Soaring Sunday 14/4/24 at Stratford on Avon Gliding Club

Sunday saw a good soaring prospects and a good turnout at Snitterfield to take the opportunity to do some soaring! Richard M ran the field for us and we had all of our two seaters in use as well as our SZD Junior.

A private Ka6E was rigged and joined the launch line, ultimately going off for an impressive climb to 5,400′ as well as the longest flight of the day at 1hr 22mins. The owner commented that while it was a fast climb, it got rather chilly since he’d climbed well above the freezing level!

Keen pilots took multiple launches to give us a total of 34 launches and most flights were soaring flights, averaging 24mins each off the winch!

One K13 which landed neatly within pushing range of the launchpoint used human power to beat the two K21s that were being retrieved by vehicles back to the head of the launch line to get its next launch.

Plenty of smiles on members face by the end of the a great flying day! 😀

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

Thursday 27th – Squeezing one more flying day out of February

We had a really good day yesterday with plenty of sun and some good thermals. 

The field was very wet after the rain so we decided to just take one K21 to the launch point and land on the cross track, this meant we only had to go over the ground next to the peri-track twice, once in the morning and again after we finished.

We went most of the way on the peri-track only moving onto the grass opposite the fence. This worked very well and meant we flew all day without any problems as the wind was quite a strong N.N.W. which was a perfect direction for landing. We only took one K21 as the grass next to the cross-track was very wet and soft and we did not want to land on it, if we had taken 2 over then that would have been a possibility especially later on when the day became thermic.

I set a limit of 20 mins for any one flight so everyone could have a go, the forecast was for the wind to increase during the day which it did, by 3.30pm it was very turbulent on the approach and with a wind of 30mph we called it a day. We only did 10 launches because we were quite late starting and an early finish but everyone flew who wanted to and a couple of members managed 2 flights.

Everyone flew with an instructor because of the strength of the wind and because of the restrictions on the landing area. We all managed fine, with only one fight landing on the grass, it did leave a rut but we did fill it in with feet and the Mule and it was only a few feet from the cross-track.

The flying was very good for this time of the year and the very wet ground with at least 5 flights gaining height from launch.We were only able to fly because of the wind direction which worked very well for us.

Statistics below…………………….
Total Launches……………..10.
Longest Flight……………….20 mins.  Well done to Dave M. 
There were several other flight of note, 19 min N. J., 15 min., A.B.  14 min  D.Y. and 13 min  D. H.
Average Flight Time……….12 mins.
Total Flight Time……………..2 hrs. 03 mins.

Many thanks to everyone who turned up with what looked like a poor day first thing in the morning (rain, sleet, mist) and also getting set up.

Special thanks to David S. who did not want to fly but spent all day on the winch.

Steve P.

Thermal Thursday 6/2/20

We were really lucky with the weather today.

When we arrived there was fog on the ground and we could not see the other side of the field, however it very quickly disappeared and left us with virtually wall to wall sunshine.

Our current ‘home’ on the southern stub.

With a light southerly wind we were only getting about 1100 or 1200 ft on the launches but it got better and better as the day went on until around 1.30pm it became thermic and there were 3 really good flights of up to 44 mins. It was certainly the best day of the year so far with 39 launches. Everyone flew who wanted to and several members flew 3 times.A brilliant day and many thanks to Andy who was duty instructor..Statistics below……………

  • Total Launches…………39
  • Longest Flight………….44 mins. Very well done to Dave J. in the Junior.

Other notable flights were 19mins in the K21 by Barry M. and 18 mins by Andy B. in the K13. Average Flight Time…7 mins but that did included several S.C.B’s 

Total Flight Time………4 hrs 53mins. 

Steve P. 

Walls of fog

Our chairman Andy sent some photos from one of the few flights we managed on Sunday 19th January in VMC before walls of fog took up position at either end of our airfield and prevented further launching.

The regional pressure setting rose to 1047hpa towards the end of the day. Our aircraft altimeters can only set QNH up to 1050hpa on their subscales. The highest ever recorded sea level pressure in the UK was 1054.7millibars in 1902.

Cloudscapes & Checkflights – Flying Report 5/1/20

It was bustling at Sunday’s briefing as the favourable weather forecast combined with a drier field had enticed many members to come to fly.

With our neighbouring club Bidford still suffering from a water logged field we also welcomed two of their members to join us and to experience winch launches for the first time.

With the field set up to dodge the wet areas whilst catering for the brisk South Westerly wind, instructors Barry K and Steve P set to work carrying out currency check flights and training our ab initio pilots.

