A great success - somewhat humbled by the sky gods
The forecast couldn't really make up its mind this weekend, but on Saturday afternoon it was showing excellent conditions across the country for Sunday so I planned to finally go for my 50k. One slight problem though was the fields were rapidly becoming unlandable, tall crop to be seen everywhere.Therefore, I picked Crowland Gliding Club (CRL) out and return, as a task — 60km each way, comfortably making the 50km if I landed out at my destination and as an added bonus, Upwood (another gliding club) was half way along the route, so I had another option if it got difficult. With a little bit of care I could make sure I was always within glide range of an airfield throughout the task, so that took care of the field problems.
I took off at about 13:00, having been advised to make use of the best part of the day for the task: good advice if it hadn't been for the incompetent flying the glider. It took me the best part of an hour to get going, circling badly in and out of the cores of thermals and making very little progress into wind. By 14:00 I had only made it as far as St. Neots, drifting around not really feeling I had the height to start, and on the verge of calling it a day and going home.
A moment of frustration or stubbornness won through and I set off down track, at which point everything started to work. A nice cloud street led me slowly past Upwood and after diverting around a bit of a blue hole I reached Peterborough and began to think I might just make it round and back home. It was getting to 3:30 by this point, but the sky was still working well. Looking ahead along track my heart sank again, curtains of cloud hung down in front of me and although I didn't realise it at the time I was looking at the incoming sea breeze front that was blocking the final 15k to Crowland. So the choice presented itself, scurry home having failed the 50k or push on and risk a likely landout. Having spent almost 3:00 hours in the air at this point to get this fair I didn't fancy giving up and so pushed on.
Even as the cloud base descended around me the GPS told me I was on glide to Crowland, so I had managed the 50k, the question was could I get out again? It quickly became apparent that the sea breeze front had killed the weather around me, and the land out became inevitable. An eventless circuit, and landing later, and I was met with congratulations from the local CFI. I was plied with dessert by the friendly locals while I waited for the retrieve and a few hours later we were back in Cambridge: many thanks to Julian Bayford for coming to get me.
Studying the trace a couple of days later I found that I had managed the distance at an epic speed of 20kph, taking 3 hours to complete my rather meagre little task. What do I need to do next time: (i) not faff around so much before getting going; (ii) don't task towards the sea breeze at the end of the day; (iii) learn to centre thermals better. Still I've got a whole summer to practice this now, I might even make it back to the airfield next time.
A slight post script to this effort occurred when I was looking at the BGA ladder the following day and was brought down to earth rather quickly having discovered that someone had set a new out-and-return record of 750km in a 15m glider, of a similar vintage to the ASW19 I has been flying. Did kind of put things in perspective: I've got a bit more to learn before I can compete with them. Still it was a personal victory, Silver distance completed (and I managed to sneak a Silver height out of it as well) and you should all look forward to doing your 50km this season as well.