Saturday 25th June

A good forecast with a small ridge of high pressure gave great expectations for the day, including the aerobatics course. 

In the event 'someone' forgot to tell the ridge of high pressure to have an effect. There was low cloud to start in a north westerly light breeze. Martin Woolner and John Sillett did the briefing for the aerobatics course members and winch flying got underway.

Stu Procter was helped by Martin Woolner and Steve Westlake and in the afternoon Ian Mitchell to get through the long flying list. But the aerobatics course had to bide their time until the clouds opened up enough to get some aerotows.

Congratulations to Lukasz Kieruczenko for his first solo today.....
Martin congratulates Lukasz on his first solo (Dave Herbert)
 .....and belated congratulations to Dave Herbert who soloed at North Hill last Saturday....
Dave Herbert solos at North Hill (Lukasz Kieruczenko)
 ....following his course at Lasham.

Dave Albasiny is back with a new hip and completed his red card checks, and Richard Davies soloed again and was seen enjoying himself on the ridge.

The cross-country brigade were limited by the low cloud but Pete Startup in 230 still managed to get to Tiverton and back in a 3 hour flight. Late afternoon the west ridge started working better and even the Pawnee managed to soar it.
The Hog has roasted (Mark Courtney)
Flying continued into the evening with more soarable conditions (with 52 winch launches and 10 aerotows),  and overlapped with the start of the Members Hog Roast evening where a good time was had by all......
Just a little chilly for the entertainment from Alex Hart (Mark Courtney)

 .....with some of our local neighbours and Dignitaries. - J&P

Thursday 23rd June

After a spell of poor weather the prospect of a semi-flyable day brought out a lot of members as well as the usual Thursday crew.
I did arrive at 08:23 as planned, I expected to be the first at the club but to my amazement the launch point vehicle and ground equipment were already out!  Who was up this early? Richard Harris of course, some say he never sleeps, but simply stands in his caravan fully dressed  waiting for first light, and that if pushed can recite the periodic table in 14 different languages, all we know is ---- he's very handy!
Many members arrived by 9:00 and were treated to a quick lecture on approach control and spot landings, everyone promised to do better today, would it turn out that way ??
A light northerly wind did nothing for launch height and the first flight had to dodge some low orographic cloud.
I was the only instructor on site and also the duty Tuggie, I do wear two hats regularly but never at the same time! I started going through the list and was beginning to wonder how I could possibly be in the tug and the DG at the same time for the trial lessons.

Fear not, I looked towards the clubhouse and there I could see a black van, out stepped Chris Wool, his little legs whiter than Donny Osmonds teeth, a sight for sore eyes! It got better, I then received a message that Paul C was on his way ---and relax.

The juniors were both on the go from the start, Dave Albasiny returning after an op showed that he had forgotten little and was soon settling into one of them.

Two friends arrived for their trial lessons, I must say the two youngest 70+ year olds I have ever seen! They put it down to a lifetime of sailing, well they do preserve fish with salt after all.
Most flights were short with little lift about but as the day drew to a close the clouds began to clear, weak lift appeared in patches on the north ridge and  flights of 25 minutes were possible Just.  Eric back from his 6 weeks in Turkey, all suntanned and content gave the two trial lessons a great introduction to the sport, they are keen to come back for more. NB please look out for two men looking 40ish with genuine bus passes. 
Stu flies the Pawnee (Stu Procter)
Stu Procter turned up, and after telling everyone what a hard couple of hours at work he endured, volunteered to drive the tug so I could fly with Rhodri.
Rhodri back in the fold at North Hill
Rhodri Davies has been away from us for a year or so being paid to winch drive at Lasham, 6 days on 3 off, you can guess what he did on his days off ? No not drink beer fly! And it showed! brilliant performance.
Wyn Davies in W7 was seen to be maintaining height pursued by Chris Wool K21. Who would last longest. The contest was narrowly won by a determined Chris. Paul C and Chris worked tirelessly through the list so that everyone got to fly, John Borland held back over the last few months by bad weather re-soloed AND spot landed!

