A trip to the seaside in a glider

This is a flight I’d been wanting to make for some while, and I was just waiting for the right day. As Midlanders we don’t get to see the seaside very often (other than by car), but it was 185km to Weymouth, a 370km round trip, so it needed to be a good day. In the middle of last week, the weather started to look promising – a north westerly but not too strong and good soaring conditions particularly in the south.

I continued to watch the forecasts as the weekend got closer, and then on the day I was sure it looked on. A bit weak in the midlands to start with, but I felt sure that if I could get away from here then I’d find better conditions in the south and as the day went on the conditions would improve in the midlands for the trip back into wind.

I would just need to stay high and lift should remain good late on into the afternoon.

When I arrive at site most of the other cross county pilots seemed to be focused on the first 300k flight of the year following the resumption of the club ladder. I didn’t want to get caught up in all that – I was determined to fly my own flight.

I didn’t launch until 1.15 having been on the winch first thing and as a result finding myself last on the grid. Getting away was a real struggle, the sky was not very promising, and it took me 15 minutes to just get back to launch height climbing in broken lift at half a knot here, and half a knot there.

Eventually I found something more solid (thanks 777) and then climbed steadily to 4500 at an average of 4knots. The sky was looking better by now, so I immediately set off. A 4knot climb at Broadway to over 5000’ and then another good one at Cirencester (which I had to break off to avoid drifting into the South Cerny Parachute Drop Zone) set me well on the way. At Trowbridge with the sea now clearly visible in the distance I found a 2200’ 5knot climb.

The sky south of Trowbridge

Each time having got to near cloud base I had been able to then cruise in lift beneath the clouds turning lift into speed and this together with the tail wind was making for good task speed. Further south at Blandford I now had a bit of a blue hole to deal with and the clouds ahead were not looking so promising. I found a 4knot climb under a large Cu and took it to 6200’.

This got me to Dorchester at 5000’ and with about 12km to run to Weymouth I could see some straggly cloud a 1000’ or so beneath the cumulus a couple of km ahead – this looked like a sea-breeze front and so I headed for it – sure enough another 4+ knot climb to 5600’.

The view from Dorchester – Weymouth and Portland Bill.
Note the straggly clouds beneath the Cu ahead indicating a sea-breeze front.
Weymouth and Portland Bill

I then had the 10km glide into and back from Weymouth in relatively still air – losing some 2500’ before getting back to the sea-breeze front and some reliable though relatively weak lift. I worked my way north with the sky ahead looking great but only finding weak 2.5-3knot climbs.

The south coast looking east. Lots of cruise ships at anchor in the bay.

I was convinced better conditions lay ahead and so kept breaking off these ‘weak’ climbs to push on – working in a height band 3500-4500.

Then at Trowbridge 6.5kts from 3400’ to 6200’. Now we were cooking! From there with lots of large Cu and a fantastic sky ahead I was able to cruise along at 80-90kts between the clouds, pulling up in the lift but not generally turning so as to maintain height between 4500’ and 5500’. I was conscious that it was now 4pm and getting low (below perhaps 3000’) could be a real problem. I needn’t have worried, on last climb to 6000’ just south of Cirencester and then cruising on until I got to Chedworth where suddenly I was on final glide.

I was flying with 18m tips, no water ballast, cruising speed around 80kts and a McCreedy setting of 2.

Total task distance 372km in 3 hours 59 minutes at a speed of 92.5kph.

All in all a grand day out!

Flight on bgaladder.net

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