Sunday 24 June 2012

Goodwood Festival of Speed

From 28 June to 1 July (this week) Booker Gliding Club will be exhibiting at the world renowned Goodwood Festival of Speed.  In the spirit of this event we will have the club's fastest cross country glider, the Duo Discus, on display.  Club members, under the watchful eyes of the marketing team, will be running the Duo display along with a stand in the main hall. 
This is a great opportunity to pass on our enthusiasm and introduce members of the public to our fantastic sport. 

See the link below for more information about the Aviation Exhibition at the Goodwood Festival of Speed.

Wednesday 20 June 2012

Please sir, can we have some more?

I cannot lie - I've been hurling abuse at the sky for weeks as wind, gale, low clouds, or all three make soaring pilots across England and Wales very grumpy. So when Jim posted his weather alert at the weekend about Tuesday looking good, I set the wheels in motion to take the afternoon off.

As I headed into work, clouds were popping up at 8am. My co-workers must have thought I was behaving very strangely; I would keep fingering the blinds looking to the sky and come back with a fevered and manic expression. But little did they know the torment of my soul as every stolen glance revealed a sky growing more epic as time ticked by: I pounded the keyboard determined to fit a days work into a morning.

Before slamming the helmet over my eyes, I drank in the sky from horizon to horizon. The weather god Zeus had at last woken up without a hangover: I imagine he reached deep in his bag of weather to remove the cotton wool clouds and muttered, "hmmm - aren't these gliding clouds dusty?". And to repair his forgetfulness, he picked only the plumpest clouds and delicately stretched them across the horizon and breathed a gentle wind, "sorry about the wait... Enjoy!"

My only thought as I made my way to the club was, "please, please, please let the conditions last!"

Fast forward to 9pm, and we are ensconced in the clubhouse with a tea, sun burnt faces and two flights of longer than one hour, one of which finished at 7pm. What a great days flying.

The highlight of my day was a 4kt thermal, that became so smooth I thought the vario was broken. But clearly it wasn't because the ground kept getting smaller, the air got colder, and under the wing I could see the unmistakeable outline of a kite cruising up to join me: For once I was slap bang in the middle of a thermal core!

In the words of Oliver Twist, "Please sir, can we have some more?"

Saturday 16 June 2012

Serres Expedition - Day 8 (the finale)

Well the 2012 Serres Expedition awoke to yet another glorious day in the French Alps. Clear blue skies and high temperatures. The forecast was good but mostly blue with some chance of wave from the south westerly airflow.
K21 on tow towards the ridge at Bane
 The K21 and DuoDiscus launched with Barry and David respectively onto the southern end of Bane and quickly established themselves in strong climbs to 7,000ft before heading north and cross across to Aspres before heading up to Pic du Bure and climbing to 10,000ft.

KCZ en route to Pic du Bure
Puc du Bure with the DuoDiscus about to arrive

The K21 then headed north west up the Col du Cabre and picked up wave whilst the Duo continued east towards the Lac du Serres Poncon.
Wave visible from the Col du Cabre
All too soon given the wonderful conditions, decisions were made to return to the airfield at Serres ready for the inevitable derig and pack up ready for the journeys home.
Getting ready for the derig
Housekeeping completed, a dip in the pool was essential followed by drinks and a meal at the "Snack" on the airfield. Prizes were awarded for the weeks flying including best hostess, navigation, distance flown and timekeeping (the winners can explain!).
Proud prize winners

Geoff unable to contain himself with his prize
With over 60 hours flown over the week by the expedition members in some stunning scenery enhancing their skills and great socialising, it is fair to say the expedition was a success and roll on 2013 when it will be open again to all Booker members to come along and see what all the fuss is about.

Serres Expedition - Day 7

Another brilliant sunny start to the day forecast to be mostly blue with a slight southerly flow and with an inversion at around 8,000ft. 

The kit was made ready and after a pitch inspection and winning the toss, Geoff decided to let the British launch first and leave the "D-" reg team to field for themselves.
Pitch inspection by the team
Tows were made to the ridge at Aspres to the north which became very busy with everyone working hard to get away and with a mix of gliders, hang gliders and paragliders discipline on the ridge was key.

