Race Reports - Foot or Flybubble 2013

Race reports from FOOT or FLYBUBBLE 2013 hike and fly race.

May 2013 FoF Race Report

Vincent Talleu opened play with a fast flight from Bo Peep to Firle, captured in this entertaining video.

David Nickels went one better, first walking from High and Over to Bo Peep to score an extra leg before flying to Firle.

With a good forecast for the weekend, it was ‘game on’ at the Dyke

A lucky gaggle escaped from the Dyke, and boosted up to the thick inversion layer, riding the grumpy climbs of the seabreeze front to Ditchling, then Caburn, where the glide committed us all to the stable sea air. Carlo Borsattino and Juan Sebastian Ospina shared a long glide over Firle, Bo Peep and High and Over – no turning required!

Foot and Flybubble gaggle

Greg Hamerton accompanied them to Firle, but as he had no tracking device (having dropped his phone at the Dyke) he lost out big time, and returned to Glynde to get the retrieve vehicle for the heroes of the day. Simon Steel reached Lewes, but having missed the Ditchling turnpoint, scored a zero on the course too.

[photo] Juan, Carlo, Steve Purdie and Greg thermal towards Lewes

David Nickels then began to chip away at the course, one leg at a time, walking Firle-Caburn, and Truleigh-Dyke, and finally an adventure of over 5 hours between Dyke and Ditchling (trying to fly off Newtimber). He returned to do the Truleigh run by air, improving his time substantially on this leg.

Trying to claw back some honour, Greg Hamerton began where Carlo and Juan had ended (High and Over) and walked back along the course, bagging Bo Peep, Firle and Caburn in just over 2 hours (compared to 15 minutes in the air).


He then flew with Carlo to make this review video

and after landing at the beginning of the bridleway headed off to Ditchling to slowly close the leg.

Janos Kovacs completed an excellent hike-and-fly from Bo Peep to Firle, flying out towards Caburn before walking ... and getting lured into the Trevor Arms.

John Tipper did a trial leg from Caburn. Nobody realised what he was planning.

Still on a mission to get past Carlo, Greg Hamerton did an early morning hike-and-fly from Ditchling to get the Dyke and Truleigh legs completed. He then connected with the seabreeze front and blazed back in 18 minutes. Flying is faster!

Flying not walking

Experienced Foot and Flybubblers Ed ‘Strider’ Bewley and John ‘Walker, Texas Ranger’ Turczak signalled their intentions for this year’s event, with a well executed flight from Firle that showed no signs of any walking at all. They carefully built up height out in front before going on a downwind glide to Bo Peep.

David Nickels waited all day for the wind to drop at Ditchling, and finally completed some flying and a lot of walking to reach Caburn after 8pm! Dedication.


James Hope-Lang must have been hanging out with Ed and John too much, because he was wearing flying boots not running shoes, and managed to make the boots levitate all the way to Truleigh for his first XC. Brilliant! Get the turnpoint next time, would you, James? David Nickels, Ed Bewley and John Turczak all completed the Truleigh run using solar power.

Shaun Bolton, however, flew a declared goal flight that took him straight through the heart of the Foot and Flybubble course to Polegate ... but not past any turnpoints. Well done Shaun, but, err, you get zero.

By this stage someone was wound up like a coiled spring. John Tipper was back, and he stomped out a monster walk of over 50km, taking in over half the course! He started at Truleigh, and walked all of it on a day that remained too windy to fly, reaching Newhaven at the end of the day with only one long uphill leg remaining – back to Truleigh! Now he’s well positioned to fly back through the course and see on which legs he can improve his times.

On the first weekend in June, Greg Hamerton made another attempt, linking Firle, Bo Peep, High and Over and Newhaven with a climb up the seabreeze front and a long glide in the stable air beyond.

As it stands, nobody has completed the route, but it’s getting close. One lifty day at the Dyke will do it, offering a glide to Newhaven. Then the race really intensifies for the finishers, to improve the overall time for getting round the SHGC sites.