Motor VG was on the go most of the day and even the Rotax Falke came out for a Nav X test for David Woodward, Ian being the man with the examiner hat on.

Toys to bed at 5:45pm just in time for Champagne on the veranda, Pete and Jill arrived back from  their sunny gliding expedition in Spain with lots of stories of 10,000 ft cloud bases and wave, jealous? me ? no way!

I have particularly missed Jill, the ship always needs a captain, and of course a person capable of giving 20 lashes, my back has just healed up as well, hey ho.

So did everyone succeed in spot landing? Yep they sure did! Just shows the benefit of a lecture before flying, as long as it's about flying and not the best grape for our Champagne - or was it tea and biscuits on the veranda!

Evening sky (Mark Courtney)
Great day all round. - Mark Courtney & John Borland

Monday 20th June - Alpine Wonderland

It has been another full week of adventure for the team which is now up to maximum strength with the arrival of Matt Williamson on Sunday. JB, Phil, David and M5Matt decided to have a rest day so that flying wouldn't get in the way of collecting our fellow adventurer from the station at Gap. The forecast was for Mistral conditions anyway and we didn't feel like wrestling with the dragons to try and get into the wave. Dan and Danielle Welch were made of sterner stuff because they took a launch in their Arcus and were rewarded with the amazing views afforded by 18000' over the Pic de Bure.

Arcus LEW cruising on the Parcour
A typical day at La Motte goes a little like this. If you haven't been woken by the early birds singing their hearts out, the sun lighting up the tent at 7:34 usually does the trick. The zzzzzzzzzzzzzrrrp of the tent zip signals JB to put the kettle on for the first round of the days cups of tea and we emerge from our pits to lounge under the trees in front of the tent, variously breakfasting, showering and chewing the fat. Around 9 we amble over to rig or de-cover the gliders, getting them ready before the chiming of the 1015 briefing gong. Christian outlines the weather for the day in French and English usually with the added smug knife twist informing us of rain back home. 

Club House
Briefing over there is usually some time to finish prepping the gliders and have a bite to eat before moving the grid to the start point and the first launches get underway around 1130. Efficient team work ensures a relatively speedy launch rate and pretty soon we are all working our way out to the La Motte valley and heading for epicness.
Full throttle Epicness
5 hours or so later and suitably satiated we are winding our way down to the north of the airfield for an uphill landing on runway 36, each waiting our turn to make an approach once the previous glider has been retrieved from the piste. War stories and laughter usually accompanies the process of putting the gliders to bed before retiring to the club house for snacks and sun-downers. Proper food then becomes a priority and the team supplies get cobbled together into a gastronomic delight which is devoured on the veranda as the last golden rays of the setting sun climb up the Blachere and the nightjars start their evening serenade. 
Sun setting on Blachere
Washing the dishes and ourselves concludes the days activities before a warm cup of chocolate sends the weary souls off to bed to dream tomorrow's adventure.

Saturday 18th June

Well the day started with low cloud and drizzle, despite that there was a handful of optimistic members from 8:00am with the ground equipment out in readiness for the duty instructor Rowan to arrive, some had seen a good forecast 24 hours earlier so where was the sun?

Rowan Smith arrived, the gliders were DId and launching started at 9:50, with sets of keys to two trailers Stuart Procter had the difficult decision LS3 or ( LS6 in Lisa's absence) went and rigged the 3 even though it looked like it was going to be circuit bashing, but there was hope the wind would go more west.
Simon Leeson in Mark Courtney's absence stepped in to be duty tuggie - I don't think he needed too much time to think about. 

