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16.1.19: The plan was that I should be catching a plane to New Zealand today, en route to a month of riding around the North Island on Georgie's Suzuki Freewind. It hasn't worked out like that....

I had been feeling rather under the weather for a couple of months, so decided to visit the doctor for the first time in, perhaps, 20 years? I reckon I have a virus of some flu-like variety, but he took a blood test which suggested some issues that needed addressing, and the upshot is that instead of beaches and mountains I'm booked in for hospital visits to have some tests and checks....

There hasn't been much flying around these parts (UK winters are not normally conducive to good flying) so I don't seem to have missed a lot. I'm hoping to be back in the air soon, and rolling up in New Zealand at the next available opportunity.

Vintage Outing

In November I made a trip to the Midlands, after Rachel offered me a couple of old hang gliders for my Vintage Collection. The gliders belonged to her late father, and had to be disposed of now that his house was being sold. The descriptions and photographs that she sent me were not conclusive, but I was pretty sure that one was an early Chargus glider, and the second an Airwave Calypso.

A quick glance inside the bags was enough - a pair of very tidy gliders, a Chargus Vega 2 from about 1976, and an Airwave Calypso from around 1990. I'll post photos of the gliders soon. Rachel was very relieved that they were going to be looked after by somebody who would care for them, and might even be willing to fly them.


27.10.18: A cold and windy northerly forecast can only mean one thing around here: North Hill! The truth is that the site doesn't often work, because the Bristol Channel can alter the wind direction and strength. RASP is a good indicator, though, and five hangies believed it.

The wind was adequate, and smack on take-off, so we all were airborne before long. The ridge itself is about 4 or 5 miles long, but at the westerly end there is a tempting view across Porlock Bay - the Bossington Gap! In 1976 Brian Wright talked of crossing The Gap and I thought he was kidding, but a few years later I was the first pilot to make the crossing, on an Airwave Magic 4, and repeated the trip many times thereafter. It had been many years since my last crossing, though, so when I was climbing strongly in sea thermals on October 29th, it was a no-brainer!

I was flying a Rio 2 (it is for sale on my used glider page - hint, hint!) which is a very lovely glider, but not endowed with the best glider angle. In fact, I got 2500 feet amsl, so it wasn't a big problem, and then I went on towards the west, heading for Countisbury. (The picture below is looking back across the gap to Bossington).

If I'm making all this sound slightly heroic, don't be fooled! Jeremy Soper had flown more than twice as far as me on his Litespeed. Oh his way back, though, his plans were scuppered by a hail storm, so he landed at Countisbury. I found the hail well before getting to Countisbury, so turned around and tried to get back over the gap, into wind. Brett Wright had already been to Countisbury and then scooted back over the gap on his Litespeed, but he said the last bit was tricky. The Rio did well to start with, but couldn't hack it as we got nearer to Bossington, so I turned back to land at Porlock Weir. The landing was so perfect that members of the public came up to congratulate me - the end of a lovely day!

October In Algodonales

24.10.18: Just back from ten days in Algodonales with the South Devon club trip. The weather wasn't the best, but I had five or six flights to boost my confidence on a paraglider. The Cure is a great wing - plenty of performance allied to lots of in-built safety - and it looked after me very well.

The views at Algo are always stunning, as you can see from the top picture. Personally, I am not keen on the crowded take-off sites. The picture below was taken on a non-flying day at El Bosque, where there is only room to lay-out one or two canopies at a time. You can imagine the queueing when it gets half-soarable!

On one rather strong day on a similarly small sight we witnessed scenes of carnage as pilots (sometimes either guided or under instruction!) were thrown off a tricky take off. Three were dragged off to one side and smacked into a rock formation, but still the queue pressed forwards. Later, three consecutive failed take-offs resulted in gliders roosting in the trees, but still the hordes can forward like lemmings. Quite remarkable! My glider stayed in the car that day.

Three of our party of five chose to fly, and all showed composure and competence. This is James Bull, who quietly pulled out of the queue when things were rorty, then got off later in better conditions. Common sense comes in useful at times....

Don't get the wrong impression, though. Despite these unnecessary pressures and the relatively poor weather, I had quite a lot of really enjoyable flying, and there was plenty of space once in the air. The highlight for me was a late-in-the-day flight to goal (we had left our car on the "wrong" side of the mountain) which entailed climbing out in very weak lift. We were helped by a large group of about 20-30 vultures who showed us where the thermals were. Flying with these masters of warm air currents was always a delight, they being so polite and considerate whilst flying in company with rank amateurs.

