Friday, 18 June 2010

Friday 19th June

Well what a pleasure to wake up to blue skies this morning after days of rain – apparently the weather has been unusually poor this year!

A couple of hours after briefing Alex and Merv launched in 776, closely followed by Martin and Gordon in 775. All had great flights on their last day, despite Alex and Merv getting a much closer look at Serres then they had bargained for - almost low enough to read the glider numbers on the trailers parked below! Alex thought she was going to have her second land out of the week - but thanks to some valiant scratching they finally managed to get away. As we write, Nicki, Gordon, Tim and Merv are enjoying their last flight – the food has been bought for a bbq after the gliders have been packed away for their long drive home.

Sisteron is a great place to fly – despite the weather we flew 5 days out of 6, and there is plenty to do in the area on non-flyable days, gorges to swim in, wine to drink etc... thanks to Colin, Merv and Gordon for their part in a fantastic week.

We’ll definitely be back next year!

Alex and Mart

Day 5

The Sun eventually makes an appearance.

After his prediction at yesterdays morning briefing, it’s time for John Pierre to remind us of how accurate his weather forecast was and that for his next trick he will be walking on water and predicting the football scores.

The only flight of the morning was me doing the flight test for the French license. What I thought was going to be a formality changed when the CFI announced we would release and go to a little ridge called Bhume just to the south of Sisteron town. It was a very quiet 10 minuets trying to stay airborne out of range of the airfield.

It didn’t really get soarable until late afternoon and the sky had a very soggy look to it. Despite this half a dozen people took a launch and most managed to stay airborne until the showers started to develop in the east. The DG landed back while the Duo stayed local to Gap and managed to wait for the conditions to cycle through.

Tonight’s entertainment was provided by the members of the club in the form of a BBQ and live band. Despite being told that the beer was getting warm and the food was getting cold the Duo remained airborne until the first course had been consumed. The food, entertainment and hospitality were fantastic and when I get my camera back I will be posting some pictures.


The rest of the week.

It defiantly pays not to believe the public weather forecasts the TV spews out for the masses because if we had have believed theses on Wednesday morning it would have been pack the gliders in the trailers and headed on home.

The morning briefing at the airfield promised a clearance and rapid improvement by 2pm. Most people I think thought that John Pierre was just talking bull and it was time to do some more shopping. Both Merv and myself went to the classroom with the CFI to brush up on our theory for the French License. I quickly transpired that the goal posts have been moved again and there would be little point in Merv test as with out a PPL he would be restricted to Local Soaring.

Much to our surprise when we emerged from the classroom at Midday the skies were beginning to clear and it looked like we would fly. It took a while for it to actually become soarable but or those who waited around a mid afternoon launch was well worth it. As promised in the briefing, there was wave over the Jabron Valley and the DG managed to contact this straight away and climb to 10,000ft. The Duo on the other hand decided that the cloud streets to the South in the direction of St Auban looked inviting. The problem with Gordon’s plan was, that at St Auban the cloud streets stopped and so did the lift. Anyway a quick relight soon saw them back in the game and into the wave.

Now that we are approaching the end of the expedition it’s time to start planning the food and drink final glide to try and ensure that nothing is left over on Saturday morning. The result of this is that I failed to pace it over three days and had a bit of a hangover on Thursday morning.


Wednesday, 16 June 2010

Day 3

Relentless rain.I have never seen it rain so hard all day with no let up. The rivers, which a few days ago had looked almost dry, have now turned into raging torrents and it has been reported that 11 people in the region have been killed in flash floods.

A few of us decided that an afternoon shopping in Gap might give us some shelter from the rain. While strolling down a side street I looked in a shop window at what appeared to be at first glance a sports equipment shop. The first window contained fishing tackle, the second window had Knives on display, and then in the third window they had Handguns, knuckle-dusters, throwing stars, CS gas and an AK 47 hanging on the wall. It was at this point that I was tempted to go in and ask if they had any rocket launchers in the back that I could strap to the wings of our Duo to deal with a couple of irritating DG 400 drivers.


Day 2

Due to trying to cram too many things into a day and do six hours flying, something was going to get missed and it happened to be the daily Blog, so this is coming to you a day or so late.

Today’s weather briefing flicked between charts a bit to quickly so I failed to fully grasp what was going on and the only point I really understood was Thunderstorms. Anyway the decision in my mind hade been made, if it was stormy over Sisteron and better elsewhere I would stay away and land at another airfield.

We spent least half an hour dithering over whether it was soarable and what was the high cloud to the west doing but as the locals had launched and not come back we thought it was just best to go. My launch behind the underpowered tug was one I think I want to forget; unfortunately the last part of the tow along the bottom of Trainon and over some power wires may give me some sleepless nights in the future. Climbing away in Six knots from that low point confirmed that it was a better day than it looked and the sky to the east looked fantastic. In company with the DG we went via Blayeul down towards the Cheval Blanc. Each time we stopped to climb two German registered DG 400’s joined our thermal using the Flarm alarm method. Your turning and they come straight at you from behind at which point your Flarm is screaming about the imminent collision they then proceed to cut inside you in an attempt to force you out.

