As Chris said it was a difficult day on Saturday, in fact my launch was immediately after Chris’ first and because I was towed behind the Pawnee and he was towed behind the Rotax Falke I actually came off tow about 20 seconds after him, he turned downwind to where it looked ‘better’ and I headed into wind to where it looked like something might eventually happen. Neither option proved fruitful, however, being upwind I had the ridge to fall back to and that kept me airborne long enough to wait for a thermal whereas Chris had little option but to take a relight. This just demonstrated something about the conditions – one wrong decision and you were on the ground.
Having scraped away from 800 feet before the start I set off on task (NHL-STU-FRO-NHL – 181km) fully expecting a landout. Heading downwind conditions slowly improved and after a couple of low scrapes I picked up a cracking climb at STU and for the first time was able to even contemplate the idea of finishing. The optimism didn’t last long though and after a reasonable run to The Park things got worse again and after rounding FRO I had my second real scrape away from 1000 feet before heading in the general direction of NHL and towards an obvious line of spreadout and showers. A couple of reasonable climbs on the way and I was into the rain and for the second time on the task looking at Merryfield as the likely end of the flight, with wet wings and water streaming up the canopy I couldn’t turn at much under 60kt so thermalling had to wait until I was through and had blow-dried the glider! Through the rain and into a sea-breeze front with good lift and once at cloudbase sticking my port wing into the cloud and careful flying got me to 700 feet above cloudbase with clear downward, forward and starboard visibility. Off the end of the front there was a decent climb to final glide.
Of the field of 15 only 3 (all pundits) got back (plus one who motored home) and the provisional results for Shalbourne pilots were:
Novice – Steve came 2nd
Intermediate – Chris came 1st (despite penalties at turning points due to NAV settings)
Pundit – I finished 3rd
Shalbourne has, therefore, relinquished its place at the bottom of the league!