Sat, 22 Sep 2012

1Sting 3:168 : Swanborough (H) Duration: 00:30, Gain: 2050 ft, Distance: 6.1 km, NE; landed next to Brighton Marina.

First XC on the Downs!

From Thursday I'd been watching the forecast and Saturday was shaping up to be a potential Swanborough day. Sure enough, Saturday came and permission had been obtained to fly Swanborough. I arrived around 10am and started to rig my hang glider. John B was out with the South Downs Hang Gliding school. It was good to see so many fledgling pilots readying their gliders, some of which were determined to do their first soaring flights.

As I readied my hang glider I assumed it was going to be a scratchy soaring flight. This was visually confirmed by those already scratching in the air, so didn't prepare for anything other than this. This would be a decision that I would later regret, but for the moment, I focussed on getting safely into the air.

Rigged at Take-off
Rigged at Take-off
My Sting 3 rigged and ready for flight at Swanborough
22 Sep 2012

The hill at Swanborough drops away very quickly, so standing a little behind the edge can result in some turbulent air. This unsettled my glider so I slowly crept forwards until both wings settled down. Clipped in and scanning the air in front of me, I launched and joined the established flight pattern. Some were a couple of hundred feet above me, but Nicos, Paul and myself were scratching together. A couple of students from the school launched and made a pretty good attempt at staying aloft. I kept well clear of them, remembering what that was like when I was learning.

It wasn't long before I was in something and I slowly began to 360 in lift. The sky was busy, but I felt confident flying in this company. Inadvertently I realised that flying in company has the additional benefit of allowing others to show you where the best lift is and before I knew it, I was orbiting a thermal with Paul slowly climbing and drifting over the back. As we climbed we joined Nicos who was thermalling an adjacent core or the same thermal (who knows), in the opposite direction to Paul and myself. Eventually, we all established a similar pattern and continued climbing. Luke on his rigid passed by until one by one they all left the thermal to return to the hill.

I think it was John B's words from my last flight at Swanborough that inspired me to continue climbing and drifting downwind, or, it may have been the thought that I may not have made it back to the hill, but who cares, I was off on a mini XC! It was at this point I was kicking myself for not attaching the video camera.

At 2080 feet a.t.o, which looked to be cloud base the thermal dissipated and I set off in a south westerly direction. With my eyes focussed on the ground for potential landing options and the blue expanse of see in front, I passed over Woodingdean heading towards Brighton Marina. As I approached Roedean, a helicopter passed directly underneath me reminding me that I should really keep a watchful eye out here as many pleasure flights from Shoreham Airport venture along the coast.

There appeared to be many different landing options ranging from golf courses, school playing fields etc. But with 1,600 feet to spare, I wasn't quite ready to land. Looking westwards I could see Brighton extending all the way along to Worthing. Very urban and very landing unfriendly! To the south; well, I'd run out of land, so, with minimal options, I concluded that landing somewhere below was best. This of course gave me plenty of time to pick the best option. I was undecided with between the large mini-golf course of the triangular field across the road to it.

After a couple of orbits I could see lamp posts surrounding the mini gold course so selected the adjacent field to this as my landing destination. I dropped quickly and set-up my landing approach, I was eager to land in the first third of the field as the later end didn't look very inviting with a large fence bordering it. On my final approach I passed between parked coaches and started skimming the field. It was at this point that I realised my chosen field; that had looked flat from 1000 feet, was actually on a significant gradient, almost matching the glide of my glider! Fortunately, I was able to get my toes to the ground and was able to run off the landing.

Safely Landed
Safely Landed
My landing field near Brighton Marina.
22 Sep 2012

Down safely and parked beside the road, I was joined by some observers that were very interested in my exploits. After some friendly conversations, I was left alone. It suddenly dawned on me that I hadn't even considered going XC and as such, hadn't prepared for it. No ties, not bags, no means of getting back! Fortunately, I had my phone and camera (the camera was for evidence!). I left various messages for the pilots on the hill to let them know I was down safely but was unable to get through to anyone. After an hour it was time to call in a big favour! With the loan of a friend's car, who also watched over my glider, I returned to the hill to collect my car and glider bag with which I was able to recover my glider, and most importantly, the friend of which I now owe big time!

Flight Details

Flight TypeHill Launch
GliderAirBorne Sting 3:168
SiteSwanborough
Launch Date/Time22 Sep 2012 / 11:30
Height Gain2050ft
Flight Duration0h 30m
CommentsNE; landed next to Brighton Marina.

Flying Statistics to Date 22 Sep 2012

Total Hours :
54h 41m
Longest Flight :
1h 20m
Glider Models Flown :
4
Sites Flown :
20
Best Height Gain :
3,000 feet
Total Distance :
26.5 km
Max Distance :
13.4 km
Total Flights :
220
Hill Launches :
102
Winch Launches :
99
Aerotow Launches :
19

Total Flying Statistics

Total Hours :
96h 29m
Longest Flight :
2h 25m
Glider Models Flown :
5
Sites Flown :
21
Best Height Gain :
3,000 feet
Total Distance :
67.9 km
Max Distance :
13.5 km
Total Flights :
288
Hill Launches :
158
Winch Launches :
106
Aerotow Launches :
24
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