Overdevelopment not far to the North East, the task fitted perfectly into an 80km band of good weather
The 50km blue hole which was crossed four times
Blue conditions not far to the South West

Specific achievements for the LGC group;
Ed Downham 1004km for first 1000km flight and British 15m Free Distance record (LS8)
Robin May 1004km for first 1000km flight. (ASH25)
Carr Withall 1004km for first 1000km flight (Nimbus 3)
John Reed 930km, his longest flight ever (LS6)
Steve Lynn 780km his longest flight ever (LS8)
Tom Rose 535km for Diamond Distance (LS4)
Mike Abbott 315km for Diamond Goal plus the rear seat in the ASH for 1000Km!
Paul Watson completed Bronze C, X/C rating, then Silver Distance and Height.

It was an exceptional week with Ed, Carr and myself averaging 40 hours and 4000km each for the week.

Robin May


The first TP is reached, though as John says, there are some "turnpoint blues". A 50km blue spell halfway along this first leg, must be re-encountered, as we head back South 200km to TP2. Now we are moving - Ed's battery state causes him to choose to go off air - we think we're pulling away from the others. The quarter hour checks continue, and a pattern settles in, with turning safety becoming a major role for the P2. The blue hole is an intimidating sight and we drop to 8000ft by the time we safely cross the Vaal River for the second of four times.

The result was a terrific week's gliding, in a great atmosphere created by Dick Bradley's "Soaring Safaris", in the great temperatures of the South African summer. The bonus was 3 members gaining their first 1000km flights. Accounts of these amazing flights were written for S&G and the London Gliding Club magazine.

Paul and Mike combined to write the article for S&G, Carr wrote a pilot's account of his flight.

Below is a trace of the flight completed by Robin and Mike in the ASH 25, though Ed and Carr's flights followed the same route in a similar manner.

Another episode of overseas gliding for members of the London Gliding Club.


4 December 2003 was a successful day for three out of five London GC members who attempted a 1000km out and return task. The flights by Robin May, Carr Withall and Ed Downham were not without some nail biting moments as nightfall rapidly approached their temporary base at New Tempe airfield, Bloemfontein, in Free State, South Africa. Attempts by LGC members Steve Lynn and John Reed didn't quite make it but ended in creditable performances of 780 and 930kms respectively – there being no landouts.

The launch point sees Robin in an ASH25 with friend and colleague Mike Abbott riding ‘shotgun' in the rear seat; Carr is in a Nimbus; and Ed is in a standard class 15m LS8. The first visible signs of worthwhile thermals are the faint milky show of nascent or ‘popping' cumulus clouds, and these signal launch commencement. Aerotows are provided by a Safaris Cessna 182 flown by Etienne Gerber. Ed gets away just before 10am and he radios back a positive report of weak lift conditions. Then, soon, with all away, normality returns to New Tempe with lesser mortals setting off on a mixture of more pedestrian 300km and 500km tasks!
In flight with Robin in the ASH25, P2 Mike Abbott picks up the account of their flight:- Airborne at 1003 local time - 'field elevation 4500ft amsl - 'field temperature already into the mid-20s - the flight starts with a straight northerly leg of nearly 300km to the first turning point (TP). At sixty minutes into the flight and only 72km travelled, we are finding it difficult to be optimistic. Every thermal is appraised, some are selected for circling climbs; every climb must be centred quickly, and every exit must be straight onto track or next planned thermal source with precision acceleration to transit airspeed. 50 degrees of bank becomes the routine when circling.
The heavy ASH, actually being flown without water ballast by choice, and I'm not sure what that says about my own bulk and mass, is thermalled at indicated speeds of about 55kts and flown straight, at around 105kts., these 'speeds then benefitting by the effect of density altitude. It is hot, the sun having risen six hours before and we are surrounded by our harnesses, parachute straps, plastic oxygen pipes which are always too long, and Camelback or Platypus water pipes, all vying for the right to snag on those sticky exposed bits of flesh, plastered in Factor 20. R/T chat contact is important, and information passed between the five gliders at times affects selection of sources of lift.

Release took place at 6500 ft and the condensation level is discovered to be scarcely 10000 ft. For long distance flying this translates into a smallish band, but is expected for this time of day. An on board policy had been devised, for the purposes of oxygen conservation. GPS distance along track is already being appraised at fifteen minute intervals:- 153kph - 125kph – 156kph - 124kph - we don't need too many in the 120s range or we'll fail. The expected light westerly wind is just as expected - good old Dick! It is blue to the West of track, and the Cu's to the East are looking to be too much on the boil for us - the plan is to squeeze between each of these less than ideal areas - good old Ed, who has masterminded the chosen route, to precision! He's along with us, and so are the others.

