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Simon

It's been a long wait. The EP and CP courses in Spain back in February seems like such a long time ago, but with my new Epsilon 5 arriving on Monday, getting it set up on Wednesday evening, it seemed too good to be true that the forecasts were showing favourable for Rhossili the following day.

Thursday morning I was in work early to put in my hours, with a ½ day provisionally booked, eagerly awaiting the call from Steve Bain to say that it was on. After the longest morning I can remember, the call came through, and I was on my way!

Arriving at the hill at around 11:30, Steve and Simon Fulford were already there assessing the conditions. We unfolded the clean and crispy glider, and Simon gave it an inspection and inflated it to ensure all was good. I hooked up into the harness, and Simon adjusted the speed bar ready for flight. I was now ready to go! The wind was a bit on the light side, so we made our way to the top.

Reaching the top of the hill, I was already convinced that the lightweight harness was the right decision! The wind was a bit stronger, and slowly increasing. The anticipation was too much, so I was going to go for it. As I laid the glider out and started to build my wall, the realisation struck that it's been over 5 months since I did this last, and I'd only done about 5 reverse launches, the pressure was building as more people started appearing. I took a deep breath, then leant back into my harness and watched the bright yellow wing pop up above my head ? so far, so good! A quick inspection, turn, 3 steps and away!!!! What a feeling! As I headed out from the ridge, I began descending quite quickly. The aim for a short flight and landing on the pimple didn't look possible as the landing area disappeared from view above my head. I started to look for a clear, dry area of beach for my landing. On my way down, I did a few turns and started to get used to the feel for the glider, and started to see the better performance this one had over the Alpha 4 I was flying in Algodonales. With growing confidence, I moved closer to the hill, and realised that I was starting to maintain height! After a few minutes of beating back and forth along the base of the hill, I was starting to go upwards. 5 minutes later I was looking down at the pimple, and a few more minutes I was above my take off point! Now I was feeling quite relaxed, and remembered why I'd been waiting for so long to get my paraglider! I felt so lucky to be gliding quietly in such smooth conditions between Rhossili and Llangennith enjoying the glorious views below, particularly seeing the showers passing to the west and emptying down across Carmarthenshire!

After an hour, I started to think that at some point, I was going to have to go back to land... Not wanting to get sand in the new glider, I was going to have to top-land, but then I'd only done the minimum number of top landings to be able to get my CP. I put it off for another hour, but by now my fingers were turning blue (must remember to wear gloves next time!). I headed back towards the Rhossili, and flying overhead I started to think about how I'd make my approach. Fortunately Simon saw me and flew over to give some much appreciated advice, then gave a demonstration of what I should be doing. Now it was my turn. Descending below the pimple was quite unnerving, but as I went in to the ridge and slowly worked my way up high enough to pop over the landing area Simon was there coaching me in. A few S-turns and I was descending slowly towards the landing area for a nicely executed landing. I'd done it! My first flight as a club pilot, first flight in the UK, first flight on my new glider, and best of all, everything was still intact!!

After a bit of lunch, I was off again. By now the wind had picked up, so take off and landings would be a bit more tricky. I stayed on the ridge for about 30 minutes, then went back for another steady approach and landing. With growing confidence, I spent the following flights practising touch & go landings. Even though the wind was getting stronger, it was smooth, and I was really enjoying this now.

As the sun started to set I came in for another touch & go. I descended a bit quicker than expected and landed at the back of the clearing. Keeping the wing above my head, I tried to move forward for another take off, but the wind was even stronger by now, and to my horror, I was going backwards ? through the bracken. I quickly turned to face the glider and dropped it just short of some gorse bushes! I didn't feel too bad, because by now many of the other pilots were struggling with their take offs and landings. Not wanting to be put off by the trip through the bracken, I was determined to do one more before packing up. Setting myself up for this one was tricky. I was trying to lose height, but even with 'big ears' I was going upwards! I eventually came down, and set up my approach, made my way to the landing area, and hovered on the spot waiting patiently to desccend for what turned out to be my best landing of the day!

After packing up all the kit, we headed down to the car park, stopping at the bottom of the hill to watch the sun setting over the bay. What a perfect ending to a perfect day. Thanks again to Simon and Steve for all your help. Total flying time 4:00  :-D

If I can work out how to do it, check the gallery for some pictures.