After a Year Off…

… I finally got some flying in last weekend, and it was bloody brilliant!

It was also completely off the back of the club’s collective kindness towards this newest and very junior member, so thank you All. However I also want to single out Dan, Keith, Martin, Simon and Watty for their advice and tollerance this past couple of months, by text, hill and bar! The end result was as follows:

Mrs Smith did me the great honor of fancying some hillwalking over this Easter weekend, and even driving retrieve. Note to self, seperation does indeed make the heart grow fonder.

Saturday Flight 1:

Steered toward Sartfell by the nous of The Texting Collective, Jemma and I arrived to face our first Manx walk up – not as bad from the bottom as by half-way up! Watty had arrived at the same time and shared the slog up, tempted as we were by several already scratching around up top. At the top the wind seemed a bit off and light to me, but it became clear it was cycling. I immediately missed the opportunity to actually get out and use my new radio, as the first thermal through swept some radio people (Keith, Simon?) away. With everyone else also setting up to launch, I found myself drawing a bit of a rusty blank regarding what I should be doing, after a year off – but, I remembered to put my helmet on first, enjoyed swiftly unpacking my canopy from my novelty stuff-sac (sorry, they dont make them any more), clipped in, and built a wall. Nothing looking awry, I decided to pop it up, turned the wrong way for the risers, and simply got dragged backwards.

Everyone else politely not noticing, I tried again, and got myself kiting. I bobbed over to Jemma who was looking a bit lost, and got told to bugger off and fly (I think she thought I might be a bit nervious or something.. 😉

So I did. By luck not judgement another thermal cycled through and I immediately got some height, enough for me to do up my chest strap (ooops), turn on my vario (ooops) and do some very ‘inactive’ flying about. Ten minutes of that, sort of following the others around and trying to get coordinate, I felt my way into some more bouyant air and made some S’s that felt a bit more together. Enjoying the sensation, I found myself making a 360, promptly got stuck in the compression, pinned, and ended up back on the top of the hill. Just about managed to run it forwards and squeeze again into lifting air, a little eye rolling from the Missus, and up again. More S’s and I seem to have launched into something fairly consistent, this time higher, 360s seemed to be ok…and I was off ‘over the back and committed’…and drawing a complete blank, again. No idea where to go, very cautious about getting into lumpy air over the successive hills to the north, I dithered, getting higher, and further towards the coast. When this drift/lift ran out of steam so had I, and I was faced with blue sky overhead and downwind, with all the cloud (streets?) inland. I turned tail; tried to remember that polar curve diagram and what you should do in a tailwind for maximum distance; messed about with the speed bar; experienced some periods of maintaining as I flew without really knowing what to do with those; discovered Ballaugh is easier t identify from the air than the TT route; considered heading to it to see if there might be thermals off the Southern bit; chickened out and landed just outside of Ballaugh. Smiled to myself, playing with a friendly cat, waved to some people, got retrieved by Jemma, who made all the right sort of impressed noises.

Saturday Flight 2:

Drove back to Sartfell, to observe a lot of people at the top, but noone in the air. Sat and ate lunch at the bottom, still no activity. The lucky charm suggested that we should therefore ‘go somewhere else’ and since the SWNN is also the SWNKnownLocation to me, and as Watty had muttered about Silieu Roy/Greba Mountain eariler on in the day, it was decided we would go there. From my trusty map I fancied trying to get into the South Westerly bowl up Sileu Roy, above the plantation rather than up Greba, so we bounced along that road past the mansion, unhitched Jemmas two day old mountain bike, and I walked and she cycled as far up as the boundary wall. Jem then did her first mountain biking descent, and I went on mostly following the contours around to the left, eventually into the bowl, to find it quite gusty. I had fun laying out on the heather (is it ‘clear’ further up?) but eventually found a bit where I could pop it up – and for the second time that day went shooting upwards. I beat up and down; tried exploring a bit further, out mindful of the effects of the forrested shoulder of Greba; tried working my way towards the summit of Silieu Roy but worried about getting pinned again and never quite making much heightt. After ten minutes or so I couldnt decide whether I was flying turbulence from upwind, or it was just very thermic, but the ups and downs were pretty small, punchy and my reflexes were very rusty indeed. Discomforted I decided to make it a top to bottom and head for the car, and then found myself gently wafting upwards again, about half way back. I was able to spend 15 minutes lazily and smoothly maintaining over the field adjacent to the car park before presumably I dropped out the front and landed uneventfully.

With hindsight I think there were probably all sorts of lift options to be had there, but with no experience of the site and noone else in the air to benefit from, I couldn’t work it out – any hints?

Alive and happy I went home for the day to beers and hot-tub.


Was due to be mountain biking day – Ive just ressuscitated my 10 year old Marin Rocky Ridge, and we’d got Jem a new one. We drove out from St John to South Barrule plantation, parked up, and headed out around to the South seeking the sunshine. Fifteen minutes in though and my 10 year old inner tube perished, and around the valve we couldn’t repair it. Wondered down on foot to the road that runs along the bottom South Barrule while Jemma went back to bring the car round. Meantime I pulled out my windmeter and standing on the bank the wind was from due South, steady at about 8 mph. Coming from a coastal flying club the conditions offered real encouragement by reminding me of a perfect sea breeze. Meanwhile I turned my radio on and heard just snatches of unpromising conversation about wherever everyone else was. Since I couldnt really see how it could fail to be on up the top of where we were, so with stunning views promised to Jemma we drove round, parked up and started walking. At the top by the mound it was blowing 16-17mph gusting 22 but moving down not far it became more 12-14mph.

I decided to have a go, with the greatest threat being getting blown over back again. I have now learnt the lesson that an area of shards of loose Manx slate does not equal good place to lay out and building a wall on, and in fact gathered a small crowd of people hoping I think, for blood. Still, lauched, and again went straight up. Happily pentrated forwards fine, and tentateively beat along the ridge. After a few minutes it became clear either end of the hill was workng very well but less so in the middle. Again, made the mistake of interpiting lumpier bits of greater lift in otherwise smoother dynamic lift as being thermic (after all out front looks like it should generate them) and had a go at the Westerly end at a 360. Again, got high but pinned and bombed out, crabbing away from the hill pathwards very worried about hitting rotor – well, I got away with it. I bundled the canopy up and followed the contour back around to the face, laid out and was immediately off again without trouble. I settled down into a rhythm, tried being more dynamic, got enough height for some small wing-overs and had one go at big ears. I relaxed a lot and hope Ive got a bit of a feel for my Z-One again. In the end I was up for about two hours, enjoying the comfort zone of more familiar conditions and flying. Meanwhile Jemma had run back to the car, and nipped off for a bit on her bike, and when I spotted her on the way back I simply few down. I did text the numbers I knew to let people know about SB working, so I hope I did the right thing by everyone? Certainly it remained perfect at 3ish when I think we left but I hadnt seen a soul.

Happy Days!