Checked with the weather man at 11am Saturday morning to find out that it was to be a dull overcast day with a slight chance of some isolated winter showers brought in on the E to SE wind mainly force 3. The met man had 5 knots East at the Point of Ayre and 9 knots South East at the Airport; I split the difference to about 112 degrees putting the wind straight into Bulgham Bay! A few weeks earlier I had been hatching a plan to claw my way back to the top of the Cross Country League hopefully getting a couple of km’s up over Jamies High score, anyway, in the process I had chewed the fat with Martin about the possibilities of the site, Martin said that having already flown almost to Bulgham from Slieu Lewaigue he thought it would work, albeit that the landing out options if it didn’t work are a bit limited to say the least!
So Christmas passes, the Cross Country league closes for the year (damn it!) but Bulgham still awaits! So I called Keith to see if he was flying and explained my theory of being able to fly from there to the beach at Laxey in the days wind direction. One and a half hours later saw the two of us very optimistically leaving our retrieve van on the prom and heading up to the “Big Cliff”. Once there we had a quick check of the wind at the proposed launch site to find it a very steady 12mph (I think!) and the sky absolutely full of sea gulls all of which were going up or maintaining and none of which were doing any flapping at all! A thorough recce of all the bomb out options took place (which of course didn’t take long) and revealed that there are basically two; the first and best of which is the top (or possibly front) of the rounded hilltop on the other side of the tram tracks immediately to the left of launch and the other, sink or literally swim, bomb out in the bracken cover flat-ish looking area 3/4 of the way down the cliff immediately below launch with a guaranteed shitty landing and horrendous pack up and walk out!!!!
So, site, weather and bottle evaluations made, Keith and I agreed to give it a go! At this point, thankfully, Simon arrives to join the fray (much needed moral support!) and is also very keen to give it a go so long as Keith and I go first!!!
Anyway, flying clothes donned, three wings laid out and copious amounts of line checking and bracken/bramble clearing saw me ready to launch. By now the wind has risen slightly to about 15mph and is a little more up and down, undeterred I attempt a launch which inflates well then twists and piles into the deck! After much straightening out and de-tangling another go, same again! Ten mins later another go, this time lifted off my feet and dumped two or three yards back in a pile! Another ten minutes later I try again, almost make it, but not quite, by now we are starting to wonder whether the air currents here will let us get off in this wind strength and are thinking of canning it and looking for a better launch. Well maybe just one more go, up, down on my arse on my feet and finally away! Straight out from launch initially and straight up, lots of slow figure of eights saw me climb continuously for about ten minutes slowly getting further and further out and topping out at 207m above take off. Absolutely awesome place to fly, the views from that height are fantastic, lift was almost everywhere, bloody brilliant!
Meanwhile, down on the cliff Keith is trying his best to launch after me and seems to be encountering almost as many problems getting off as me, but after about 15mins yippee he is off too and up to my height almost straight away!! Back on the ground, luckily for Simon, Dan has just arrived to help with the launch. However Simon proves his superior ground handling skills by getting off first time!! (although he does take more than his fare share of the hillside with him!). So the three of us soar around happy as Larry until we remember that the tide is on the way in and the beach at Laxey is beckoning. Keith heads off first, hotly followed by Simon, both of whom I think had about 70-80m ATO and make for the village. Five or ten minutes later, just after Dan has launched, I head off after them, also with about 80m ATO (after having topped out at 236m ATO, from where I could actually see the beach!), not much in the way of lift on some sections of the cliffs but generally reasonable and a little better further out as Keith found out to his detriment.
Anyway, five minutes later, happy as pigs in shit, Simon and I are on the beach safe and sound and managed to get packed away just before the rain started! Noel also took off after Dan, and they both opted for a hill top landing just before the village.
Awesome days flying, well worth the effort of sussing out a new site and finally many thanks to Keith and Simon for helping out with all those aborted launches. Without the team it would definitely have been a non starter, and even with good help to hand definitely not a site for the faint hearted!!!