Pete Startup arrived with the talk of some local soaring who also rigged followed by Wyn Davies, but by 11:30 thermals started and with a cloud base of 2500 agl it was very good locally. Pete Startup was tempted to go on the Club 100 but found the lift was only local with the best lift around Wimbleball, but the 3 private gliders were rewarded with long soaring flights.
James Flory and Paul Summers looked after the trial flights.
Wyn LS7 got as far as Tiverton (Wyn Davies)

Louie Leeson now the grand old age of 14 was keen to help with the glider retrieves with his brother Oscar Leeson manning the launch point and Dad in the Tug there was quite a Leeson team on hand.
Simon Minson was on site but even with the offer of a LS flight would not put down his drill determined to hang all his new curtains in his caravan - well at least he can now shut out the view of the rain.

At lunch time, Steve Westlake took up the reins and Rowan stopped for a break, Stuart came back and took Paul  up for his annual BI check and enjoyed playing 'bloggs' and said would even come back and try gliding again. 

It clouded over in the afternoon and the thermals stopped back to circuits, Stuart with a little encouragement from duty launch marshall Sir Chris helped with the last couple of launches to make sure all that were there flew.
Late in the afternoon the sun finally shone and the thermals started again and were good 6 kts plus right though until the last flight which was around 18:00
Turned out not a bad day in the end thanks to all that helped to get everyone flown.- Stu (1st time blogger)

Saturday 18th June - Spain

Today the wind went round to a brisk northerly which gave us a decent height on the launch after the lunchtime trigger temperature was reached. The options today were thermals, possible wave, and hoped for convergence, with a freezing level at cloudbase (9000ft msl eventually) - in the event there was possibly a cold mixture of all three, not necessarily helping each other!
Waiting for the vultures to get going (Jill Harmer)
The 10knots sink was reliable though and deterred us from going very far upwind into the mountains or downwind into the plain. 
Looking up the local valleys with the Madrid TMA on the left (Jill Harmer)
However the local valleys gave us 4 hours of flying with 217kms OLC, and we landed to a deserted airfield and a locked clubhouse as the French self launchers had gone home and OL was the only glider to take a launch today. - J&P

Friday 17th June - Spain

There was some rain overnight and it was a bit chilly this morning (for Spain), - trousers and jumpers instead of shorts.
Trigger temperature was forecast to be 18C at 13:00 with a max of 20C after a morning of low cumulus base and spreadout at freezing level.

The French self-launchers took off early as usual but were soon heard back overhead on the engines. The two of us who were winch launching waited until the vultures were seen at a reasonable height. 

Waiting for the spreadout to break (Jill Harmer)

By 13:30 the sky started to improve with much more heating coming through the spreadout.

OL got away first time today, with some sun on the ground, and set off south into the better looking clouds over the plains.

Better looking sky (Jill Harmer)

 Cloudbase eventually rose to 9000ft MSL and the clouds and lift was plentiful. 
Still going well 2 hours after landing (Jill Harmer)

Completed 325Km OLC on a pleasant day out. - J&P

Thursday 16th June

After another grotty Wednesday, Thursday regulars were about early and set to on getting the kit out. Not quite a full compliment due to other commitments and a slightly gloomy forecast (again).

Low cloud and a, contrary to forecast, north easterly breeze delayed the start until the direction became more consistently north with bits of west. We set up to launch from the south east corner for the first time for weeks. Cloudbase rose and we started flying soon after 10:30. First flights were circuits in fairly benign conditions but soon thermal activity allowing extended flights until the first of the showers called a lunch break.

 3 trial lessons were flown, Tony Chew was one, a former member from some years ago who might return to the fold. He remembered several members from then and mentioned a guy called Street who was apparently instructing at North Hill many moons ago.

