A few too many glasses of red wine after Status Quo last night led to a slightly late start today. But I got to Hay Bluff around 3. The sky looked good, but I was surprised to find nobody in the air, and just a few pilots standing in the car park looking up at the hill. It was rather strong....
As the afternoon wore on, I ambled hopefully half way up the hill to join a local tandem pilot who was planning on doing some flights, and he did indeed manage to take off around 4. It didn't look too bad, but there were times when he was going up quite fast with big ears in , and there was a fair amount of pitching about. Also, there were some rather nasty big dark clouds building over the back and even just out the front, though most of the sky was blue with puffy white things.
I sat about and parawaited, persuading myself it was getting weaker when in fact it was strengthening quite a lot. Background wind about 11, gusts up to about 18, though bang on the hill. (Half way up, of course).
After a lot of sitting around and chatting to the only other pilot on the hill (a guy called Martin who said he hadn't flown for nearly a year, and he wasn't going to take his performance wing out of its bag in anything strong - especially since taking off in those conditions meant you were going XC, whether you wanted to or not!), I persuaded myself it really was starting to drop off, so I got the gear out and built a nice wall with my demo Advance Epsilon 5 wing. As soon as I did that, I persuaded myself it was in fact still far too strong, so I stood there like a goon for about an hour, giving my wing a nice sunning while the last dark clouds disappeared over the back of the hill and the conditions really did start to ease off a bit. Finally, after a couple of very messy inflations with deflations built in, I managed to get off. Going up was not the problem, what was more of an issue was going forward. It was real "badger's anatomy" conditions, and therefore a very good test for the wing - which I'm glad to say stayed pretty much above me all the time, with only a couple of small wingtip deflations in spite of being bumped around a fair bit. Big ears got me down OK after I had pushed out a bit (though I'm not used to having to pump them out - on my Gin Bolero Plus you can only just keep them in by cutting the blood supply to your fingers!). But the conditions were not too nice, so I decided to head down to a very neat landing near the carpark (not quite on the intended spot I admit, but my final approach was pretty much vertical!)
Having packed away (the ground there is like a sponge still) I ambled back to the car and was just wondering what to do when one John Kingsley turned up, the weather gods broke into a broad grin, and the day generally took a turn for the better. We talked each other into walking half way up the hill "just to have a look" and before we knew it we were unpacked on take off at around 7.30 with much nicer conditions in the offing - indeed, we were a bit worried we might have missed the 5 minute window before the lift stopped altogether.
But the tandem man recommenced operations just as we arrived, and he scratched around the hill before taking a nice ride up to the top, so we both had a go at following him. It worked, and we got to about 1,000 feet above take off, just making progress into wind without speed bar well above the top of the hill. There followed a loverley play of about 45 mins to an hour before we both landed out and finished packing up just as the sun was setting. Beautiful views over the environs, as my cameraman can testify, and just John, me and the tandem guy in the air all day.
Ok, so where did all the real experts go? Martin did say he expected someone somewhere today would break a record!