TALES OF AN AGEING GLIDER PILOT
No 3 - an evening at the races
Never did buy the ASW20 (Tale No 2), but soon the proud owner of half of a wing of a second-hand ASW19 (in the best tradition of a syndicate). So to my first real cross-country in ones own machine.
From the Cotswold to Shobdon (Herefordshire) and back is a nice afternoon out. In fact the pundits in their super-ships would do it in minutes, at Mach 3.
Weather hot and humid, with viz at not-a-lot. Aerotow to 2k, dropped me off 1 mile the wrong way - never mind! Climb to 3,000' with quite a few others milling around in the few thermals available. Time to set compass to 280° and go. The next ten minutes saw us gently descend to an embarrassingly low level, just below airfield height on top of the Cotswold escarpment. The M5 looked closer than I ever wanted to see it. Picked a suitable field to land, caught a very low thermal, and agonisingly slowly climbed back to 3k. All this had wasted much-needed time, so quickly pushed on westward, into gloomier skies. The visibility was not getting any better, in fact the only real features you could see on the ground were caravan sites with their nice(!) white vans. Then it became obvious that there was a welcoming thunderstorm ahead. Well, there was a good deal of lightning if no rain or thunder yet.
Time for decisions. Straight on into certain death? Or turn round and run? Me? Lets go somewhere else! A subtle turn to the right put us on a northerly heading up towards the Midlands, and clearer skies. Living in Worcester at the time, it was very tempting! So crack a right turn at Bromyard (I think) and head towards the Malvern Hills. Lift was scrappy so it took longer than expected to find them, tucked not very far below the starboard wing.
And on towards Worcester. The best of the day had definitely passed, the air becoming flat, the wind zero, and just the dying remnants of large cumulus littering the sky. We were going to land at Worcester - I had no way of changing that! I knew there was an old airfield on the edge of town at Perdiswell. In saner times I have flown model aircraft on that field, and was a bit worried that, although a large space, the surface could be pretty rough. By now , one was starting a large circuit involving a downwind leg going right up Worcester High Street at about 1,000'. That's when I noticed the racecourse! Of course! Parallel to, and sandwiched between, the High Street and the river Severn. Large and smooth. Long and obstacle-free. Into wind (what there was). More decisions. (My CFI would be so proud of me!!).
And so a long right hand circuit become a more organised left hand version. A shortish base leg, leaving space for a turn onto finals, albeit quite long (what some call a bomber approach). No problem clearing the power lines - just the field ahead. That superb feeling when you know you are in, well nearly. In the middle of the euphoria I notice an '8' from the rowing club elegantly slicing its way up the glass-like river. Until the Cox sees a glider whistling towards them at 200' or so. You are aware something is happening down there, in the somewhat unstable boat, but have no time to look. More important things to do, like landing ones plane.
After a perfect landing (modest, or what!) the inevitable gaggle of kids appear from thin air - have you crashed? etc. etc. Give me a hand to pull her up to the far end of the field by the grandstand? No problem. Nearly there, and one of the kids tugs my arm, points back down the field, and says my friends are waving to me as they run towards us.
Eight large and one small man, dripping wet and carrying what look like oars, apparently want to speak to me…