This was followed by a successful group evening  for the Air Cadets - Peter Smith

Monday 13th June - Spain

The weather forecast  for Monday was for blue  and no thermals with some strong northwest winds. Quite early -10:00, there were some cumulus clouds popping over the mountains, and quickly it became obvious that there would be good cumulus and possible streets.
After another practice launch, with no thermals, the second launch got to 1000ft due to the stronger wind,  and there was a thermal off the winch to climb away in.
We made our way up the valley, and found some wavy looking cumulus and then quite easily transitioned into the northwest wave.
The cumulus pointed the way into the wave (J&P)
The cumulus bars were blowing through the wave system, so we used the track back on the Oudie to maintain position in the lift.
As we got higher the wind increased to 45 knots just short of 14000ft, and after exploring a bit, we found ourselves back under the cumulus, but again it was quite easy to  reengage with the wave system. 
High level system started to appear (J&P)
During the afternoon,  more high level lennies appeared all over the sky, although the Madrid TMA would have got in the way.
Still going well into the evening (J&P)
A lovely wave flight, and so much unexpected compared with the official weather forecast. - J&P

Mon 6th - Fri 10th June -Course week summary


The course assembled with Martin B and five new members. After the usual introductions the kit was towed to the far end of the field and flying commenced. It was not soarable so the new members got plenty of training on launching and retrieving the gliders. Martin B filled his boots in the Junior only stopping when it was suggested that he may be getting tired.


A wet start gave the opportunity for some useful ground school and after an early lunch we started flying and found it soarable. So good upper air work for the new members and a flight of over 2 hours for Martin who was last to land - just before we were going to shoot him down!


A day of light winds and low launches from the far end of the field but lots of flying for all.


No flying due to weather. The morning was spent on ground school, drinking coffee and gossiping. We adjourned at lunchtime and re-assembled at the Drewe Arms for a very pleasant course dinner - our thanks to Richard, Nigel, and Neville who treated the instructors and helpers.


A very gloomy forecast turned out to be just that and we flew for most of the day with some soaring opportunities. Martin was again last to land achieving an hour plus.
We ended the day with Nigel taking us up and down the field in his immaculate 1932 MG.
We all wound down over tea and biscuits with the course members declaring the week a success. They all want to come back. 
June Course members, helpers and Instructors (John Sillett)
Thanks to all the ground helpers for making it possible. - John Sillett

Thursday 2nd - Friday 10th June - Alpine Adventures

The drive down to La Motte du Caire was long but uneventful which was a bit of a relief as we were unsure of the fuel situation because the glorious French were getting off to an early start with their strike season. The weather on the trip was grim to say the least, cold, damp and most of the wind turbines we saw were hiding their heads in the clouds. My favourite part of the journey is when we crest the hills south of Lyon and you get your first sight of the big mountains around Grenoble and the excitement of the flying to come  kicks into overdrive. It was here too that the mountains showed their influence on the weather, breaking the overcast, letting in the strong sun but also boosting the moist air into spectacular CB's. 

This was pretty much the situation at La Motte for the first few days. Good thermals in sunny conditions to start but very quickly going to towering cumulus and then Boom, showers would kick off over the bigger mountains, rapidly turning into lightning filled monsters which all seemed eager to join hands for a game of Ring-a-Ring O Roses.

