulus cloud.  So the Met Man was wrong in his prediction of the day ending early, it did in fact continue well into the evening.

On perusing the day’s results later, it was as I expected; the conditions were better for the big ships and those gliders with flaps able to glide larger distances.  The highest placed ‘small wings’ came in 12th place and I finished in 16th place. 

Sunday, 24 June 2012

So, here we are on our second Gliding Regionals of the year.  It is at Shenington which is an airfield near Banbury in Oxfordshire.  We’ve already pre-sited the caravan and tent, so it was a relatively easy arrival late Friday evening.

Saturday morning we rigged the Cirrus and went to briefing at 10:00.  It was already windy, though not raining, well not raining yet anyway, and the forecast was not particularly hopeful. 
The competition consists of 30 pilots and the handicap spread is from 89 to 116 points, with the cirrus at 90, we are second from lowest.  The problem may be that the handicap spread is too large for one contest group, which is how the organisation has arranged it (rather than splitting it into two groups).

Never-the-less we were called to set up a kind of ‘pre-grid’ on the disused runway, from where we would formally grid the gliders when the Director declared it time to grid. 

A short 90km task from Shenington to Northampton West, Northampton South and back to Shenington was set, with large turning sectors at both points to give pilots a chance to avoid the forecast showers.

The first launch was scheduled for 12:30, then 13:00, then 14:00, but the sky was progressively turning darker and looking more menacing, and eventually, the day was scrubbed.  Many gliders were left rigged and parked up, and we put the covers on the Cirrus because heavy rain was forecast overnight.

By the time we’d packed up all the gliding kit, it was 15:00 and I decided to go for a quick run through Shenington Village and around the airfield.  I did just over 5km, but it was very pleasant. 
The Club Members at Shenington are great at arranging events, and in the evening, they had a pig roast which was very good indeed. 
From the weather forecast, the weather looks slightly brighter for tomorrow, so fingers crossed, we should get airborne.

Sunday, 10 June 2012

Lasham Regionals - Saturday 9 & Sunday 10 June

At last!  We have sunshine!!!  However is it accompanied by a rather strong Westerly wind too….

The tanoy at 08:00 requested that we rig and grid before briefing which was to be at 11:00.  We rigged the Cirrus, taking extra care in the strong wind and placed it on number 3 for the Blue Class Regionals on the grid.  Because the wind was so strong, it was lifting up the wing and slamming it on the ground again so I slipped  a trestle beneath one wing to keep it stationary.

You can tell it was windy by the Lenticulars in the sky.

At the briefing, for the Regionals Blue class, they set a 244km task - Start Lasham West, Midhurst West, Calne, Didcot, Lasham West, Lasham (LA5-MIW-CLN-DID-LA5-LAS). 

Now because Steve and I are sharing the competition, we only swap round when one of us has actually had a competition day.  The last day that Steve flew was not a competition day, so it was his turn again.  I don’t mind at all because I’ll be flying in the Pre-Worlds competition in Issoudun, France in July and then in the Club Class National at Gransden Lodge in August on my own, so I’m perfectly happy to let Steve fly once more.

So on the grid, the Director started to launch, starting with the 15m Nationals, then stream-launched through the B Class Regionals, A Class Regionals and finally the Open Class Nationals.

Once the start line opened, Steve started at 13:03 and I retreated back to the caravan to start drying out and packing up the tent and wing covers.  I then decided to wash both cars and then settled down to study the Farnborough CTA and Olympics Airspace.  After I’d been doing this for about an hour, it was now 17:00 and to my knowledge, there still had not been any finishers.  A short while later, Steve phoned to say he’d landed out at Wroughton Airfield near Swindon after rounding two turning points. 

I hitched up the glider trailer, informed Control where Steve had landed and set off.  The retrieve was easy with no problems and we returned to site in time for the BBQ and music.

After some deliberation by the organisers with the scores due to number of wayward pilots who had wandered into airspace that they should not have, penalty points were allocated and then adjusted (not to Steve I hasten to add).  There were 6 finishers and Steve finished in 7th place with the furthest distance for the day.

