Saved by the Comps – a Rather Bendy 100K

As recounted in Chris’s ribald tale, Saturday met promised much but delivered somewhat less. I launched just before Phil and Carol and climbed away, bemused by the ‘ground fumbles’ thwarting their attempts to get airborne. By the time they launched I was at 3500 QFE and heading west – so just for once didn’t have the frustration of chasing a mystically buoyant Janus disappearing into the distance. The nominated task was round the Danger Area, but the sky didn’t look like it would it would permit such an endeavour (at least not in an LS3 with me flying it at half past one in the afternoon). A top up at Burbage found me going like the clappers to keep out of a cloud street and shooting past Pewsey with little loss of height. The sky ahead said ‘proceed at your peril’, but a couple of ‘kamikaze kids’ from Lasham who I had been watching diving earthwards into the distance suddenly zoomed up over Devizes. So, the sky being less threatening behind than in front, the possibility of a stock 100k presented itself.
So in and out of Devizes and straight into a rain shower. To the north east, Marlborough was invisible under a deluge, so the only option was back the way I had come. Unfortunately the cloud street that had delivered me with such dispatch was now drifting over the Danger Area, so the return trip saw me scraping along the red line under the overcast in what little good air there was left behind. At Upavon just enough height for a straight glide back into Rivar. Then glory be! – a hang glider thermalling in a small pool of sunshine. Arriving just beneath him each climbing turn pushed me too close for comfort, so there followed an asymmetric gavotte requiring much effort but yielding little in return. Then right on cue another couple of kamikazes pulled up in a thermal close by; so join them and back up to the comfort zone. By now there were three deluges in sight, east, west and south and all the time a wall of of water creeping towards Wantage. But having chickened out once, I owed it to reliable old EEFy not to wimp back into Rivar without at least a bit of effort.
A line of cumulus had developed towards Newbury and a gaggle appeared over Vernham Dean. While there’s life there’s hope! So top up with the gaggle and head north ahead of the storm. The ‘old reliable’ thermal at Hungerford provided impetus to keep going and a solitary Cu under the overcast near Brightwalton delivered a welcome 4kt. Then a race against the rain to get to Wantage and stay dry, a final distant thermalling glider leading me home for tea.
I have to record my gratitude to the Lasham young bloods who marked most of the thermals on this most unusual flight and condolences to those who suffered the Icarian fate in the fields below. Their contribution to my enjoyment was immeasurable. (Even if they scared the bejazus out of me every time they set my Flarm flashing scarlet!)

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Shalbourne Gliding

Shalbourne Gliding