Anyway it was now decision time as the Cheval Blanc had failed to deliver a good climb and I could see a storm to the North West, which could cut us off if we went along the Parcours. Merv and Tim in the DG had already started heading north and according to Tim there options were a bit limited until Merv found a climb near Sayne and they could run South again.

My decision was now to run South in to the good weather and see what happens. Anyway a jolly hour was spent in the area of Vinon and Puimoisson then back to St Auban. 6500ft 20 km from Sisteron should have been an easy glide back to the airfield, unfortunately a long run of 4 down forced us to do a 180 and drop back on to Le Mees and do battle with the gliders launching out of St Auban.

Nicky was already planning tee and cakes at the French centre but I had now got the bit between my teeth and wanted to get back. After half an hour of trying to get above 5000ft it became obvious that the only way back to Sisteron would be via the classic ridge route to the north so off we went, sometimes level with the hills then taking week climbs, ridge soaring bowls and finally having enough height to cross from the Vaumuse to Authon and home to Sisteron.

Once we were back at the airfield we had a crew change and the Duo went of again with Gordon and Martin enjoying over three hours of evening soaring. A very good day from a pessimistic forecast.


Week 2

Day 1

After a much-needed rest day and some local sight seeing it was down to business for the second week of the expedition.

The new team started in normal tradition by placing bets on how long the morning briefing would last; unfortunately they had failed to take in to account the new safety briefings, which have been added at the end of the weather brief. On a serious note the French national centre have produced these short briefings to try and reduced the accident rate in the Alps!

Thunderstorms would be the order of the day so it was get flying ASAP and make the most of the conditions. Launching at about 12:30 into a good looking sky it became obvious when we got to the first ridge that it had only just started to work and the conditions were very soft, so a very slow climb up the side of Malup. We than had a slow strole down the Crete de selles to Serres and back to La motte. Conditions were now starting to improve, but the fly in the ointment was the thunderstorm developing to the west of the airfield so it was now decision time, land before the rain or run South and know you would not be coming back. We chose at this point to return to the airfield and land just before the mass return.

The area around Sisteron and Gap then erupted in storms and we spent the next two hours watching them from our Gite. It also became obvious that if we had have gone South we could have had 2 hours of extra soaring as the conditions beyond St Auban look good. Chatting to someone latter who did land away, he described being P2 on an IFR aerotow retrieve at the end of the day as terrifying.


Saturday, 12 June 2010

What it's all about

The folowing Video clip was taken by Billy Brady while Merv Saunders was soaring the Pic de Bure. Enjoy.

Day 5 and 6

Evan windier today.

Lots of Oh’s and Ah’s at the morning briefing when the wind charts were shown and the St Auban forecast said 20kts gusting 40kts on the ground. I have to say I was still confused by the comment at the briefing that there would be no thermals today; obviously they had failed to look out of the window at the cumulus over the mountains.

Another day of rough tows out to the south and obviously too turbulent for someone as a rope failed on one tow. A sobering thought considering the thickness of the rope and the fact that they don’t have week links! We can also draw a Vail over the re light that one of the Lasham gliders had to do!

Cloud base turned out to be around 9000ft, with good thermals, which made for an easy transition in to the wave over the Jabron Valley. Merv decided to explore north along the Parcors and then west to find the wave near Pic de bure. I then went west towards the Mont Ventoux but only managed to find the down part of the wave and boy was it going down.

This evening’s entertainment was a BBQ arranged by the Lasham team. The food, drink and entertainment could only be described as outstanding. The bar has been set high and next weeks team will have to be on top form to match it.

Day 6.

With the weather pattern stuck in the same routine it appeared that it would be a repeat of yesterday with a little less wind. True to form the competition waited until it clouded over before starting to launch. I am now beginning to see the importance the Tug pilots put on having there lunch first before getting airborne.

We only managed two flights today and it would appear that even Merv was beginning to feel the pace, as he stayed fairly local. Wave was again the order of the day and from the ground it looked like a classic slot behind the Lure.

Although not a classic Alpine weather week the statistics show that we have flown nearly 60 hours over the week and I think by the smiles on peoples faces everyone has had a great time.

Time for a rest day now and I think that a night away from the Red wine would be a good idea. Week 2 will be taking over the blog so stay tuned for more adventures starting on Sunday.


Thursday, 10 June 2010

Day 4

Where did that breeze come from?
As we rolled up to the airfield it appeared to be a typical calm morning with a light breeze from the south, some CU starting to form and the odd wave cloud in the distance. The daily met brief was forecasting 20-30 kts on the ground and 50kts at 10,000ft Wave and moderate turbulence. Stepping out of the briefing we suddenly had 20 knots on the ground and the gusts felt severe.

