Saturday, 25 September 2010

Saturday soaring

The overnight forecast was promising - low overnight temperature, dry and a forecast max of 16-17C. Quite surprised therefore to arrive in the trailer park at 9:30, with the club kit out already at the launch point, and no sign of anybody rigging. Maybe they'd all relied on RASP which suggested overdevelopment and thermals dying off by early afternoon?

A quick cup of coffee and a reassessment of the condition entailed (hoping for a few more stalwarts to show up). Forecast remained the same - warming up, brisk N-NW'ly breeze, thermals to 3,000'. Hang on!.....N-NW'ly? 12kts? Wonder if the local ridge will work? Steve Williams and I decided that given the likely early cutoff, uncertainty of the day, and lack of others to fly a collaborative x-c, that a trip to the ridge was in order. Checked with the Duty Instructor and yes,, K-21 KCZ was available. Did we really think the ridge would be working as the wind was mainly Northerly and not very strong? So, off we went to find out, with much smiling from those who knew better....

We were towed out to the ridge having discussed options.....Cumulus clouds were building, possibility of streeting, ridge field looked usable as a bolt hole, Lewknor was active so we would need to keep clear of there. Several fields near the ridge looked like good options for field landings too, so we felt confident as we came off tow at 2,000' and gently started to descend towards where it was likely the ridge was working.

A few thermal bubbles were felt as we ran along the ridge heading North towards Chinnor and finally felt some consistent lift being kicked off the ridge at about 1,400' (Booker QFE). A few beats up/down the ridge between 1,200'-1,400' allowed us to gain a feel for the lift off the ridge and also use the local steam train as a picturesque wind direction indicator as it chugged along. Now being sure that the ridge was working we headed off into wind to see how far we could run a cloud street without turning. Thame Airfield was the answer, whereupon the thermals died off and the altimeter began to wind down as we watched the local gliding club winch launching and tried to keep out of their way.

Quite a bit of time was spent working weak lift between 800'-1,600' and it became obvious that the cloud upwind was continuing to decay, suggesting that any further progress into wind would be increasingly risky. Eventually a thermal allowed us to hop back onto the ridge, do a few more beats up & down the ridge, catch a good thermal and head back to base for a well deserved cuppa.

Great fun. Surprised that nobody else was out playing.

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