Found a new place to soar

I had some really great flights today! Two of the edges of the field I fly at (Opoho Park, Dunedin) are big slopes that fall away into a valley and into the city respectively. I’ve never flown on them before because they’re covered in trees, and there are trees planted around the edge of the field obscuring the view downslope and making last-minute landings impossible. But since my discus throw has been improving, I’ve been able to get enough launch altitude to clear the trees on the edge of the field and have a reasonable chance of safely returning even in dead air.

So today I drove through drizzle to the field and squelched through the mud to the edge of the hill. It’s heavy overcast and 8 degrees with only a breath of wind, so I wasn’t expecting much. I threw four or five tosses alongside, then slightly above and beyond the trees, without having any issue returning back to the field in time for landing. I got bolder and bolder, and flew further from the edge of the hill. This is the view past the cemetery towards the city, seen through a gap in the trees:

Opoho park pano

I made it out far enough that I was suddenly able to hang motionless in midair. I’m thinking the air was moving up the hill to match the slow end of the Libelle’s cruise speed. I was able to make very slow passes along the line of the slope (slower than walking speed I think), meanwhile my altitude was slowly climbing. I seemed to be in very smooth air and I didn’t need to make any big corrections, but I also didn’t have so much extra lift that I could make more than a slow cruise. I was able to get 4, 6, 8 minute flights, ranging further and further away from me out towards the city.

Some gulls circled near my altitude while I was hanging motionless next to them, pointing into the wind. At one point a bird of prey was suddenly 2 metres behind me, right on my six, and I had to zoom back over to the field to land, with it in pursuit. Once I touched down, it briefly looked like the bird was going to stoop down and strike the Libelle on the ground, but luckily it didn’t. I think it was just curious, because I’d like to hope it wasn’t considering taking down something as large as the Libelle, which was way bigger than it.

My last flight of the day was 12 minutes 30 seconds! Now I have to clean all the mud off everything, and find some warm gloves for next time.

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