K21 about to launch from the stub.
K21 about to launch from the stub.

Due to the position of the launch point we weren’t able to use the full length of the field however we still managed to get launches up to 1700ft.

Skylaunch to sending SZD Junior up the wire.
Skylaunch sending SZD Junior up the wire.

Best flight of the day goes to Richard H who managed to exploit the hints of wave we were getting and got a very respectable 21minute flight time in the Junior. (This is the club’s best flight of the year, and also the decade – and he still wouldn’t buy us all a beer for this big achievement!)

The scraggy cloud and the wave influence combined with the low sun provided us all with some stunning cloudscapes to enjoy.

Stats for the day:

35 flights, 25 different people flown and 25 people had a great day.

Flying out of 2019

After many weeks of waiting for a break in the weather and for the field to dry, we have finally taken to the skies again!  With a creative field set-up to ensure the launches and landings avoided the remaining water logged areas we managed to have a successful day.  With a lot of members out of currency, instructors Andy and Alan conducted a number of check flights to ensure the post solo pilots were still up to standard. 

It was good to see three of our junior pilots joining us and mucking in. One of whom was Elliot who signed up as a cadet on the day and did really well during his first flights – we welcome him to the club!

Visibility wasn’t great for the first flights

Initially the low cloud meant that flights were limited to a quick circuit, but as the day progressed the clouds lifted which allowed for higher launches and some longer flights. 

Last of 2019 for Peter

Best flight of the day went to Dan B and Ben E who caught a hint of wave in one of our K21’s and managed to eek out 12 minutes of flying time.  In total we had 25 flights and after packing up enjoyed a well deserved pint at the pub.

Dan & Ben find weak wave.

Thank you to Dave M who returned to the club following the pub and in the dark retrieved the stricken buggy that was stuck with a flat tyre down the far end of the field. (just don’t ask why it ended up down there!)

Peter Capron.

Junior Pilot Ben’s First Cross Country Flight

Last Sunday, 17 year old Junior Glider Pilot Ben L flew his first cross-country solo gliding flight from Stratford on Avon Gliding Club.

After achieving my bronze and cross-country endorsement (Thank you Mike, Barry and Andy) I was keen to take the leap and fly out of gliding range of the airfield on my 50Km attempt. But before I could embark on this adventure, I received an email saying my application for the ‘Junior Nationals’ two seat training had been accepted! I spent 10 days at Bristol and Gloucestershire Gliding Club where I flew with some of the UK’s best pilots and had a go at some competition racing. Overall, I achieved more than 10 hrs of training on my three flights, which was all subsidised by the BGA!

This amazing experience motivated me even more to embark on my 50km flight, but with a few setbacks due to weather I found myself frustrated and looking at every forecast I could get my hands on, waiting and longing for the perfect day. That day came on Sunday the 8th September 2019 and I woke up early, excited about the potential day ahead. I helped prepare the gliders for flight and spent some time carefully wiping down the wings of the Astir, to ensure every last part of the gliders performance could be eked out. Many thanks to all that helped me prepare the Astir and to Mike ensuring my flight plan was up to scratch.

I took off at 12:45 aiming to fly 53.5km to Bicester airfield then another 53.5km back to Snitterfield! Well that was the plan anyway. After launching I secured my first climb of the day gaining 1,841ft with an average climb rate of 2.5knts. Eventually I started my task at 13:09 and with 3,500ft I pushed south leaving behind me the birds that had just aided my last thermal choice.

Following and jumping the cloud streets I flew over familiar sites, two of which being Caffeine and Machine, (a car enthusiast’s dream place) and eventually the M40, whilst still using all the ground reference points to ensure my electronic nav kit was in fact taking me to Bicester.

Eventually after only 50 minutes I found myself approaching the turn point, shortly after navigating around the restricted airspace in which skydivers would be jumping!

On my return leg I hit the most exhilarating part of the flight, I had just left Bicester and hit some tremendous lift which instilled the thought in my brain that the whole edge of this cloud street must be working so I pushed on, only to hit tremendous sink. I continued on to the next part of the street that looked remotely thermic but – more sink!

I made the decision to turn back to the lift I had previously encountered, as by this point I had already lost 1600ft and was down to 2500ft. Staring deeply at the cars whizzing down the M40 I climbed back to 4300ft and continued the flight where I managed to fly at 90Kts down a cloud street whilst holding my altitude. I was back into familiar territory and proceeded to fly towards the finishing line.