KCZ with the ridge at Aspres behind
The conditions were tricky and climbs not too conducive to push hard into the big mountains but the Duo and the K21 were both able to push onto Pic du Bure, Col de Cabre and south towards Cabre. The K21 with David in had a dirty scrape away from the airfield after its initial push south and then had one of its best climbs of the day alongside a pair of the large and impressive Griffin vultures. 
David Humphreys enjoying a good climb

Soaring over Beaumont with St Genis ahead

In company with a Griffin Vulture

After landing a cool down was required in the pool before setting off to a restaurant set under the slopes of St Genis.
Relaxing at the pool

The view from the restaurant under St Genis 

Friday 15 June 2012

Serres Expedition - Day 6

A fine bright start to the day that indicated good conditions ahead but due to EDF being on site burying power cables around the airfield there was no electricity for Klaus to be able to give his detailed and accurate forecast for the day and suggested task areas. He summarised by saying 'its is good, enjoy yourself out there'

Things then became a little 'tyresome' as there were 2 punctures that needed attention before we could fly but in fine Booker tradition we managed the usual ratio of observers to workers that even managed to impress the EDF teams on site whose only response was to stop for a typical French lunch (leaving the power off!).

Once the flying started into a mostly blue sky, there was good lift to 8,000 feet and Barry and Geoff set off for Pic du Bure and a run to the east up past the Lac de Serre Poncon and then northwards towards Briancon and the Col du Galibier catching some wave along they way to 11,500ft before a comfortable run home.

The K21 with Adrian Webb set off to the north west and Col du Cabre and picked up wave to 10,000ft and apart from one low point about 1,000ft above ground had an enjoyable day exploring the ridges to the south and west of Serres before finally landing at 19:30.

The evening concluded with an excellent BBQ care of Marnie and David.
And a couple of late entry photos of the K21 from day 5 in the wave south of Chabre and crossing  the Gap valley towards the small gliding strip at La Motte du Caire

Wednesday 13 June 2012

Serres Expedition - Day 5

Another good forecast with cumulus to around 2,400 metres going blue later in the day and a northerly airflow.

DuoDiscus flying slowly (?) by
With this in mind the plan was for the K21 with David Humphreys to lead the DuoDiscus with Barry Michael south to Chabre and then east to Sisteron before doing their own things. As a plan this is fine but it always proves difficult to lead from behind but was generally resolved by the K21 announcing what it intended to do and setting off only to have the Duo scream past it.

KCZ leading the way (from behind)
Initial climbs were good to cloud base at around 7,000ft but having flown the ridge at Charbe for a while and setting off further south to the ridge at Lure, Geoff in the Duo made the comment to look out for wave which as if by magic gave climbs above the cloud base to 11,000ft.

Crossing the Gap/Sisteron Valley

Around Sisteron the two gliders parted company and the Duo headed north to have a look at Pic du Bure whilst the K21 headed back to Serres via Gap and the Crete des Selles.

David at the end of his flight
Later in the day after it had become a lot bluer Simon McCracken had a trip in the K2, trying and eventually finding lift in the wave - the flight was finally brought to an airbraked end so that everyone could get to the restaurant for a well deserved beer and a meal.
Simon McCracken climbing above the Arambre ridge

Serres Expedition - Day 4

Another fine day that started with a bang - or a thud to be more exact as this Blogger walked squarely into the Duo tail plane. After the refinish on the Duo had been inspected to ensure no damage, an ice pack, steri strip and ridicule were applied in equal quantities to the patient (hopefully the black eye will be gone before the return to the UK).

