After attending Jim's final cross-country briefing (preparing for competition flying) we briefly discussed task options for the day. Concensus was that chosen strategy for the day would be (a) don't be too ambitious and (b) keep together. So, with a forecast of climbs to 3500' lightly NE'ly and no cumulus expected we agreed an initial task - Booker Bridge - Buckingham - Chievley - Booker.
We rigged and gridded and waited for conditions to improve. The conditions didn't get any better but the sight of a Junior staying airborne for more than ten minutes was sufficient for us to launch.
Jon Gatfield (T6), Geoff Lyons (949), Steve Williams (JH), Shack Roberts (A9), Ollie Llewelyn (C30), Gary Nuttall (732) and possibly a few others eventually grouped up between High Wycombe and Booker Bridge and set off in the direction of Thame, just in case conditions didn't improve. The sky from Stokenchurch seemed to offer choices of (a) strong sink; (b) some sink; (c) more sink, so we all found ourselves ever lower as Thame Airfield beckoned. For 949 the lure was too much and Geoff landed there.
Fortunately around Thame a few thermals appeared and the gang limped on, after agreeing that maybe via Bicester would be worth the deviation. In fact changing the task to Bicester-Didcot seemed sensible too.
Between Thame and Bicester conditions were decidedly tricky with the odd 1/2 knotter being clung on to in order to avoid a field landing. C30, 732 and 314 struggled around Brill and eventually John Portwin in 314 landed in a field. C30 and 732, having all been in the same thermal managed to eventually gainenough height to push on to Bicester.
At Bicester conditions improved (= 1.5kt climbs) and there was a split with T6, A9 and JH heading North of Weston-On-The-Green whilst C30 and 732 opting to route back towards Thame after turning Bicester. The pack who went North and then South via Kindlington and Oxford High Street eventually made it around Didcot and home (congrats to all!) whilst C30 and 732 landed back at Thame (not for want of trying). Pete Wells in his Twister provided Gary and Ollie with an impromptu air display whilst they awaited the arrival of tug.
All in all a very challenging day that pushed many out of the comfort zone - flying in the blue, pushing on when low, gaggle flying - all skills well worthwhile continuing to develop. Good to enjoy a beer on the terrace later or go to the barbeque and enjoy watching Graham' Saw's aerobatics when he returned from his training at Bicester. Look forward to comparing traces!