It was so rewarding and exhilarating to think I had flown over 100km without an engine! With this thought in my head I continued to fly for another 3 hrs, where I got to see hang gliders, hot air balloons, helicopters and other light aircraft! Just after landing I opened the canopy and heard ‘Well done Ben’ as some of the members congratulated me on my flight from the glider they had landed just before me.

Overall, I flew for 5 hours, 6 minutes achieving all of my Silver C Badge and part one of my 100K Diploma.

It was a great day and I encourage anyone who has the slightest interest in either taking up gliding or progressing to cross country standard to go for it!

Its awesome!!

Soaring into September – Sunday Flying Report

We had a fantastic flying day on Sunday which was the first day of meteorological Autumn.

Members were on site getting the ground equipment out from 0800. The morning briefing was packed with club members as well as visiting pilots from other clubs. It became apparent at the briefing that there were a lot of instructional flights required as well as trial-lessons and check-flights.

The instructor team had their work cut out for them and all three two seaters (2x K21, 1x K13) saw full utilisation throughout the day.

Catherine J, a former member and now visiting pilot based at Portmoak, Scotland volunteered to start as launch point marshal for us. With ruthless efficiency she got a high launch rate and kept the instructional flights in order. In fact, she spent very nearly the entire day organising launch operations, achieving 57 launches by the end of the day.

Junior members launching a glider

The actual soaring conditions, as so often has been the case in the summer season were mixed. We had a solid wind of around 20 knots aloft combined with thermals, showers, blue holes and sometimes good cumulus. The occasional passing shower mostly went around us.

A couple of intrepid pilots planned and launched on short cross country flights but despite their best efforts had to fly back to Snitterfield without having completed due to cross-country conditions. At least they tried!

The last two launches were Stratford’s based K21 trainers on member’s mutual flights. Initially scratching away over the winch, both gliders climbed away together, ultimately attaining over 3,000feet in height after 1800 in what was, by then, somewhat calmer air.

The last K21 landed well after 1830 local to end what was a very productive flying day.

Bidford Regionals – Flying Report by Peter Capron

The following diary of the event provides an insight into my participation in the competition and the achievements of our fellow SoAGC pilots.

Friday 6th July:

And so for the second year running, I made my way over to Bidford in readiness for the Regionals Competition. As this was my second competition there were no pre-comp nerves as there were in the previous year. Perhaps I was a bit too relaxed about it as until that day I had not done any preparation for the event!

The committee had kindly allowed me the use of our clubs LS4. To save the hassle of de-rigging it, my ferry pilot (Dave M) flew it over for me that afternoon.

Stratford was well represented at the comp. We had Barry and Sharon (Kerby & Kerby) in their Duo Discus, Mike C in his LS10, Andy B with is LS8 and finally Dan B with his ‘Battle’ Lak 19.

As I did last year, I gave myself a few targets to aim for during the week as I knew I’d never be in contention for any trophies.

They were:

  • Fly faster
  • Beat my personal height record
  • Get my second land out under my belt
  • Not come lower than my 25th last year
  • Oh, and perform a better competition finish for the cameras!

With the weather forecast predicting great conditions, we were all looking forward to a cracking week of fun and flying.

Saturday 7th July:

Day 1 of the competition had arrived. Going back to my competition preparation, or lack of it. It is probably worth mentioning I hadn’t actually been cross country since September 2017.

Despite my enthusiasm to get into the air, my lack of experience was countered by the knowledge that I could always just follow my fellow SoAGC pilots around. – Surely they wouldn’t leave a man behind?….

7th - photo 1 - First day on the gridThe Task:

BIDford – ETTington – NOW-Northampton West – GRW-Grafham Water – KWO-Kibworth – ETTington – SFW-Stratford West – BD1-Bidford Finish E.

Handicapped Task distance = 209.3 km

My strategy was to go slow and steady and not to land out on the first day. The flight was quite straight forward and it only got a little eventful towards the end when I started getting low which forced me to route towards Shennington, just in case.

Luckily I found a thermal above the munition stores at MoD Kineton which got me back on track. With a little top up near Ettington I was soon on final glide and racing back to finish.

Day Results

5th Andy B

8th Dan B

9th Kerby & Kerby

10th Mike C

22nd Me

Sunday 8th July:


BIDford – WOC-Worcester Racecourse – MYNd – NWT-Newent – STP-Stourport – EVEsham – BD2-Bidford Finish W

Handicapped Task distance = 210.1 km

As we got ourselves prepared on the grid the sky was beginning to look amazing to the East. However our task was to go West and into the blue. My experience of flying in the blue to date had been a few occasions wafting around locally to Snitterfield.

