Paragliding cross country season report for Spring 2015 in the United Kingdom.
Spring 2015 UK Paragliding XC
A couple of weeks later saw the first '100+' day, on 10th March with Phil Wallbank scoring 112 points for a 43km FAI triangle flight from Llangollen in North Wales on his Ozone Mantra M6. The competition between the Southern and Pennine clubs had started!
By now the XC hounds were sniffing and scratching at the soaring forecasts for the merest whiff of an XC day. 25th March was the next notable XC day, with flights logged from all over the UK. To get a taste of the day, read Greg Hamerton's triangle attempt. The highest scoring flight was by Mark Watts on his Ozone Enzo 2, with an undeclared 60km FAI triangle from Combe Gibbet, with proper spring thermals and freezing cold temperatures at cloudbase, around 4500ft ASL. Fellow Southern club pilot Hugh Miller managed a similar triangle, putting the Southern club in the lead... for now.
Mark then cracked the first 100km+ flight for the year on 27th March, with 128km from Devils Dyke in Sussex to Ramsgate in Kent. A handful of other pilots managed a few, far shorter XCs the same day, once again showing Mark’s ability to pull a surprising XC out of a moderate day. The Southern club was still leading the league.
April brought more regular XC conditions. 6th April was a great day for the British Club Challenge round in Wales, with many pilots managing XCs; top flight of the day was 101km (with wiggles) from Hundred House in mid Wales to near Rhossili by Southern Club pilot Dickon Walker on his Ozone Delta 2. Read Dickon's write-up of the day.
On 7th April Mark Smith flew 106km from Bradwell to near Corby Glenn on his Niviuk Peak 3.
On 9th April Eddie Colfox flew 121km from the Black Mountains in SE Wales to Drws-y-nant in North Wales on his Ozone Rush 4!
16th April Andy Wallis completed a 60km FAI triangle near Moffat in the Scottish Borders.
Andy recounts: "One of my most enjoyable and challenging flights of 2015, with very dramatic scenery. Fickle launch conditions at the magnificent Grey Mare’s Tail waterfall unfortunately put most pilots down, and I made almost the whole flight alone. Clouds were short-lived at first, requiring decisive moves over some very remote high terrain. Picking my way gingerly over the remote moors towards TP1 the sky looked uninviting, so, not being a committed league points chaser I cut the corner rather than risk a landing. The second leg had much better clouds but turned out to be trickier than expected, and I almost went down at the halfway point in a low valley near Tweedsmuir. TP2, the wind farm near Crawford, was now easily in the bag. The final leg was pretty much a cruise at ‘base with the odd top-up under the now excellent clouds which were all working well – a huge relief after the difficult first two legs, and a highly satisfying finish to a spectacular and memorable flight."
The incredible view from above launch at Grey Mares Tail (Photo by Andy Wallis)
On 18th April the northerners smacked the ball out of the park with the first flights scoring over 200 points in the XC league. Multiple XC league winner Mike Cavanagh, Phil Wallbank and Brendan Reid completed an impressive 71km declared FAI triangle from White Corries in Scotland, scoring 234.6 points. Mike and Phil were both flying Ozone Mantra M6’s and completed the triangle in 4hrs 43mins whilst Brendan, flying an Enzo 2, took 5hrs 17mins. Southern pilot Hugh Miller popped up to Scotland for a quick visit and managed an undeclared 71km FAI triangle.
Mike: "It was one of the days that had most of the usual bunch driving north to join the Scottish pilots. A previously proven route that we pushed a little further this time. It’s the terrain that restricts our dreams – the thought of the potential walkout always providing a big dollop of caution. I missed the first thermal and had to chase, and then nearly decked before struggling into my next climb. As a group by turnpoint 1, we then all struggled together after we crossed Loch Etive. The walkout would have been huge, but we all managed to escape. The 2nd turnpoint really scattered us as we all had our battles, and the last leg back over big walk out territory claimed victims, before Phil, Bren and myself made it back to close the triangle. Big grins for us, big walks for others – that’s Scottish flying."