After this slight delay to launch proceedings flights were made to the east and south of the site using the dynamic lift off the ridges of d'Aujour, St Genis to Chabre before returning to Serres where a significant shower was coming through that looked like it may signal the end of the day but as often happens it cleared through to leave a pleasant evening which where everyone enjoyed a superb chicken curry and chocolate blow out desert at chez Barry and Adrian.
Duo launching

On tow with the ridge at Aspres in the distance

Landing with a strong westerly cross wind

The smiles confirm the end of a successful flight

Tuesday 12 June 2012

Serres Expedition - Day 3

Monday the sky that greeted us was clear and sunny but with a lot of moisture in the air from the previous evening rain. The forecast suggested rain later in the day but the area to the east and south of Serres was OK.
Geoff  getting the lowdown from Marta

As it turned out, the day was much better than forecast with cloud base rising to 10,000 allowing Simon McC and Geoff in the Duo to cover a lot of ground to Col de Cabre to the north, Pic du Bure then across onto the Parc Cours via Gap and home.
DuoDiscus with Pic du Bure in the background

The K21 with Barry M also explored up to Col de Cabre across to Veynes and then went to Sisteron before returning via Crete des Selles. 

Barry returning from Sisteron A/F

315 climbing over St Genis

Beers were called for in the glorious setting sun before a substantial thunderstorm hit during dinner.

Sunday 10 June 2012

Serres Expedition - Day 2

The morning started very bright and sunny but with a forecast of "ze English weathur is coming zis afternoons" from Robin the full time instructor at Serres. With this in mind the team here received a masterclass briefing from Geoff identifying individuals goals from the week and then some excellent insights into mountain soaring based on his 25 plus years of doing it. An interesting aspect of Geoff's brief was that he has learnt a huge amount but he is always learning and understanding more each time he comes, always respect the mountains and never become complacent.

Briefing over the both Bookers gliders were launched into the sky that was again starting to cloud over and Simon McC took the opportunity to take a flight in the Janus with Robin where they pushed out to some of the surrounding ridges but eventually had to resort to an iron thermal to get home.

Dave and Geoff ready to launch

The Duo and the K21 explored ridges to the west of the site and pushed north to Aspres and Veynes where they met up before the approaching rain made it prudent to return  to Serres and both gliders arrived in the circuit at about the same time and were parked up just as the rain hit.

Forecast for tomorrow is for a bright start but rain again in the afternoon.

Serres Expedition - Day 1

This years expedition has got off to a wet and windy start crossing the English Channel as announced by the P&O ferry Captain - "Severe to extreme seas and may not be totally smooth" - an understatement I think.

Once into France the weather improved and everyone has arrived. Whilst the weather in the UK has been poor of late, France hasn't fared much better and the airfield at Serres and the surrounding area being much greener than previous years.
Looking down on the Airfield from Arambre
Briefing over, the gliders were rigged and first flights made in the afternoon by David H and Barry M in the Duo. Climbs in the local area were available to 6,500 but an area of high spreadout moving in from the northwest appeared to kill the thermals but there were large areas of smooth lift in Serres/Aspres valley allowing a venture north to Aspres.
Rigging KCZ
We came across a gaggle of gliders out to the east of the site at Crete des Selles including G-TABB who is competing at the Vinon Pre-Europeans. After a quick "hello" on the radio we saw him depart into an uninspiring sky to the south east but he competed the competition task of 314km back to Vinon.
Flying north to Aspres with an ASH25

Tuesday 5 June 2012

Air League 2012 Annual Reception

The Blog has been a bit quiet of late with poor weather and the general media focus on the Queen's Diamond Jubilee celebrations which does seem to have been enjoyed by the nation as a whole.

2 days before the Diamond Jubilee celebrations started, The Air League held its annual reception in the presence of the Patron - His Royal Highness The Prince Philip Duke of Edinburgh (who incidentally has also been the Patron of the Air League for 60 years). The reception held at St James's Palace is an opportunity to recognise the success of the Air League Leading Edge members who have received flying bursary's or gliding scholarships and to present them with their certificates.

Booker Gliding Club was well represented with two of its cadets who were there to receive their certificates - Sam Gervais and Will Hilton who looked very smart and didn't go along in their normal 'gliding attire'.

 Will Hilton receiving his certificate from HRH Prince Philip Duke of Edinburgh
Sam Gervais receiving his certificate from Sir Brian Burridge, President of The Air League