As I arrived at the Milk Hill car park, Nik Valiris and Dave Cox were disappearing without much height, and Lee Bligh had just landed: "Windy and horrible" he declared as he prepared to go and get them from their flop over the back.
I and a few others decided it made sense, on such a windy day, to go to the spur, where we discovered a dozen more pilots. Four soon climbed out, and then Tim Pentreath and Graham Richards half climbed and ended up in the bowl. After a few minutes Tim set off properly, while Graham was last seen very low and struggling.
It seemed a bit strong to me, and when I realised that I'd left my helmet with my motorcycle at the car park, I wasn't too disappointed to have to walk back, leaving my glider mushroomed under a bush. On the way back I helped a hangie to launch in the bowl, which was certainly too strong for paragliders by now.
Back at the spur, a few more climbed out, on of them after I heard his Delta reopening with a sharp crack just after launch. Steve Newcombe sensibly pointed out to me that it made sense to wait clipped in, in case a spell of lovely, calm, lifty conditions appeared. I thought it unlikely, but followed his suggestion.
Four wings then launched and started climbing, followed by another two, with no apparent unpleasantness. I waited a little longer - probably just long enough to miss the tail end of their climb - then launched and went up, but was not confident enough to start circling low down in case I dropped out of the lift into the bowl. Then I found myself going backwards, and rebuked myself for being silly enough to take off. But the wind eased a bit, and I found another thermal that seemed solid enough to take me over the bowl and, at worse, on to the flattish fields behind it.
The lift wasn't too strong, but kept going and going, taking me to 4,000 feet as I approached Marlborough. I thought I'd done the hard part and had the whole of England at my mercy; reaching over 60 km/h without bar, there seemed no reason not to go a long way (except, perhaps for a very windy landing at the end of it). But the next cloud produced next to nothing. Although I still had 3,000 feet, my glide towards Aldbourne and another cloud took me through 4 m/s sink. I came down into a nice, big, harvested field before the village, making sure to land downwind of the power lines.
I wasn't too disappointed to be on the ground, despite the good sky and the surprisingly smooth conditions for most of the flight. The Phantom was a joy, as ever.
A lady in the second car to pass saw my "Glider Pilot Needs Lift" sign and took me into Marlborough (wondering if I'd left the glider behind a hedge). After I'd had a late lunch in the excellent Bunce's cafe (run by the crew behind the late lamented Honeystreet Cafe - it's at 100 High Street), Gus took me back to the hill, having already picked up Ben Friedland, Lewis Price and Steve from flights of varying lengths. A pleasant day, although I'm still wondering how sensible it was to fly.