If you’ve read this report and haven’t yet tried the course, come and join us! Remember, you can do it one leg at a time: do as much as you can. Everyone is sure to get a prize, and you’ll be surprised how much fun it is once the bug has bitten you.

You only need a tracklog, which any smartphone can produce with a little bit of setup (use the free app XCSoar). If you have a GPS unit, it’s as easy as ‘download’. For help see our Advice section of the event page http://flybubble.co.uk/news/section/935

The Seriously Fun Trophy

June 2013 FoF Race Report

The big hitters this month were the Channel Islanders. Janos Kovacs and Robert Bougard started at dawn at Newhaven, which is an achievement in itself – dawn is currently before 5am! To summon the motivation to carry a paraglider to any site when most pilots are dreaming of better weather takes serious determination.

Island heroes

The route from Newhaven follows the pleasant cliff-top trail before heading inland (and uphill) at Brighton. From Devils Dyke, the up-and-down walk on the South Downs Way begins: first to Truleigh, then back and across to Ditchling, where things level out for a long haul to Lewes, then Mount Caburn, which they reached at 6.30pm. Such a fine effort deserved some team support, so Carlo Borsattino, Nancy Elliott and Ed Bewley accompanied them on the walk from Caburn landing to Firle. 63km of walking + 1 glorious km of flying.

Even more impressive, they finished the job the next day, walking from Firle through the remaining turnpoints to Newhaven for another 19 km, despite aches and pains. 78km of walking in two days, with a wing; a Herculean effort!

Then the ‘summer’ weather rolled in.  By the 19th, Greg Hamerton was going mad (experts are divided on this matter; some insist it has already happened). So with purile planning he arrived at dawn at Ditchling just in time to find it was blowing over the back, with a heavy inversion, clouds, and soon, rain, thunderstorms and lightning.

Stitchling yawn

At last, on the 25th the light northerly wind arrived. Tracy Hamerton took the opportunity to escape baby duty for a quick climb to the top of the stack at Devils Dyke and a glide to Truleigh. Unfortunately some navigating troubles meant missing the turnpoint by 100 metres, but it was a good flight nonetheless.

Carlo Borsattino and Nancy Elliott got high, bagged the Truleigh turnpoint then headed east towards Ditchling. But they followed the best air down the middle of the course to Caburn  so missed Ditchling to the north and Newhaven to the south.  

Nancy goes far

Greg decided it was time to slay the course in a day, so hooked Truleigh and sped off for Newhaven, making it over the river but landing on Seaford beach. This made him the third to close the course, but as he did it over 4 different days, his race time (8 hours) includes a 3 hour penalty.

It can be beaten! Carlo is currently on 2h19 with just over half of the course completed ...

Speak of the devil  ;-)

Carlo returned on the 27th, repeating the Dyke Truleigh run then flew east, but once again was lured into following the best XC route (south side of the hills), narrowly missing Ditchling turnpoint before reaching Caburn. So again, no score. He needs to complete the southern loop of the course to get a winning time, but the seabreeze that pushes in early makes it a technically difficult leg. It favours pilots who soar the Newhaven cliffs west and walk the remaining 16km from Brighton to Truleigh, or cunning pilots who get to Truleigh early, then build height for a committed glide to the coast.

Phil Clark completed the Truleigh out-and-return, but got eaten by the Sink Monster on both attempts. He discussed what he’d learned: “Walking still sucks”.  It was hard to get to cloudbase in June!


Meanwhile, on the other side of the course, the Pirate of the Carabiner was set loose among the innocent maidens. Launching from Bo Peep he ventured towards Firle before thinking better of it and sailing towards Alfriston, where gravity won and he saunted in some intriguing detours until he finally reached High & Over. It makes a very entertaining story in his own words. A few days later he followed it up with a walk to Truleigh and flight back to the Dyke. The Cap'n has swung broadside, and there's smoke coming from his cannons.

On the 29th, the wind was screaming at Devils Dyke while unbeknownst to us, local legend Mark Watts was flying like a jet plane from Liddington.