We did our check flights with Christian on Saturday. Mine consisted of a winch launch, a quick climb off Early Morning to allow moving to a cloud towards Sisteron where we took a strong climb with a pair of vultures which then gave us enough height to do some aerobatics. Straps now really tight, he asked me to do a loop over head the field along the runway axis, he did a better one and then rolled inverted gave me back control and told me to take us downwind remaining upside down. It wasn't pretty but I managed it, with the speed somewhere between 120-140kph (metric instruments) and the string all over the place, rudder is now opposite to stick movement. It was like learning to fly all over again. The recovery if you find yourself in this situation, Christian explained, is to apply full aileron and rudder in the same direction making sure not to pull on the elevator until you are the right way up. This I duly did and returned the dust and sand from the canopy to its rightful place on the floor. We landed and rolled to a stop outside the hangar with just enough time to get the glider inside before the first big drops of rain started drumming on the roof. JB and I decided to make use of the afternoon by going for a walk which turned into a hike up the awesome Mountain le Gache.
On top of Le Gache, La Motte is in the center about 10km away
The next couple of days we flew locally keeping a watchful eye out for the storms and always within an easy dash back to the safety of La Motte. Tuesday brought a dose of pundititis and we decided not to fly as a even earlier cut off was predicted. A few people flew and soared for a couple of hours before we were treated to a proper thunderstorm and a whole night of rain. 
David in LS8-18 EZ climbing the slopes of the Morgon
Wednesday was much better weather wise, however JB still wasn't full of his usual enthusiasm and decided to have a proper rest day. David Jesty and I were keen to make the most of it and were soon  climbing the mountains and heading east to the Parcour. Cloud base wasn't very high, only about 2300m (7500' for the English pigdogs) which meant the top of the ridge was well into the clouds but also meant you didn't feel too low because you couldn't see exactly how much mountain was above you. 
JB in the wave with Pic de Bure and the Ecrin beyond
Thursday was just spectacular. There was a northerly air flow over the region with the wind strength increasing in the west which meant there was a good chance of wave in the afternoon. With a light wind at La Motte, and launching towards the north it wasn't that straight forward to escape from the local valley but we were eventually whizzing along the Parcour to the east before making our way to try the north facing ridges to the west of Sisteron.  It was a good battle, climbing in wave boosted rotor thermal, pushing forward to the next rough climb to eventually get out from under airspace constraints and finally contacting smooth lift just to the north of Serres before pushing forward again into the lee of the Pic de Bure where we really got to surf the wave. JB and I had to stop climbing at the 5800m limit (19000' an extra 500' separation from the FL195 airspace limit) so put on the speed to counteract the lift and at 90kts headed north east over the majestic snow covered mountains of the Ecrins before turning for home and a well deserved cup of tea.

9kts on the averager at 5200m
Still on a high after yesterday we were ready for an early launch on Friday because of an expected early cut off due to an approaching perturbation (front). Climbing in a steady 5knots off the winch I saw 4 vultures cruising in towards my thermal like a competition gaggle before they pulled up and joined in my climb to the already healthy 2500m cloud base. JB, David and I romped over to the Parcour for a couple of runs along the gliding superhighway before we all headed back to La Motte as the encroaching top cover damped down the conditions. 

1 week down and looking forward to getting into the really big mountains.
A vulture soars over Cheval Blanc

Mon 6th - Fri 10th June - Spain

After a delayed disembarkation at Santander, and a tiring drive through Spain, we eventually arrived at Sotos Aerodrome after dark on Monday.  Fortunately a safari hang-glider dinner was still in full swing, so the airfield was not locked, we said hola to everyone and dumped the trailer, and arrived at the Hotel in Cuenca after midnight.

On Tuesday morning there was wall to wall cumulus...
Wall-to wall cumulus (J&P)

.....but we were in no fit state to fly so we went for a drive round instead.
Sotos aerodrome and forests that look like cloud shadows (J&P)

On Wednesday, we rigged OL after briefing and Pete had a site check with Francesco in K13 finding numerous strong thermals in the blue. After a swift change of ends as the wind had changed, we lined up OL and immediately broke the dynema on the ground run. Next attempt was a rather slow downwind launch to 800ft, but straight into a 8 knot thermal to 5000ft (8000ft msl).
Flying over the gorge at Cuenca (J&P)

The afternoon got better and better, with short-lived cumulus appearing and 8-10 knot  thermals to cloudbase eventually reaching 11,500ft msl. We flew 210km OLC by flying 3 circuits of the local valleys and a few explorations of the mountains at height to get familiar with the area.
Eventually got to 11,500ft (J&P)

Thursday was much too hot and with little/no wind there was no chance of getting a reasonable height launch so we did the tourist bit with a posh lunch in Cuenca historic town.

