15th May, 2003

This Thursday looked promising, though with a mid to late afternoon front expected from the west following the huge ridge that was overhead most of the day, so I declared Edgehill and Bury St. Edmunds on the grounds that it would be best to get round the Edgehill turn point before the front came in.

Task map

The day was nice, with a light wind, initially NW, but swinging to SW around 1500 and very good visibility. The promised 5000 ft high cloud base was not to materialise, though, so most of the flight was made between 2000 and 4000 feet. The light wind meant there were no decent streets. It was a matter of hopping from one short street to the next, with strong sink between them. I left Gransden Lodge in late morning and met Steve Woolcox in his Astir under the first, relatively long, street. We ran it together until it end, where I sheered off north of his track. This first run took us from the local area near Sandy mast out past the north of Bedford. After that cloud hops punctuated with big climbs took me past Olney and over the outskirts of Northampton, where I got a big climb from 2000 to 4300 ft off a factory estate.

From there it was a straight run past Banbury, along the M40 for a short distance, round Edgehill and half way back to Banbury, where I took a climb from 1700 to 3400 over a rather nice stately home that was complete with an obelisk in its park. Then a series of runs and climbs took me to Newport Pagnell services on the east side on Milton Keynes, where a deal of scratching over a housing estate eventually got me a good climb from 1700 ft back to 3500 and a nice run back to Gransden Lodge, where I arrived at 1700, topped up to 3500 again and pressed on toward Cambridge. The thermals seemed a bit weaker, but were still pretty plentiful.

Things went well until midway between Cambridge and Newmarket, where I got stuck at 2500 ft under a tiny cloud in the middle of a blue hole. When the sky finally recycled it looked better to the east, so I went on slowly and carefully past Newmarket and down to Bury St. Edmunds. By now the sun seemed not so warm, a lot of murk was building under the clouds and things were getting grey. Getting round Bury took time and a move out north for a decent climb before rounding the turn point.

Immediately after that I took good climb to 4000 over the town, followed by a cruise up a street directly to Newmarket along the A14. However, there was precious little lift along the way though quite a bit of sink, so I got there at 1900 feet, where nine minutes of scratching around only maintained height. I eventually headed for a decent looking cloud a little way west along the A14 but found only sink. At this point the airstrip at the race-course looked very inviting, so I landed there was retrieved by Mike Collins, who brought the trailer out.

We de-rigged, took the glider back to base and headed for the Red House, where we found the usual suspects and had a good, convivial meal. By closing time the high frontal cloud was well in evidence with a very bright moon making halos in the thin cloud, which diffused the light enough to make it almost possible to drive without lights. In hindsight the high cloud must have been present for a while and cut off the solar radiation early in the afternoon: the weaker thermals as I came past Gransden Lodge at 14:30 were a warning I didn't take notice of. I suppose I was fortunate to stay airborne from a further 1 3/4 hours and complete 87% of the task.

Barograph trace

GPS trace

Time Declared Leg (km) Flown Leg (km)
Takeoff 11:40 GRL
Start 11:45 GRL GRL
Turn point 1 13:05 EDG 93.75 EDG 93.75
Turn point 2 15:40 BSE 150.87 BSE 150.87
End 16:12 GRL 57.18 Newmarket race-course 25.28
Landed 16:12 Newmarket race-course
Distance 301.80 269.90
Time 4:23
Avg. speed 61.6 kph