At 2pm it became flyable at the Dyke, and the strong wind and thermals boosted a flock of happy flappy wings up to 2000ft+ including keen competitors like James Hope-Lang and John Turczak. From such a lofty vantage, you’d think it was simple to just glide to Truleigh or Newhaven, but strong lift often means strong sink, and most pilots had to bail out of their attempts and return to the safety of ‘pub ridge’. Oh well, at least there’s good beer!

After tandem flying duty, Greg Hamerton left the Dyke at 3:30pm.

He writes:

Before this, the sky was going up like stink! I would take off, hand the toggles to my passenger and say "turn when it beeps" and they all got to 2000ft+. Big smiles all round.

When the solo was out the bag, the sky fizzled.

Feeling the seabreeze sticking its blue tongue over the ridge and seeing everyone reduced to ridge height, I hoofed it to Newtimber, worked the point there and was joined by John Porter in a 0.5m/s. Drifted worked bimbled floated but nothing else released and chose the longest downwind glide in hope of getting something.

I got sheep.

Looking up, I saw Mark Watts, who reached the Dyke (from Liddington) at 4:30pm and finding nothing interesting there, continued to Hawkhurst for 192km via turnpoints. ! The man is a legend.

There's a nice bridlepath on the top of the first ridgeline after the A23 that I should have followed N, landing nearer the Ditchling ridge, because it was still relaunchable there even after 5pm when I reached it after a rather random extended saunter.

Swoosh! Back in the air, scudded past Ditchling then found nothing happening in the bowl so came back for the bus. Missed it by 2 minutes, but got a ride from Francisco instead, which was much cooler. Thanks bro!

Dyke late afternoon

You only need one thermal and some walking to complete any leg of the course!

So get out there and have your own adventure! The Foot or Flybubble 2013 ends on 31 July. more info

July 2013 FoF Race Report

It was the last month of the challenge and things really hotted up!

Over Lewes

Carlo Borsattino began the assault with a flight from Bo Peep which displays the determination one needs to achieve XC in the South Downs. He writes: “Another cycle came through and I took off, trying to turn tight and efficient on the very small thermal cores being blown flat and getting mashed-up along the face of the ridge. I decided to stick my neck out and head out away from the comfort of the ridge (cold comfort really) and head out into the valley, risking going down and a hot sweaty walk.

There were disorganised bubbles of lift and sink all over the place. Something was going off somewhere out there. I could feel it. But where?

No birds to mark the best bits so I just followed my gut feeling. I turned in any lift that felt vaguely good enough, then sniffed upwind, downwind, crosswind to see if I could find anything better. If I found sink then I quickly moved on somewhere else. All the while trying to draw a mental picture of where the lift might be forming, triggering and releasing.

Round and round I went, slowly going down, all the while drifting towards the slopes below Firle Beacon. Finally I arrived there, 2/3 of the way down the slope. Bugger, I thought, time to slope land before I go all the way to the bottom. Then I hit a tiny punchy core. Fortunately my Peak 3 seems to be able to turn quickly and efficiently, so I was able to wang the wing round hard, straight into the core. And up I went.”

He linked Bo Peep, Firle and Caburn before succumbing to the gravity of a heavy work-ethic. Greg Hamerton had a similar flight, landing at the beginning of the bridlepath before succumbing to the gravity of a nearby park bench in the sun.

A great day at Bo Peep on the 7th saw many pilots getting high. Nick Jones flew across to Firle to grab a leg without using his own. Superb, we say! Many more.

Nick fly

Grita Rose-Innes and Pete Impey (of the ‘I don’t do the foot, I only do the fly’ fame) drifted back to gain more height and glided over Firle to land at The Lay for tea. Jolly civilised we say.

John Turczak raised the bar, by crossing the valley to Mount Caburn on glide then walking to the top for lunch.

Nancy Elliott joined Greg Hamerton and worked up to cloudbase, zigzagging carefully across the wind to reach Caburn with height before racing off towards Ditchling.