Tony Shepherd, Phil Wallbank and Hugh Miller before we crossed Loch Etive on the second leg (Photo by Mike Cavanagh)
The forecasts for 26th April were looking epic for somewhere in central England or Wales, but we weren’t sure where exactly. Nancy and I drove up from Sussex and stayed near Swindon the evening before. When we checked the forecasts at 6am it was looking good for... the Peak District so we drove up hoping to get to the right place at the right time. Thanks to Lawrie Noctor we arrived at Bradwell Edge quicker than we might’ve done otherwise, in time to see Hugh Miller and Jim Mallinson at cloudbase and already leaving the hill, soon to be chased by a plethora of others, including us. Hugh went on to fly the longest flight of the day 180.30k in 7hrs 9mins, landing near Sandy, short of his declared goal. However a northern posse (Phil Colbert, Brendan Reid, Tony Shepherd, Phil Wallbank, Andy Wallis and Barney Woodhead) won the day with some impressive team flying (and somewhat maddening ‘Barney FM’ over the radio), reaching their 143.10km goal at Warrington.
On glide during an XC from Bradwell.
On 1st May Hugh Miller flew 153km from Sharpenhoe in Bedfordshire to Five Acres in Gloucestershire. On 8th May Mike Cavanagh flew 146km from Carn nam Feuaich in the Scottish Highlands to Ullapool on the coast.
From now on it all gets a bit weird since, to narrow things down to the best days and flights, I will only be looking at flights of over 200km or points!
13th May was a very special day for XC flying in the UK, with pilots managing great XCs up and down the Kingdom. Although I failed to complete my declared FAI triangle, I had one of my most enjoyable flights of the year, around the Black Mountains and Brecon Beacons with Remi Pickett. Meanwhile Steve Parsons completed a declared FAI Triangle on his Niviuk Icepeak 7 Pro from Ffarmers in Mid Wales. Steve might’ve thought he’d won the day but those northerners were at it again, with Phil Colbert, Dean Crosby, Phil Wallbank, Mark Wilson and Barney Woodhead completing a declared 62km FAI Triangle from Bradwell. However it turned out that even they hadn’t won the day! Dark horse Guy Anderson on his Ozone Enzo 2 managed to complete the declared 78km FAI Triangle which Remi and I hadn’t quite managed, from the Blorenge in SE Wales.
Guy spins his yarn: "The forecasts had done their job, and over 40 pilots copped a mid-week sicky for a decent looking 100km triangle day in Wales. As we all faffed about the sky degraded, with the only decent clouds forming way off to the East. We sheepishly downgraded our ambitions to a more realistic 78km tour of the Black Mountains with a stab into the Brecon Beacons. Innes Powell and I took an easterly track over Pandy, expecting the ridge to work well. All we found was sink whilst Emile Van Wyke, who'd set off 45 mins behind, went arrow straight and found booming conditions, nearly catching us at the Hay Bluff tp. By then convergence had set up over Talgarth and I took a straight glide at base from Llangorse all the way over to the Brecons. Pen-y-fan loomed quickly but turning back into a stiff easterly I thought it was game over. After some rough conditions a decent thermal allowed me to punch back into the convergence line from where I crossed back to the westerly faces of the Black Mountains. The last leg had taken an eternity and, with the day dying, I took a sketchy push back to the Blorenge from where I heard the dulcet tones of a pint of lager calling softly from Bridge Inn far below."
Chasing Guy Anderson with Remi Pickett over the Brecon Beacons in SE Wales on a FAI triangle attempt.
Guy made it. We didn't quite!
On 21st May Guy Anderson snuck up to Long Mynd in Shropshire whilst no one was looking and flew to Longstanton in Cambridgeshire for 214km. Especially impressive because no one else flew a comparable distance that day. The man was on fire!
Guy’s big, high scoring FAI triangle flight got everyone excited – or even more excited than they already were – so now the big question was when the next big day would be? The answer was 30th May with 91 XCs logged in the League from various parts of the UK. Top 3 scoring flights for the day were by Guy Anderson, Mark Watts and Alex Coltman with 187km, 250km and 265km respectively, all from Frocester in Gloucestershire, and all flying Ozone Enzo 2s. Alex’s 7 hour flight to near Thursford in Norfolk turned out to be the longest scoring flight of the year (257.4km open distance) and made Mark nervous about losing his open distance record of 275.5km from the year before.
Greg Hamerton leads the way at Frocester on his Niviuk Icepeak 6.
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