On Sunday 10 June, the organisers scrubbed the day due to yet more rain.

So we completed the 2012 Lasham Regionals with one competition day and just Steve having the opportunity to fly.  It is many years since that happened; in my case it was at Booker in the 1980s when I finally flew on the last day, again due to bad weather. 

Next competition is Shenington Regionals near Banbury at the end of June.  Here’s hoping to a better season during the summer months!

Saturday, 9 June 2012

Lasham Regionals - Thursday 7 & Friday 8 June

Well as predicted, it rained pretty much all day Thursday; the forecast was spot on.  As for Friday, well that certainly brewed up into a very unusual summer storm with strong winds, uprooted trees in some areas and yet more rain.  Wales was particularly badly hit with many homes and camp sites completely flooded, to the extent that in one area in Aberystwyth, people had to be rescued by helicopter from their homes and camp sites.

As suggested by the Competition Organisers, we had de-rigged the glider, and as an added measure, we left the Land Rover hooked up to the glider trailer to make it more secure.  We also dismantled the tent, and because it was still soaking wet, I bundled it up and put it in the back of the caravan to later pack up, should it eventually dry.  I did the same with the glider covers as they were wet and put those in the back of the Land Rover in the hope they may dry out a little.

We gave up on the idea of staying at Lasham and went home for two days and I went into work.

The forecast for Saturday looks as though it could be windy, but at least bright and sunny.

The photograph shows Django patiently waiting for us whilst we de-rigged the glider on Wednesday afternoon.  The Lasham Club were just getting out their gliders, but they didn’t fly for very long before they put the equipment away again.

Thursday, 7 June 2012

Lasham Regionals - Wednesday 6 June 2012

Tanoy and text this morning indicated that the briefing would be delayed until 11:00 again as the day dawned overcast and menacingly dark.  We were asked to put the gliders on the grid before briefing.  By 11:00, only a fraction of the grid had been assembled in a kind of mutinous response.

At briefing, the Met Man stood up to a round of ‘hissing’ from the competitors and proceeded to describe a very unstable day, low cloud bases, heavy showers and increasing winds…. More shockingly, the organisers had actually prepared a Task A and a Task B for each class!  At least we had placed our glider on the grid, although still in its covers, but I couldn’t bring myself to programme the LX7007C as I didn’t really believe that we’d actually be flying. 

We commenced the ‘grid-squat’ seated in the warm in the caravan with a cup of tea listening to the aircom radio.  At 13:00, the call came that ‘first launch would not be before 14:00’.  By 13:30, all classes had been scrubbed with a proviso added ‘please de-rig your gliders and tie down your trailers’.  The forecast for Thursday is heavy rain and increasing winds, and for Friday, storm-force winds.  I have never been to a competition briefing before where the Director has hinted that the next 2 following days may also be scrubbed early in the day.

We towed the glider to the trailer and removed the still wet covers and de-rigged it (with kind assistance from the new BGA Chairman Pete Harvey).  In preparation for the strong winds, we elected to leave the Land Rover at Lasham hooked up to the trailer to prevent it moving in the anticipated winds.

What a week this has been! 

So where are all the positives today?  Well nothing else has broken down/ stopped working/ gone flat/been immersed in rain water, so that has to be good.  Plus as a bonus, I can go into work Thursday and Friday and claim back two of my vacation days!

Wednesday, 6 June 2012

Lasham Regionals - Tuesday 5 June 2012

I’ve discovered that it’s very difficult writing a flying blog when there is little flying….
Today’s briefing was delayed until 11:00, at which point the organisers scrubbed the day for all classes.  The photo below shows the weather conditions on the grid where the Open Class had left their gliders out overnight.

Considering we are not flying, we are still managing to spend money like it’s gone out of fashion.  So far we purchased a new phone for Steve (as previously mentioned), and today, a new airbed for the tent (the last one went down every night even though it is less than a year old), and we also purchased a new leisure battery for the caravan because a cell went down.