Nancy up high

Greg took a strategic choice to go for the back of the Caburn hills (facing into wind) which almost put him on the ground, before the anticipated climb pinged off the golf-course and beamed him back up to base. He linked Ditchling, Dyke, Truleigh and landed on the way to Newhaven. Convinced he was going to be immortalised by completing the course, with visions of the cheering crowds and free drinks at goal, he marched to the hills above Kingston, had a short flight and spent the rest of the day marching to Newhaven then High & Over. He missed closing the course by one leg: High&Over to Bo Peep. But little did he know, he had missed every second turnpoint by a few metres, so no legs counted in the scores.

Does it matter? We say “No!” It’s not about the end, it’s about the journey. That’s why we created this challenge. Having a shared goal helps to spur us all on to achieve things we wouldn’t normally achieve, and to learn and share new things about XC flying.

Ed Bewley gave it stick (leg) this month, and closed the route over two days of walking at the unflagging pace that has earned him the nickname Strider. Flying actually slowed him down! He even stopped to take some wonderful photos, like this one

Ed's morning bath

Vincent 'Bad Boy' Talleu leapt through the backcountry, and produced this irreverent piece of parakour entertainment for the avid Foot or Flybubble fans. Don’t worry, no fences or nature reserves were hurt during this production.

Phil Clark zipped the other way along the ridge to claim the Firle leg.

Nick Jones went walking, walking, walking but didn’t realise the XCSoar program needs a kickstart to record a walking track. He made up for a lack of tracklog with a very entertaining story.

Ked Shayer convinced his mates to join him for a ‘short walk on the downs’ which turned into rather more of an epic from Newhaven up to Bo Peep, past Firle and down to the welcome Trevor Arms in Glynde, before conquering Caburn and making for a well earned pint in Lewes.

Marathon expert James Hope-Lang stamped his authority on the South Downs by running from Devils Dyke at dawn for just under 14 hours to be the first and only one to ever close the course in a day. Unfortunately the wind was howling ... so he did the entire 81 km on the ground! Yes, with a fully functional paragliding kit of over 10kg. This is a ground-breaking achievement. Long-legs, we salute you with both feet. James stashed some iced drinks and sweets at each turnpoint – a cunning plan!

Seriously prepared

The flying weather hadn’t been kind to John Tipper, so when the month was drawing to a close he came down from London and smashed his previous time of 2h56 Highover-Newhaven with a blistering 1h24, the fastest foot time of all. After braving strong winds at Newhaven he opted for the More-Likely-To-Survive method of sweating it out on the ground. He continued on to Truleigh for a Strider-beating 5h03 time on the longest leg, uphill, closing the course and securing third place.

Terry Clark aka Cap'n Crab, the Pirate of the Carabiner chipped away at the legs, knees and ankles, coming back again and again like a persistent pirate blowing holes in the unsuspecting fleet. First Caburn to Firle to Bo Peep, then Devils Dyke to Ditchling, followed by a flight from Bo Peep that smashed his own time to High & Over of 2h42 (via pretty young things, hollows, free rides); new time 13 minutes! Then on 27th he slayed the stubborn long tail of the course, walking from Truleigh to Newhaven, a monster 25km hike. Being a pirate of great reputation, he won’t mind us mentioning that he is 70, and yes, he carried a full 18kg paragliding kit with him on his 10 hour slog.


While Cap’n Crab he was doing this, Carlo sneaked off Bo Peep, got a sustained 4m/s thermal, and glided around High&Over to the north end of Newhaven, walking the last bit to reach the turnpoint just before the gust fronts and rain came in – sending him into the fort for shelter!

Carlo le fort

It’s been a tough challenge, and we’re so proud of everyone who made an attempt. Thanks to all those who logged in to the facebook page and added comments, heckled from the sidelines or shared pearls of wisdom, it was all part of the buzz that made the Foot or Flybubble 2013 such a success. Thanks to the SHGC (www.shgc.org.uk) for managing all these great sites on behalf of the club members. Thanks to the sponsors for their generous prizes. And thanks to you for your interest.