The best way to have a good idea is to have lots of ideas.
Unfazed by last week’s failure and emboldened by the predictions of it being a 500k day I cleared the weekend for some outstanding gliding.
Having arrived at the airfield it was clear the day was not going to be as good a promised, the conditions where overcast and unsoarable. I was accompanied by Graham and James who had hatched a cunning plan, convert to the CGC Discus. Having had a handful of short flights in CU I decided that a Discus conversion would be more fun than any more circuits.
By now it was about 3 pm and things were starting to look up, the possibility of local soaring arose. It was my time to hatch a cunning plan. I declared the task GRL – CAX – HDW – GRL. For those who don’t speak BGA turn points, Gransden Lodge to Caxton Gibbet, Hardwick and back home. A grand total of 22 km. With the most distant, point (Hardwick) only 9 km away. Although this is a perfectly acceptable task is so tiny that most pilots would not bother, the whole thing can be done under local soaring rules and the Discus can cover the distance between Gransden Lodge and Hardwick and only loose 700ft!
So why bother with this tiny task?
1) I could practise using the loggers, and turning turn points correctly.
2) I could have the longest (and only) cross-country task from Gransden that day.
I waited for James to land the Discus and asked if I could take it. His parting acts where to leave his scarf jammed in the control rods, and empty about half of his camel back into the seat. Having extracted most of the water and the scarf I set off. My wet backside left me in no mood to bring back the glider; I was going to have some fun.
The wind was from the North East so the first task was to climb without drifting too far down wind. Easily achieved, and I climbed to 3000ft in a few minutes. The Discus is lovely to fly and very stable but I found the roll rate to be a little slow and the cockpit was little uncomfortable and wet.
Once I was a little South of Gransden I pushed North again and took another thermal to 3,400 ft and cloud base, time to set off on task. Straight flight North at about 80 knots to the first turn point of Caxton Gibbet (CAX) the turn point is the roundabout between the A1198 and A428 and is easy to spot from the air. I wanted to make sure that I turned it correctly so I arrived to the West of the turn point turned comfortably north of the roundabout at about 110 knots and headed of East towards Camborne. By now I was at 2200 ft and over Cambourne I found some bad sink, I chickened out headed back towards Gransden, getting about half way home before finding another thermal.
Climbing back to 3,200 ft and being blown back to the North end of Gransden I headed North East to Hardwick. South of Camborne at 2,800ft I took another thermal to be on the safe side and climbed to 3,200 ft. Looking back at the trace now I notice that Although I gained 400 ft in the thermal by the time I flew on to compensate for how far I had been blown down wind I had already lost 200 ft of that climb. I pushed on until I was due South of my target the Hardwick Junction of the A428 and took another thermal to 3,800 ft (the could base had risen) and then dashed straight at the turn point. I had lost about 800 ft and took a thermal just before the turnpoint (unnecessary as I only got a net gain of about 50 ft). This time I flew straight over the turn point and headed off to the North East.
I took the opportunity to take a couple of pictures of Cambridge on my phone and turned back towards Gransden Lodge. No need to thermal this time, I was back to South of Camborne in a minute the 22 knot wind become a help rather than a hindrance.
At 2,200 ft I took another thermal an admired the Light Aircraft Fly right between me and another glider totally oblivious to the fact they were so close to another aircraft I wondered if they filed and airprox report. The thermal was not great but kept me at 2,200 ft as I drifted past Gransden and completed my task. I had been up for about an hour and the day was closing in.
With an average cross country speed of 20 kph (compared to a typical 50-80 kph) I’m not setting any records. But I really enjoyed the flight despite the wet backside and I managed to do another 40 minutes of local soaring before returning.
If you are interested in doing this task it is comfortably within the 15km limit for solo pilots without a cross-country endorsement as long as you are above 2500 ft (You will need extra height if you are downwind). Other turn points you might consider are Cambridge West (CAW), Oakington (OAK), St Neots (STN), St Neots South (SNS), Foxton (FOX) all of which I intend to turn this summer and will post about.
This post is a co-publication with Cambridge University Gliding Club