How do you spend your time when not flying?  Well besides shopping for replacement goods, in my case it’s making fancy dress items at the moment.  We will be flying in the Shenington Regionals at the end of the month at which they are holding a 1940s Hangar party.  So it has been fun trying to find the necessary fancy dress items to match.  I’ve sorted a 1940s style dress, purchased some shoes from a charity shop and today I managed to finish knitting a maroon beret which will have to do for a hat for me. 

Steve has already purchased a couple of WWII gas masks (genuine articles!) and today we purchased a flat cap for him.  I am now knitting him a tank-top to go over a white shirt.  Hopefully when I’ve finished, we’ll look like a couple from the lower classes attending the dance.

Here’s hoping for some knitting time if there's no flying tomorrow!

Monday, 4 June 2012

Lasham Regionals - Monday 4 June 2012

Yet another rainy night ensued, but at least mobile phones were safely stored.  This was the view on my morning walk with Django:-

mmm…not particularly hopeful, but at least the weather forecast was giving some hope that it might brighten up during the day.  Surely it can’t be as bad a yesterday can it?  I felt sorry for the Queen as she sat aboard her boat gently cruising down the Thames yesterday for her Diamond Jubilee celebrations in all the rain. Anyhow, it didn’t seem to bother Django too much this morning as we walked around the Peri-Track.  He refuses to walk through puddles and rarely will go out in the rain, so it can be a battle to get him to walk in the rain at all!  However, this morning it had ceased to rain as we walked and it gave me the rare opportunity to take a photograph of him on the ‘piano keys’ on the Lasham runway 27.

Briefing was delayed until 11:00 and all gliders were requested to grid in preparation for a possible launch.  With a temperature now around 10 degrees Celsius due to the Northerly wind, we were all feeling the cold.

At briefing, two tasks were set for the B Class Regionals:- Task A - 156km Marlborough, Kingston Bagpuize, Lasham West, Lasham (Start LA4-MAR-KSB-LA5-LAS). Task B – 106km Four Marks, Andover SW, Hungerford, Lasham West, Lasham (Start LA4-FMA-AND-HUN-LA5-LAS).  We then proceeded to Grid-Squat.

Whenever we can take him to the launch point Django comes with us, and he’s pretty well behaved.  I have noticed that he is perfectly happy wandering around the gliders looking for scraps of food… (I keep a wary eye on him to make sure he doesn’t tiddle up the fin of an expensive glider), but he is reluctant to sit on the runway as I presume it makes his delicate bottom too cold!  He’s the same at home and won’t sit on the kitchen floor and prefers to sit on the Dining Room carpet watching me prepare the meals.

13:00 went by, 14:00 went by and then we were called to the front of the grid at 15:00 for a re-brief.  All the tasks were changed.  The Regionals B Class now had the minimum permissible, an 80km task from Lasham to Newbury south, Yattenden, Lasham West and back to Lasham (LA4-NES-YTT-LA5-LAS).  The map was duly re-marked and instruments re-programmed just as a huge darkening cloud approached and proceeded to dump a load of rain on us all.
As we were wiping off the wings, the Director scrubbed the 15m Class Nationals for the day.  Curiously, they then decided to move the A Class Regionals onto the grass to launch.  20 minutes later they scrubbed the Open Class Nationals and we were still sitting on the runway awaiting our fate as they started to launch the A Class – it was now 17:00!!!  Sure enough, the B Class Regionals was eventually scrubbed for the day.
Believe it or not, some of the A Class Regionals completed their 108km task – well done to them all – a real achievement.  Results can be seen at this link:-

Sunday, 3 June 2012

Lasham Regionals - Sunday 3 June 2012

It rained and rained overnight, not heavy rain, but a steady drizzle, the type of rain that you walk in and become really wet without realising it!.

I climbed out of bed in the tent and spotted a puddle on the floor of the ground sheet in the external part, complete with Steve’s Blackberry phone sitting in the bottom of it.  I picked it up and it miserably dribbled water from the case; pretty much a lost cause. 

