Sunday, 17 February 2008

Malvern Ridge Run, Saturday 16 Feb 2008,

Kettle, high pressure, thick inversion, strong winds E to NNE.

2008 stats so far: 1 x TTB per 100 miles. Drove reluctantly across to Malvern and was rewarded by a mid afternoon sky full of PGs well spread, one about 600ft ATO and a couple of high HGs (Mr Bevan? Mr Collins?).

It was very cold and the 14-17mph at takeoff felt strong. Mr 'Paratext' Perkins assisted a launch at about 4.45 pm in a convenient lull.

The air was freezing, not thermic but oddly ‘solid’. Beats across the spurs were so easy but got wary of other flyers and the clearer air towards Castlemorton beckoned. Something was shovelling bucketloads of lift up the hill and the trip to CM was like a ride in a tractor beam (that’s Star Trek, not Archers). Turning at the pond/quarry, actually short of the CM takeoff now I’ve studied the map, but still in Scottie’s beam, the journey back to KS was a piece of cake.

Yelled something at BP, launching, to draw the attention of a group of ladies on the path, then with the Clint glint headed for the Wyche Brian P had reached earlier. Never flown over the cutting before and felt untrusting of these too-obliging conditions. “It can’t last….it’ll all end in tears…” I thought, positively, then risked the crossing, waiting for sink and noting landing options. BP followed.

Half way across the gap two guys on faster PGs, overtook on the valley side. They seemed in steady lift so I nudged out but a white tandem up ahead, now close to the Beacon, also looked comfy and close in so opted to turn back towards the hill and follow his line. This led over another quarry/pond at, I think, a saddle and where, for the first time since Kettle the vario grumbled a bit and a huge 16m alt was lost!

A few minutes later the lost height was regained and the SE face of the Beacon was below! Fantastic! Ground speed checks had said 6-8kph for the northward journey. Smoke below the Beacon was northerly so it looked like the downwind run back to Kettle was do-able.

Applying the EverReady Ring technique and summoning a speeding Zen image of Handel’s Comet I turned and headed for home at 26+kph. Not had such excitement since the Bridge Club got the date wrong.

Well, if you are not asleep yet JK the ride back, as for the ride there, was all at a constant vario height + or – 6m. An absolute doddle! The whole air mass felt solid like a conveyor belt. The two convoy guys overtook again and, far from not reaching Kettle we all struggled to find sink and get down for a side landing! Brian P landed safely at the bottom by his car. It was about 5.40pm.

The feature that sticks in mind about the whole flight (about 12k? < 1hr) is the constant and effortless lift throughout. Not thermic, not light buoyant restitution and not bumpy and erratic. For much of the time the vario sulked in silence. Kept thinking it was bust! Anybody any ideas? Wave effect? Aliens? Karmic reward for a life of self-denial? OR maybe you’ve all been doing this for the last 20 years without me knowing??!

A swift half of choccy with BP at the posh place by the bacon butty shed where we wallowed in the flight ended the day on a satisfactory note. What a fabulous experience! Peter Pan, no less!! TTBs? What are they?

Brian Hickman

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