The forecast for Friday was for thick cirrus and no thermals so it was declared a rest day, however during our exploration of the mountains by road a sky full of nice looking cumulus appeared locally at 16:00! - J&P

Thursday 9th June - Course week

Everything out and ready to go early, but lots of tea drinking until the cloud coming through the trees on the south ridge lifted, but it didn't begin to break up properly until about 5pm when all had long gone. A disappointing day but lots of field mowing done as the grass continues to grow enthusiastically. - Peter Smith

Wednesday 8th June - Course week

All the gliders were out early ready for the Wednesday club and the June course but the wind direction was not as forecast and poor visibility and low cloud delayed the start of flying.
The wind eventually settled to the northeast so all the the gliders were walked up to the southwest corner, the conditions were uninspiring to start with, but good conditions for launch failure practice while the poor visibility persisted.
MG J type visits North Hill (John Street)
After lunch the weather gradually got better and Tim Johns in 877 and Pete Startup in 230 had long soaring flights - yeah, I absolutely nailed it at 8 minutes. Oh, hang on - just checked again and it was only 7 minutes - bugger - 230.
 Mike Robinson consolidated his solo flying the K13, all the club members flew in the less than perfect conditions. - John Street.

Sunday 5th June

Well we flew in the end....
One could tell from the grey atmosphere in and around the Clubhouse, which matched the grey skies, that members were not pleased to find that the actual weather did not match what had been forecast. The morning provided continuing opportunities for much looking up at the sky and at various weather forecasts all aimed at finding some measure of optimism that flying may be possible at some stage during the day.
Not exactly as forecast (Mike Sloggett)
A talk on thermal soaring was completed mid-morning if only to show persistence and confidence in the absence of any actual flying happening. With the skies trying to brighten and with the forecast suggesting there might be potential flying during the afternoon an early lunch was called. And early afternoon with a continuing improvement in the the weather evident a decision was made to set the launch point up in the North East corner of the field whilst both K21s and a Junior were brought out of the hangar.

The first flight of the day provided a full launch height of just under 1000' albeit the grey skies required lookout to be even more relentless than usual. And with the skies continuing to brighten patches of blue sky also appeared in good abundance.
All good things come to those who wait (Mike Sloggett)
The afternoon's flying was not particularly spectacular but did allow all those members who had had their patience tested to get some flying during the afternoon - a Trial Lesson was also completed during the afternoon

By just after 5:30 18 flights including 2 aerotows had been completed - not bad for a Sunday in February, sorry June! - Mike Sloggett

Friday 3rd June

A 'Summers' group of Trial lessons was held today which Jess organised for various family members. After a false start on Tuesday due to 30knot gusty crosswinds, the fallback day was looking much better. However the solid cloud that had drifted in overnight was more reluctant to dissipate than predicted.

So after a game of cricket (for the more mobile) and an early lunch, the sun appeared and the afternoon turned into a very pleasant soarable session, and Jess finished it off with a solo soaring flight. A great time was had by all.
Some of the Summers extended family (Jill Harmer)
Thanks to all the Instructors and  helpers, especially Graham Barden and Tom Sides for standing in at short notice. - J&P

Thursday 2nd June

The forecast suggested a calmer wind for Thursday, but after 'near' gales all night, it was still rather wild on top of the Blackdowns when the Thursday regulars arrived. 

The time was spent discussing some of the concepts raised at the Aim Higher course last week for the benefit of those who couldn't participate. Suddenly, looking out the window there was a great example for reading the sky as the north easterly wave had just made a visible appearance. 

North easterly wave (Mark Courtney)
 Chris Wool and Mark Courtney went for  a recce at the far end of the field and declared that we could go flying.

There was a lot of sink in the normal circuit for many flights, until Pete Harmer & John Borland decided to explore 'on the other side', and having found some smooth lift from 800ft, the other two-seaters followed the lead. Chris Wool and Ian Hunt had the longest flight of 25 minutes. 
Interesting skies (Jill Harmer)
 Everyone flew and it turned out to be a lovely evening when the wind finally stopped. - J&P