What a long day that was!
Initially, I meant to attack the day from Llandinam in Wales. All instruments charged the night before… Awake at 5am already! No alarms needed! Could be excitement, but also could be the need to feed my son. Or both!
7am I got a call from G303 lads. Few were going to Malvern. I was on my way to Llandinam already. Team flying was much more tempting than a lonely flight towards home (I did not expect anyone at the TO in Wales). Thought I should join the lads- learn from them. Seemed a perfect opportunity for a lesson and bit of a banter on the radio. I took a turn in Lichfield and started driving south!
I arrived at Beacon early. The idea of team flight ahead of me- so cool. The hill was getting more and more crowdy every minute. This gave me assurance I was in the right place! And I kind of like to start with the gaggle. When it is busy in the air.
Started unpacking. Few words to locals and then I learned from team telegram that others G303 are running late. ☹ I could not wait any longer. Cu started forming nicely, but the high clouds brought as much attention as low cumulus… Looked tricky to plan 1st stage of the flight.
I took my glider up and stamped on lumpy grass. Yet again my bad knee bent sideways: < fell over and I took few minutes to fight the pain (and fight the wing with gust passing)
Few minutes later I took off again. It only took 5 minutes and I'm in a gaggle at 2200ft downwind- with no way back. Excited! As much as I like gaggles I felt the need to leave and crosswind as soon as possibility arise. I topped up the first thermal and left the group to try chances on a crosswind. Going away from the gaggle it felt like I was going directly south, but in fact- there was barely any south in the way I went. The cloud base was still as low as 3500ft but looking at the high clouds it also felt like it will lift quickly. My knee in so much pain- I struggle to push bar. After 1st hour in the air, I only push 1/3 bar with my right foot. That is it- only 1/3 bar day for me.
I flew steady, on my own for the first 2.5 hours, then the 1st, main gaggle joined me once we passed Banbury. Then high cloud kicked in for a longer moment and I got myself caught in a horrible, broken thermals… I could not get over 3200ft to continue with confidence. This was painful 30 minutes at strange altitude. Meanwhile, the others have gone, and in fact I could not see any of them till very late in the day.
On the hill I did set my goal at 100km, so it was already a good climb or 2 away.
I have never achieved my goal before, so getting into the circle would make me happy- a lot!
Exactly over my goal I found a nice steady and predictable thermal- I guess it was telling me the day is ending. A stranger on beautiful Zeno has joined me in this one and we continued slowly. After I hit my 1st ever xc goal I felt I don't need to push for any more distance. Just played from now. I didn't take any water with me, and my head started to ache quite bad. I thought being max loaded on my wing I would have some water on TO and that will be fine. Wrong!
From there I enjoyed going to sunny spots- each time I found some lift… Then last 20km was literally drift from one source to another. All worked well despite the late hour. Headache and knee pain has won the day and I took the 2nd place with achieving my 1st ever xc goal (100 km)!
I'm pleased with most decisions I made on the day- but taking no water for a potentially long day was a lesson! The last 40 minutes in the air I flew one handed. Took some videos, pictures, answered few calls, texted back to telegram, to some VIPs at home, chatted to guys watching LT24 etc. Just making sure I am not colliding with the Zeno pilot… D.
Off course- massive thanks to my retrievers. I knew I am landing far away, but also knew they are on the way to grab me, and they are near. In fact- since I landed till, I got into the car, x3 strangers stopped to offer me lifts! How awesome! What nice people live in the area of Ely!
From there we went back to Lichfield where I left my car.