By TP2 I'm able to tell Robin that if all goes well, we're looking like landing back at New Tempe at 1830, against the last landing of 1915. It's tight all right! I mustn't distract him. I've watched 'em all, and thermal selection, centring, and exits, have all been 'text book', but still we have nearly four hours to go. TP3 is West of TP1, making a big letter 'W' of the whole trip. Cloudbase is rising, continously. The oxygen bottle tap is in my domain, and our workload increases as it is turned on and off. Stronger and longer climbs are now the pattern. The concentration level and endurance level of the P1 astound me - can he keep this up? We fly close to track with few exceptions. Here's a climb, the first of its kind - it ends pointing 180 degrees away from track, in sink. This mustn't happen again. There's silence on board for a while.

As the distance between gliders on the task increases, and we're clear of TP3, we realize and acknowledge the real hazard of flying straight - sometimes at 115kts - between thermals. In Robin's front cockpit - the final glide computer dies on us. Robin thinks a final glide is possible from here, at 100kts. Rashly, I suggest maybe 120kts. I am insisting on an arithmetical check every few kilometres, and to our surprise we discover that we only have 1300ft above final glide with no allowance for a circuit, and 95km still to fly. Back to best L/D airpseed, we are hitting -2.5kts and even -3.5kts - uncertain thermal sources ahead - Robin is now really beginning to feel fatigued - have we cocked it up? The tension is quite immense - we make a straight-in and land on RW18, but the airbrake is only used passing 400ft., quickly followed on by the loud but reassuring clonk of 'gear down'. We know nothing of Ed's whereabouts.

On the ground back at New Tempe in the late afternoon all flights except the ‘1000Ks' have safely returned. For anybody on the ground, a working day started, took place, and is already over. Attention turns to the northwest and the entry corridor access through Bloemfontein's Class ‘C' CTR. Steve and John land safely with some disappointment and incomplete tasks, but solid performances nonetheless.

Rumours abound that the other three are inbound but have fallen short of the 1000kms target as well. The sky reddens as it sinks slowly ever closer the horizon. Robin calls New Tempe on 124.8mhz: “New Tempe this one-six-two on final glide at sixteen kilometres – request runway in use”. It's RW18 or 36 and Robin completes his 8 hours 23 minutes flight with a typically immaculate touchdown. He confirms over the R/T that he has completed the task and impromptu applause erupts as his ASH comes to a halt opposite the hangar line. He also confirms that Carr is not far behind but has not heard anything of Ed for some considerable time since his radio packed up some 4 hours into the flight...

With Robin and Mike too exhausted to leap out of the cockpit, the ASH is manhandled clear of the strip as he confirms that Carr is still in with a shout, but not too flush on altitude in ‘sinking air'. Carr appears in the northwest sky – the sun is just setting – and his water ballast dumping makes his craft have all the menacing look of a B52 approaching low and fast. Carr has no spare energy to engage in a competition finish and creeps in over the northern field boundary for a smooth touchdown on RW18.

With the sun below the horizon hopes for Ed's successful arrival dwindle and thoughts turn to perhaps a long retrieve at night or a night landing on New Tempe's lighted tarmac strip on the western side of the airfield. Disappointment turns to elation as Ed appears as if from nowhere crossing the airfield at high speed dumping the last of his water ballast – and finishes off with a victorious loop to position for a landing on RW36. After landing Ed confirms problems with battery life and had had to turn off his radios to conserve what little power left for navigation equipment hence the self imposed silence. Ed falls wearily out of the LS8 cockpit onto the grass soaking up the congratulations of his colleagues. Light fading rapidly the gliders were tucked up for the night and everyone repaired to the bar for the usual celebration of a job well done.

The day started with a thorough weather brief delivered by Soaring Safaris' Dick Bradley. The forecast encompassed an appraisal of various data supplied by the local met office at Bloemfontein. Data included: thunderstorm probability along intended task route, forecast wind velocities at various levels, predicted thermal strengths, dew point variations and the usual study of skew T data leading to trigger surface temperature, and other parameters. The outlook for success looked good but it was certainly not going to be a ‘walk in the park' – daylight hours being a big factor, especially with only 15 minutes between sunset and official night due to the latitude of New Tempe.
Robin, Carr and Ed completed the 1004.3kms double out and return task all in the region of 8 hrs 20 mins to 8 hrs 50mins., and in addition Ed's performance when ratified is believed to represent a new British record distance for a standard 15m class glider, an in beating the previous 955km record by punching through the 1000km threshold. Congratulations to all three on personal firsts, most unlikely to be their last. Paul Watson
Robin has just landed but still waiting for Carr and Ed; it was quite dark half an hour after their landings

The Group picture;
Standing L to R; Ed Downham, Carr Withall, Robin May and Mike Abbott - All 1000kms with Mike P2 in the ASH with Robin
Kneeling L to R; John Reed and Steve Lynn 1000km declared achieved 930 and 780 respectively.
Sitting L to R;Walter from Germany, Nick from Booker, Tom Rose 500km, Michel from France and Paul Watson

Header picture; another dusty take-off for John Reed in "JCB"

Carr's 1000 km story - The Team - Around New Tempe Airfield - Soaring Safaris website