Every winter, icGC has a tour to a ridge site in the UK, so that our members can experience soaring that we don’t get at our home club, Lasham. The time for year does, however, mean the amount of flying that occurs can be very varied. Learning our lessons from last year, we decided to venture north to Portmoak again over New Year, but this time for 7 days, in the hope that we could do better than the 2 out of 4 days flying we got. Despite the trailer for our own two-seater breaking a few weeks beforehand, our CFI kindly agreed to part with their DG1000 for a week. So 12 of us, including four instructors, arrived complete with our two single-seaters (a Discus and an ASW-24) and the DG1000. Now all we needed was the weather to be on our side.
Well, to be fair, we can’t complain. We got 6 days, and the only thing that stopped us on the other day was that great excuse “it was too windy to rig”. I’d have settled with that, however the weather was better than that – there was wave to be had. We had one classic wave day, which resulted in a Silver Height, a Gold Height, and our resident “mountain goat” getting to 14500’. Even the DG went to 10000’ numerous times (and a record 11.7knt average climb). Our captain, however, was only able to manage 2800’, though he was shown the error of his ways later in the day.
Everyday the ridge was working like a train. As a result, even the most inexperienced in our party got to experience ridge soaring (and the occasional running silliness), as well as continuing their training. Ridge soaring for the first time is like nothing else, weaving in and out following the contours of the hill, often less than a wingspan away from the side of the hill. Those who could fly the single-seaters were able to home their soaring skills on the ridge, or escape off and try to explore the wave; most days there was something to be found.
By staying on site, not only did we have direct access to Irene and Steve’s wonderful food, it also meant we could fall out of bed and start rigging before it was even properly light (though this was too early for some). It’s a nice feeling sitting down to breakfast knowing that your ready for a good day’s soaring. The other advantage of winter tours at Portmoak is its proximity to various towns. This came as a relief last year, but I can’t say it was needed it this time. We did nevertheless have evening outings in both Perth and Edinburgh.
The only downside to the tour were our Hogmanay celebrations. Originally it was planned to go to the Street Party in the capital, but by the time we had been diverted round to Kincardine (the Forth Bridge was shut due to high winds) all the celebrations were cancelled, not to mention numerous trees down, wheelie-bins and even a trampoline on the roads as a result of the 90mph winds. So New Year’s was spent sat round a TV in one of the member’s houses. In a way it was a relief, as everyone was so tired from the previous days’ flying that an early night was just what we needed. We did return to Edinburgh later in the week though for the traditional Scottish meal of haggis, neaps and tatties, followed by a deep fried mars bar (and a pub crawl).
The other evenings we stayed at the gliding club, where your guarantied a friendly atmosphere, with everyone sharing experiences of the days flying and the occasional strange conversation. It’s one of the few places I’ve flown where the locals make you feel so welcome (must be the Scottish hospitality).
So many years in the past we come back without actually flying at all. Thus the fact that everyone managed at least 3 hours flying is all the more impressive. Having had an exceptionally successful winter tour, what does hit you is just how far away the summer soaring season is. Oh well, there’s always uni in the mean time.