So with over 200km to fly in the cloudless conditions my strategy was to, a) Follow other gliders!, b) Fly straight and hope to bump into lift. c) Route over towns.

As soon as I came off tow I hit a good thermal over Bidford and gained 3000ft. This boosted my confidence that things would be all okay.

Once the start gate was opened I put my strategy into place and started to follow the other gliders. Andy led the pack and I was not far behind.

Everyone was doing the same and the gaggles soon become quite large and the climbs inefficient. I therefore chose to go alone. Quite often I’d find a thermal and then straight away gliders would rush to you like a swarm of angry bees! Fortunately I was soon left alone due to my slow flying speeds.

Beyond Tenbury Wells the sky changed and we had the luxury of cumulus clouds to mark out the thermals going forward.

The visibility that day was amazing, from 5000ft I could make out the sea at Cardigan Bay and the mountains of Snowdonia. I’ve since checked on the map and the sea would have been about 60miles away from where I was.

It was quite a straightforward task once the clouds were out and it wasn’t long before I was high enough to complete 45km final glide to finish the day.

Day Results

4th Dan B

6th Kerby & Kerby

8th Andy

14th Mike

22nd Me

Monday 9th July:


BIDford – BC3-Bicester N – ETTington – GRM-Great Malvern – EVEsham – BD2-Bidford Finish W

Handicapped Task distance = 153.3 km

This all started so well. I romped down to Bicester North bouncing off the thermals and only taking 2 very good climbs to keep me near cloud base.

I turned for Ettington and again everything was working as planned and I felt like I was flying the fastest cross country I had ever done.

My hopes of a good day result were dashed when, after Ettington I just couldn’t find another climb, nothing seemed to work. From down within the weeds I managed to get a little bit of lift to stop me looking for field landing options.

I crawled on looking for a decent climb to get me going again. Finally I picked up one near the airfield at Bidford and gained over 3000ft. As I was heading towards the Malvern turnpoint I got myself on final glide after which I enjoyed the stress free 46km of straight line flying all the way to Malvern and then the finish line at Bidford.

Day Results

1st Dan B

3rd Kerby & Kerby

13th Andy B

18th Mike

23rd Me

A fantastic day for Dan. His first ever day winner at a Regionals Competition.

Tuesday 10th July:


BIDford – BRIdgnorth – NWT-Newent – SH3-Shobdon E – EVEsham – BD2-Bidford Finish W

Handicapped Task distance = 205.0 km

Off we set towards a not very inspiring sky. My cross-country speed wasn’t that fast but nor was anyone else’s and initially manged to keep up as best I could.

It was uneventful up to Newent, but things were all about to change. As I turned Newent I was presented with a routing dilemma to Shobdon. Do I go under the overcast sky and seek out embedded CU or do I go for blue and hope it is still working?

I chose the overcast route and went hunting for lift. It wasn’t long until I found an embedded CU with lift and so I began to think I had chosen the right option…That lift was my last proper thermal that day.

Things were getting desperate as I turned Shobdon E (Quite close to Leominster). I frantically searched for sources of lift to give me an option of landing out at Shobdon Airfield but I just couldn’t get high enough for a safe glide there.

This area of the county is not renowned for its landout options because of the undulating ground and the very small fields. I must have been still just over 2000ft high when I switched my focus from searching out lift to looking for a possible landing field.

I spotted a nice but smallish pasture that ticked all the boxes. I decided I wasn’t going to leave this unless I got back up to cloud base. (wishful thinking)

As I drifted lower I noticed Barry and Sharon in their Duo coming towards me. Surely they wouldn’t leave a man behind and would help by joining my search for a good thermal to get me home? Of course not, they were struggling themselves and so they went on by leaving me to prepare to land.

I spent a while planning my circuit into the field and so when I got to the point of no return it was all very straightforward getting down safely into the field.

I should have mentioned earlier. Dave M had offered to be my Crew during the comp, and so he was put into action to come and get me and the glider from a village called Humber. It was bit unfortunate for him/me that I had pretty much landed out the furthest possible distance from Bidford I could do that day.

In the 2hrs from landing until Dave turned up I tracked down the farmer’s wife to explain the situation. She was great about it and later on brought her whole family over to take a look at the glider. All her kids took up my offer to sit in the cockpit and pose for pictures.