Flying apart, it is also most enjoyable sharing time with the S.Devon mob. Roger, Chris, James and Robin were great company. "Col-leccio", that well-known SDevon intellectual and fitness freak, was on good form too, keeping our brains engaged and bodies toned at all times. As you can see:


9.10.18: Yet another flyable day at Beer, but this time it was warm and sunny all day. I was busy - demoing a used Calypso for a prospective customer and then flying my Cure demo to get a bit of airtime before going off to Spain for some flying.

The Calypso looked great, and flew every bit as well. I did the milk run to Sidmouth and back, and then top landed to chat to the customer. He just marched up and said "I'll take it!"

By the time I had got the Cure ready the wind had dropped off and people were going down. Resigned to my likely fate I took off anyway, and proceeded to stay up until the very last people were walking off the hill. What a lovely day!

My mate Mark Turner (who actually worked at the Flying Circus for a while) came out with his gorgeous Firebird Eagle 2 and took this stunning photo, which just about captures the feel of the day.

Flat Beer

4.10.18: The forecast suggested Beer would be clagged in, but reports came in that it was looking flyable, so I left the office and nipped down there with my paraglider. It was worth the effort, but much of my flight to Sidmouth and back was a bit restricted - wedged between the cliff tops and the rather low cloudbase. At times there was a band of only about 150 feet where I felt comfortable.

Later it improved, and at one point I had several 360's in a very nice thermal....until the cloud intervened. Gliders were looming out of the gloom like ghosts (believe it or not, there is one in the picture above) and after an hour I was beginning to feel rather cold. Time to break out the heated gloves, perhaps?

A Quickie....

25.9.18: With a busy day in prospect an improving forecast convinced me to shift a few things around, in order to get to Beer Head. I zoomed down on the motor bike with the Cur on my back, and managed to get about 40 minutes very pleasant soaring. Then it was a matter of scrubbing off the height to land, packing the kit, and rushing back home for an appointment I couldn't change.

Getting down wasn't easy, because there was copious lift under the clouds that were streaming in off the sea. If only I hadn't had to go home!

Desert Dreams

19.9.18: At this very moment Ollie Chitty is competing in the Santa Cruz Flats comp in the States, and is right at the top of the placings. The temperature over there is in the 40's, and Olly said he was so pleased to have taken the SMFC Speedsleeves that he won for his second place at the British Nationals in France. They're keeping him relatively cool. Go Ollie!


16.9.18: I missed out due to nursing a bad back, but the more intrepid locals headed down for a nice day at Ringstead. Jezzer was flying another of my stock Litespeeds and, as usual, wanted to clock up some miles. He wafted away down the spectacular coast, past Durdle Door, Lulworth Cove, Tyneham and Kimmeridge, before eventually landing at Worth Matravers.

It is quite remarkable what you can achieve with a sixteen year old £750 hang glider and a bit of skill and determination! He visited most of Dorset's tourist traps in a single flight!

31.8.18: A late decision to go to Woolacombe, to test fly a nice old Calypso I had just bought. I forgot my camera in the rush, so this is a photo of my mate Trevor Jordan enjoying the Wooly views.

It turned out to be the right decision to go, because it was much better than forecast, with sunshine and lots of thermals all day. The glider was great, another reminder that there is nothing much wrong with thirty year old hang gliders. This one is very probably sold, but I have another one in super condition - looking forward to flying that one soon, too!

So that was a good decision, but I blew it over the weekend when my mates were skying-out on the south coast and I wasn't! Search Youtube for Jeremy Soper's video of flying Whitsands Bay - it is epic!

I had a great August Bank Holiday!

Sunday August 26th saw me return to kart racing after a 45 year gap! Kenny Brown, a great mate from those youthful days, offered me a kart on loan, and I jumped at the chance. This was a proper two-stroke racing kart, not the slow and heavy four strokes that are available for hire.

We enjoyed the same weather that stopped the Silverstone Moto GP meeting, but we raced on - there was very little visibility, and I had to get used to wet tyres with only three laps of practice! Actually, one-and-a-half laps, because I spun off. A racing kart is way quicker than hire karts, far more nimble and responsive, and I needed a lot more practice if I was going to put up even a half-decent showing.

No point spinning off - I wanted to drive for as long as was available. Driving without grip and a surfeit of power is something I used to love, and this day gave me the opportunity to revisit the experience. To finish first, first you must finish, so I elected to race at my own pace and stay on the track. I finished all three races, but came absolutely nowhere - with a gurt great grin spread across my face! Thanks Kenny and Joe (seen here preparing the kart before the meeting) for a great day out. Must do more of this!

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