Alone again (Naturally)
Golden ball or Milk Hill White Horse, Golden Ball, No Milk, No Golden Ball…
Kirsty messaged to say that they (Her, Andrew, Laurence) were heading up to MHWH. I was still 10 minutes away with Tim P and Mike Coupe so we had time to think.
When we pulled up a gaggle had already formed in the car park and I was greeted by a cuddle from Hugh before a quick discussion on where we were heading. I called Alex C who was on GB and he said "Winds on the hill, People are flying, Why would you go anywhere else. " Sold! Golden Ball it was.
On the hill we exchanged tasks but we were all in agreement that Crewe was the goal. Mike had made a task of 201km which was perfect so we all scanned that and prepared to join the Alex, who was already flying. Kirsty and the others were on MHWH and Joe had to called to say he was just launching. The gang were all out but certainly not together.
Climbs came pretty quickly but the sky downwind wasn't looking great yet and MH wasn't working quite as well. Alex had taken a climb and Joe and I were in a few good established climbs but I wanted to fly with the group so I pushed back to the hill three times to wait. After some waiting Milk seemed to be coming good and I caught a nice climb with a small gaggle including Mike C. It was hard to break 3000 feet but Mike came over the radio "Wez, You going with this" Having watched the sky downwind during the climb I saw that a wispy was quickly becoming a cloud and down wind toward Swindon was looking good "Yes, Straight for that forming cloud I informed him" and when the climb rate started to peter that's exactly what I did and a gaggle of around 8 of us were off.
The gaggle was short lived as others who had made the second climb struggled to get in the next one high enough and were low with the ladder slowing being pulled up above them. Mike had gone when I had though so I knew I had a good partner. We pushed on and I got a climb over Swindon of a solid 3.5ms I radioed it to Mike but he struggled to get in it, 5000 feet and in the wisp of the white room I waited for a now fast climbing Mike and we glided over the Cotswold water park together. This remained the pattern until we got to Leckhampton and this is where the first low save of the day was vital. Working together as a team Mike and I battled with 3 or 4 weak climbs to slowly gain a few hundred feet and I noticed the drift on my instruments had changed, the wind seemed to be bouncing along the escarpment so I pointed more North and to what I believed would be a trigger point, BOOM a great climb 2.5ms and solid. Unfortunately Mike couldn't quite get in it, what he had picked up got him a few hundred feet but he was soon off as I continued to climb to base.
Well established again I had picked my next transition and was pointing NNW to ward Birmingham. I needn't have worried about the clouds or the route however, Mike was now in a stonking climb from looked like around 100 feet off the deck. I made a bee line for him and arrived slightly underneath him in a solid 3.5ms climb. I could hear Kirsty and Laurence on the radio and I knew at this point that they would catch me and I couldn't wait as it seemed there was around 25km between us. So onward went Mike and I.
This team work continued until we got to Birmingham and around 130km where I got a banging climb (Thanks to the seagulls again) The gulls were climbing in a left handed thermal so I joined them left handed. I always assume that birds know the best way to thermal and I copy them, but I have to say I think these were wrong so I switched to a right handed circle. Understandably the gulls seemed furious, however, It did feel better and I was at Base at 5600'. Mike suffered here and was soon 3000' below me so I had to push on and it looked like I was going to be Alone again.
Dropping Mike made things a little trickier. For the first 15km or so I didn't turn at all, just cruised under the cloud street but soon enough the altitude numbers started to drop and before I knew it was once again getting low, sub 2000 feet low. I had to push east for a lovely looking cloud and I was rewarded as I climbed above a small forest at a rate of 3.5ms. This was my last time over 5000' feet as the airspace was fast approaching and I had to negotiate 4500 and the finally 2500 as I got towards goal.
Just as the last time I flew here with Idris, Crewe was pumping but I had anticipated it and spiraled to 1800 feet for the final glide.
Mike had set the task and the goal was a few KM north of Crewe to get our 200km declare, unfortunately it meant that I had to try into a 30kmh head wind to try get back and that meant that I was coming down faster than I was going forward. Having touched down and packed up I was talking to Laurence and Kirsty as they came in around 30 mins after me. I congratulated Laurence on his first 200km flight and cheered Tim P on as he also made goal. We had all landed pretty far apart and I opted to walk the 3 miles to the train station hoping for a lift… Ahhh well it was good exercise I guess.