Watching the first competition launches confirmed that the tows would be lively. Our launches were on to a small ridge to the East of Sisteron town, which was used as a stepping-stone in to the wave in the lee of the Lure. Both Billy and Graham had excellent wave flights to over 12,000ft and managed to explore well to the west.

The second trips were into a sky that had become overcast and with little evidence of wave. I launched on to the ridge and found that the turbulence at low level could best be described as severe and I was glad to contact an 8kt thermal and climb away. Both Robin and Ginny managed 2 hours in the local area and it was only the arrival of the rain that forced Merv down!


Wednesday, 9 June 2010

Day 3

Wait until it’s overcast before launching.

During the last two morning briefings we have been looking at the weather charts and the low pressure systems out to the north and west and each day we are told that tomorrow the weather will be bad. Then every morning so far I have woken up to bright sunshine and that well known phenomena in the Southern French Alps that it has it’s own micro climate and the frontal systems appear to be pushed north along the Rhone valley

At 11 o clock the sky looked very promising and any Brit would have said it’s time to Launch but in typical French tradition we wait another hour or so, by which time it’s now completely overcast with little sign of any Cu. The wind is blowing 15kts from the South so we throw the gliders into the air knowing that there will be one or two ridges we can sit on, unfortunately all the other Duo Discus drivers have the same idea and are in the same place.

There comes a point when Flarm is no help and I think that point was reached with 10 gliders on the ridge at Malaup. So we decided to move over to La Motte as there looked to be rotor clouds over the airfield. To cut a long story short after over an hour of searching we eventually contacted Wave in the lee of the Gache and this topped out at 8500ft. Merv in the DG took the opposite route crossing over to the crete des selles and finding wave near Serres. In the weakening conditions the second flights were never going to live up to the first but we did manage over two hours soaring.

Looking at the flight logs so far we have hade very interesting conditions and everyone has had flights of between 2 and 3 hours each day. I know some people will be expecting pictures with the blog, so tomorrow I will try and get my camera out when I am far enough away from the rocks.


Tuesday, 8 June 2010

Day 2

Putting our towels on the grid.

After seeing how the grid worked yesterday we timed our arrival at the back of it to perfection, so that we would be the first to launch after the comp. We then adjourned to the restaurant for coffee, chatting and Emails. It was a bit of a surprise when the grid kicked off half an hour before I thought they would, so we quickly finished our drinks and wondered out to the launch-point.

By this stage the grid had moved forward leaving a gap between our gliders and the last comp glider and this gap was being filled by the Swiss contingent. They managed to get an LS 8 in to position before we closed in and moved our gliders forward. Due to the fact that we were out numbered I hade to settle for a long hard stare at them. We then pushed our Duo past the LS 8 and I then felt we had got our own back and the score was even. As we reached the front of the grid the Swiss team then pushed their glider past the Duo to take the next tug. When the tug turned up I realised that we were having the last laugh, as it was the underpowered Rallye and it would cost them an extra 20 Euros for their launch, justice had been done.

OK the flying. I am still confused as to what was happening on the ridges and mountains as I seamed to spend a lot of time scratching around at low level in very broken and turbulent lift/sink. Eventually we did manage to have a sight seeing tour to the north and west with Merv going to the Pic de Bure and myself having a very close look at Serres Airfield. The second flight of the afternoon was almost washed out by showers but we both managed to stay airborne and then as the weather improved again enjoy the good condition out to the west which lasted until late in to the evening.


Monday, 7 June 2010

Day 1

Our first day coincided with the start of the Duo competition at Sisteron, which makes the morning briefing a lively and very confusing affair for the brits who only have a basic grasp of French. Anyway as normal the Saint- Auban weather forecast proved to be the most accurate with good thermals, the possibility of thunderstorms and no wave.

With the competition going first we were a little slow off the make to get a place on the grid behind them which meant that our first launch was not until 13:40 by which time it was obviously working well to the East and showing signs of rain to the west. Both robin and Ginny had flights of over two hours exploring the local ridges to the east as far as Blayeul. The expectation had been for the day to cut off early but when we landed back it was obviously on for a second trip so Billy and Graham got in and we were off again with less than 15 mins on the ground.

With the changing weather conditions the second flights appeared to be a matter of timing with the Duo crew finding the wave to 10,500ft and the DG crew grovelling around on the rocks to the East of La Motte. We eventually arrived back in the Sisteron area as the Rain started to approach the airfield and the DG landed as the first spots hit the canopy.

As I write this the windsock is beginning to move and I expect we will be launching shortly with the promise of good weather to the West.


Tuesday, 1 June 2010

Sisteron 2010.
6th - 18th June