I've finally done it, I've finally flown the big slope at Rhossili, the last of the three premier UK coastal slope soaring sites, and it lived up to its reputation.
Setting off from home at 8:30 on Sunday morning, the sun was shining, there was a very light breeze, the roads were quiet and I arrived at about 10am.
Parking was easy as there were a couple of spaces left in the church car park, although just 300 metres down the road there was a big National Trust car park I could have gone into.
Already there were plenty of para gliders soaring the slopes as I made the slow, arduous trek up the path leading to the top of the hill. I say arduous, but I guess it really wasn't that bad, particularly if you take it slowly.
About 20 minutes later I was at the top by the Trig Point stone where I came across Paul Hampshire of Slope Soaring Sussex who is on holiday in the area with his family and flying his new Weasel Trek in the estimated 10 mph breeze.
We had fun cruising around, me with my Wildthing and Whisper and Paul his M60 and Weasel, and the para gliders kept their distance from us. Thanks para gliders.
After a couple of hours, the wind had gradually picked up to about 20 mph and Paul had to go and join his family, leaving me to my own devices.
Within the next hour, the wind had picked up significantly and was gusting to 32 mph, so I set up the Signal and had a couple of good flights with that. The Wildthing was loving the conditions and I was able to chuck that about in the super smooth sea air.
So for those of you who haven't flown this slope before, it has spectacular views of Worms Head, the 3 mile long golden, sandy beach, and the Atlantic Ocean.
The shape of the slope is just right to produce the maximum amount of lift from whatever speed of wind may be blowing at the time. And the lift goes on forever! You can push your model out, and out, and out, and it just doesn't seem to lose any height.
Landing is a doddle as the ground behind you is flat, generally rock free and covered in soft, spongy heather.
All the while I was flying and I was thinking that this slope is on a par with one of my local slopes, the westerly facing slope of Mickeys at the Bwlch. It's about the same height, same shape, the lift is about the same with very smooth air and an easy landing zone. And to be honest, I don't think there's much to choose between them. Having said that, Rhossili is only an extra 30 minutes drive away for me so, I will go there again when we have a lovely, sunny summer day as a nice change of scenery.
So now that I have flown all three coastal sites, which is my favourite? That's a tough question. I've made five or six, 4 - 5 hour long trips up to the Orme at Llandudno, and each time the wind hasn't played ball with only light to average conditions. Other people I know totally rave about it, which is fine.
But a slope isn't just about the quality of air and lift, it's also about access and the landing zone. The Orme has easy enough access but the landing zones leave a little to be desired as they are strewn with rocks that magnetically seem to attract your model to them, or are covered in gorse and other course vegetation. Also in some places, you are flying directly over the sea, so landing out isn't an option here, and in fact at one of the PSSA meetings I went to this year, there must have been about 3 or 4 models that went down on launch. Fortunately, there was a small ledge just below our launching position where these models came to rest, otherwise the sea would have claimed more victims.
St. Agnes in Cornwall is the other big coastal site, and I have flown this on a few occasions now. Access is easy and could be classed as a "park and fly" slope. The air is super smooth usually and the landing zones are flat, soft and rock free. The only down side is that you are flying directly over the water, and if that is something you are not used to, it can be a bit of a butt clenching experience the first few times you chuck your pride and joy off the cliff.
The only other thing I would say about Rhossili is that it looks like a slope that, if you were to land out, the model would be easily retrievable. Not so.
As I was walking back to the car park, a para glider guy called me over to him and told me that as he had been traversing the slope, he saw a black coloured model with yellow and red colouring on the fin, and pointed me in the direction of where he thought it was. So I headed off, and he came along with me. We spread ourselves out but we couldn't find it and we were eventually beaten back by the thick, prickly gorse and bramble which covered this part of the slope. I can imagine the owner of the model probably had spent several hours pushing his way through the vegetation to find it.
So back to the original question of which is my favourite slope? I think Rhossili and St Agnes have little between them to be able to say one is better than the other, and given the option for an away trip, I'd pick either of these two over the Orme, though I'm sure the Orme is good on its day, I just haven't experienced it at its best yet.
Enjoy the video.
About A470 Soaring
This is the blog for a few guys who spend their time flying radio controlled gliders, or slope soarer's, from the many and varied slopes around SE Wales.
This usually begins at the northern end of Cardiff, driving north up the A470 up to the Heads of the Valley's and the southern fringe of the Brecon Beacons. But the A470 road continues its windy way all the way to N Wales.
There are many slopes available for most wind directions, the most famous being the area between Nant-y-Moel and Treorchi known as The Bwlch, which has some of the best slopes and flying in Europe with many F3F competitions being held there each year and visited by many fliers from Europe and around the world. At 1500 feet (450m) above sea level, there is usually more wind than not, and certainly more than at sea level.
If you require any further information, are new to slope soaring or are visiting the area, please contact Steve at firstname.lastname@example.org . I look forward to hearing from you.
Take a look at Page 2 (look below and to the left here) for Google maps of our most popular Flying Sites.