I gave Jim a lift to the hill with his wing and his weekend luggage - he planned to fly to the Isle of Wight. My ambitions were more modest, but looked like being unfulfilled as Hugh, Malcolm, Craig, Jim himself and a few others climbed out early, while most of us were becalmed for most of the time.
But as a few more gaggles got high and away - often after a long struggle - the crowds thinned out a bit. When I saw eight or nine gliders launch and get a couple of hundred feet above, I decided I could give it a go without getting into too crazy a bunfight. I managed to stay up, then to climb up into a gaggle of about seven. We took it to over 4,000, as I got colder and colder, with all my zips open and my mitten flaps off after an earlier walk up from a slope landing. At the top, everyone except me pushed forward, and I wondered if this was the day to try a triangle on my low B, but I decided that downwind would be easier.
My first glide was through horrible sink, and I thought I might not even make the league's 10k minimum, but the second climb gained it all back and more in quick time. Staying high was easy as I passed Andover and caught up with Aaron Hall on his Artik R, but then I needed another lowish save at Stockbridge. I saw a Volt 4 and an orange Ozone (with open-leg harness) ahead of me and caught them up, then forged ahead on my own as the Artik and Volt teamed up.
My final climb was straight-lining under a juicy cloud, but I hit big sink again as I approached Downton. If it had been 1430 rather than 1600 I might have tried harder to push on into Dorset, but I was getting cold and tired, and I knew there'd be a bus north from Downton. And I could see the ground of Downton FC below me with a bouncy castle and a barbecue. I showed off by landing there, to be greeted with astonished children and friendly adults - one bought me a pint of cider, and the chairman of the club was very welcoming.
At Salisbury I just missed the Andover train, so I had a toastie and a coffee before the next one, while encouraging more pilots to gather at Andover to share a taxi. Jonty had landed a few miles outside Salisbury, but to my astonishment made it to the station to join me with a minute to spare. Malcolm had by now offered to come and get us; after he'd dropped us at Combe, I felt I should go back to Andover to collect the waifs and strays that I'd inveigled there - but by that time only Marcus Collings was left.
Sadly Jim was decked by the sea breeze before he could cross the Solent, but it was nevertheless a very good day. Four XC in a week for me!