Dave and I got back to Bidford about 21:15 that night. A very long day in the end but all part of the fun of pure gliding.

Annie prepared the late-arriving landouts with a delicious gammon, egg and chips dinner!

Day Results

4th Mike C

6th Andy

9th Dan

14th Kerby & Kerby

19th Me

Wednesday 11th July:


BIDford – BRIdgnorth – PENdock – BA1-Banbury W – EVEsham – BD2-Bidford Finish W

Handicapped Task distance = 192.7 km

A straightforward and a quick task for me which was good, given my land out the day before.

I was able to build on what I had learned in the last few days and I was rewarded with my equal best placing of the competition – 18th

Dan had a cracking race again and picked up his second 1st place of the week.

Day Results

1st Dan

4th Andy B

5th Mike C

17th Kerby & Kerby

18th Me

Thursday 12th July:


BIDford – BCL-Bishop’s Cleeve NW – ETTington – EVEsham – BIDford

Task distance: 86.07 km

The weather meant a wait until mid-afternoon before we were sent on a quick romp around the local area.

I was slow but once again Dan cleaned up!

Day Results

1st Dan (119km/h!)

3rd Kerby & Kerby

5th Andy B

15th Mike C

21st Me

Friday 13th July:

Rest day

Saturday 14th July:


BIDford – WALford – WTM-Worthen – TSW-Telford SW – BRY-Bromyard – SFW-Stratford West – BD1-Bidford Finish E

Handicapped Task distance = 210.1 km

I was feeling confident so I decided to put some water ballast in for the first time in the week. It wasn’t good going so I dumped it over Clee Hill as the thermals were very weak. But typically a few kilometers later the sky started working properly and I wished I had kept my water.

It was great to overfly the Long Mynd for first time and to look down at the gliding club in action below.

Andy in his first competition was the day winner and Dan was top of the overall leader board still with just one day to go.

Day Results

1st Andy B

3rd Dan B

6th Mike

13th Kerby & Kerby

20th Me

Sunday 15th July:


CWA-Chipping Warden – COB-Corby South – POTton – CHT-Chatteris – WATford Gap – ETTington – SFW-Stratford West – BD1-Bidford Finish E

Handicapped Task distance = 275.8 km

The final day and it was time to fill the wings with water ballast to hopefully quicken my cross country speed but more importantly to give me a more dramatic finish at the end!

The forecast was great for the day and so they sent us out East to make full use of the best conditions.

The weather delivered as per the forecast and I experienced some of the best conditions I have ever flown in, which included getting my new personal height record of 6500ft.

The only tricky bit of the flight was the last 50km when it went blue and we were constrained by the airspace. At one point I routed right along the runway at Gaydon hoping the asphalt would kick off a thermal – fortunately it did.

Once the runway at Bidford was in sight I sped up to about 150mph and released the water to complete my competition week in style.

Unfortunately for Dan he couldn’t keep hold of his lead and Peter Stafford-Allen pipped him to the coveted first place trophy.

Day Results

3rd Kerby & Kerby

4th Andy B

6th Dan B

12th Mike C

18th Me

Total Results and Final Positions

1st Peter Stafford-Allen 5476pts

2nd Dan Brown 5439pts

4th Andy Balkwill 5345pts

7th Mike Coffee 4952pts

9th Kerby & Kerby 4894pts

19th Me (Peter Capron) 3194pts

A great performance from the Stratford pilots!

Final thoughts and thanks

We were fortunate to have some of the best soaring weather for a competition for many years. Over the 8 days of flying I added 27 more hours and 1500 more kilometres to my log book but more importantly I had the opportunity to develop and to better my cross country flying skills.

I set out to do better than last year and so I was really happy to get 19th overall. A few more years and I might be able to give the other Stratford pilots a run for their money!

The Bidford Regionals is a very well run but relaxed competition. I would highly recommend anyone who wants a fun week of flying to enter next year.

I wouldn’t have been able to participate without the use of the club’s LS4. I therefore would like to thank our committee for allowing me to hire it.

A big thanks goes to Dave M who was my dedicated crew. He was always there to assist me at the beginning and at the end of the each day and it made my week so much easier.

Lastly Stratford pilots were very much involved in helping to launch the grid each day. We had Chris E as one of the tug pilots, Ben E running the wings, and ‘Emerly’ S plus Dave M drawing out the tug ropes. Thank you to you all.

Bring on next year!