My Southdown Ridge Flying is coloured by bitter experience. It started shortly after I joined the club in the early nineties. Would I help on a retrieve ? A glider, a Foka 5, had landed in a field under Kithurst Hill. I blithely volunteered, little knowing what was involved. Three hours later, covered in mud we had finally got the Foka to the gate when there was a whistling over head. We looked up to see the BGA Janus pass twenty foot above us with Sue Hill waving from the front seat. Brian Bateson, who was in the back seat, flew it over at 80 knots, executed a chandelle at the end of the field and came in to land.
The effect of this elegant manoeuvre was rather spoiled when the Janus ploughed to halt in about six feet. At this point it started to rain. The Janus, like the Pik, came of a generation when glider designers had started to experiment with Laminar Flow Wing Sections. These worked fine until anything like flies or raindrops disrupted the boundary layer. At this point, the wings started to drum and the glider dropped out of the sky. Brian had got as far as Chanctonbury when the rain started and there was no way he was going to make it back to the field.
The rest was sheer misery in the gathering gloom. There was no way we could shift the glider. Eventually someone arrived with Landrover and a long rope. By getting our backs under the wings and taking some of the not inconsiderable weight of the Janus, we eventually got it to the edge of the plough and dismantled it in near darkness. I have repeated this several times, as a result of my own stupidity and that of others.
My own Damascus moment came on my first trip down to Lewes on the Ridge in the Pik20D with a Northeast wind. Strong lift at Devils Dyke encouraged me to push forward to Wolstonbury Hill, the isolated hump that sits over the M23. A mistake - It’s better to go onto New Timber Hill and, if all is OK, and then slide over the saddle below the windmills. The strong lift was in fact a thermal and I immediately flew into the associated heavy sink. ever mind, Wolstonbury Hill must be working - It wasn’t. I should have pushed onto the Lewes Ridge, but I was now below ridge height and it was not clear that there was anywhere to land if I pushed on.
I did another beat. A Mistake - If it wasn’t working two minutes ago, it won’t be working now. The Good Lord looks after fools. There was only one spot to land. A rising slope with a line of trees at the top. I scraped over some power lines expecting a flash and touched down on the slope. Touched is not the right word. The notoriously weak Pik undercarriage buckled. If you land on a slope you should have additional speed for the roundout. If I had had additional speed, I would have ended up in the trees. I should never have got myself into this position and I was very lucky not to damage myself or the glider.
By David Rhys-Jones
Typical late retrieve
Approaching Devils Dyke