As Lasham were providing text information to the ‘first pilot’, which in this case was Steve, we called in at Lasham Control to report the problem and have the text service transferred to my phone.  The briefing was moved from 10:00 to 12:00 and we set off to Basingstoke in an effort to purchase a new phone.  In the meantime, the drying out of the phone by towel, blow heater etc. appeared to have worked and the phone temporarily returned to life, only to die again just as we were called to the 12:00 briefing.  We returned to Lasham just as the briefing was moved to 13:00.  So a further dash to Basingstoke in an attempt to purchase a new phone again.  Why so anxious to buy a new phone?  Well it’s so that Steve could call me directly should he land out in a field.  Not quite sure why he was so desperate; in the ‘good old days’, the mobile phones never existed and we used to have to firstly search for a house, then a house that was inhabited with a tenant that would let you use their phone to call base.  It was much more exciting in those days, you used to get special treatment from the farmers and householders with tea and cakes!

Anyway, second attempt to purchase a phone found us in a shop as I received a text message to say that the day was scrubbed.

Steve is now armed with a new (well second hand) phone that he’s going to have to learn how to use…

The weather was so rubbish today that I didn’t even bother to take a photo outside, I did however take one of Django chilling out inside the caravan.  Clearly he needs more walks……

A return back to home once more after picking up Django from the caravan yet again, enabled me to go out for a run of 5.47km (my new hobby) to get some ‘me time’ and hopefully to get me fit too.  I was pleased with my pace time as I hadn’t run for over a week due to work travel (this was the positive for today!).  Now all we can do is wait and see what tomorrow brings.

Lasham Regionals - Saturday 2 June 2012

It’s the gliding competition season yet again and I’m kicking it off by competing with Steve in the Lasham Regionals this year alongside the open Class Nationals and the 15 Metre Class Nationals.  There are a lot of glider pilots!  We’re hoping for some great weather following last week’s high temperatures, looking at the BBC Weather however…. it doesn’t look at all promising.

As I’d been travelling on business in the USA the previous week, Steve had already set up our base at Lasham with the caravan and a small tent to sleep in that we’d borrowed from Michael. 

We arrived on Friday evening and rigged the glider in preparation for the competition.  We now have a Cirrus 75, which is a 16m standard glider that we’d purchased directly after the end of the Women’s World Gliding Championships in an effort that I could fly in a similar handicapped glider as the other world-class pilots in future competitions.  We’ve managed to fly the Cirrus on a few occasions this year, but this would be the first competition that we’d have the opportunity to really push it (and us) to the limits.  When we bought it, the surface finish was in a particularly poor state, so we decided to pay for the whole glider to be refinished in paint, however, this could not be completed in time prior to the competition season, so just the top surface of the wings was completed in an attempt to provide a smooth, drag-free surface.  Not even the ailerons were re-finished because that would have entailed re-weighing of the glider, so it does look rather peculiar at the moment.  But we shall have to live with it until the end of the gliding season now.

Saturday dawned rather misty and certainly not flyable as I walked Django.  Briefing was delayed until 10:30 and a first-day briefing was provided.  The Met Man gave us all an unpromising forecast for the day; we all left the briefing rather demoralised. 

A shout over the tanoy had the Open Class and 15m Class scrubbed and the Regionals (Classes A and B) scurrying to the grid in what still appeared to be rather unlikely conditions.  At briefing, they set an 80km task for the Regionals from Lasham to Petersfield, Whitchurch, round LA5 and home (LAS-PTW-WH2-LA5-LAS). 

Still with grey skies and a cloudbase barely reaching 2000ft, class A was launched.  After a 20 minutes gap, Class B were launched into an even less promising sky.  There were a few relights, not as many as I’d expected and I returned back to the caravan to listen to Steve on the radio. 

I managed to do the washing up and blow up a few balloons (for the Jubilee decorations!) when Steve called up to say he was landing back on the airfield.  He wasn’t the first, nor the last.  There were a handful of landouts, but everyone else returned to the airfield; it was a non-comp day.

So a scrub-down of the glider and refitting of the covers took place.  That evening, we decided to eat in the restaurant at Lasham where we both had a very enjoyable roast beef dinner - there are positives in every day; you just have to find them!