1988

1988

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When the weather was unsuitable for hang gliding, other activities were devised. Phil and Angie got married. That's Tony and Nigel Webb, Stephen Partridge Hicks and Lucinda, and Rona in their gladrags. If the wind was too strong, Tony would sit under an autogyro that he found in a shed somewhere, willing it to leap into the air, whilst Paul Welton and others (names please) looked on, disinterestedly.

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Parades of the walking wounded were organised. That's John Burrell faking it, a genuine casualty in the centre (Anthony Shaw??) and the magnificent Dave McEwen on the right with a dislocated shoulder.
When the wind was impossibly strong - which made going to the field pointless - you could always go to the coast to watch the incomparable Paul Whitley soaring the barrier at the bottom of the pathetic slope at Corton, or potentially dragging people to their doom in a force 5 at West Runton.

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The lunatics assisting this endeavour are recognisably Barry Freeman and holding the nose wires, Peter Bowden (?Suffolk guys … help please!). The stones in this image are probably airborne too; the sand definitely was. Later, on the coast road between Runton and Cromer, from the shelter of a car we watched a lone hang glider under angry grey skies pirouetting and figure of eighting well out to sea above the breakers and white horses whilst the force 5 wind whipped low mist and clag across the coast. The lift band would have been very wide. Paul had hours of muscular, balletic flying that day.
At times, some purposeful people (Rona, taking a break from instructing) were going XC, and - jubilant - were being retrieved from Bacton (I think) by Tony and ?Justin.

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Elsewhere, aerial photos of Fransham were being taken by someone else whose mental judgement must seriously have been in question. Ah, you guessed! Very gingerly, two years on from the prang, that man was creeping back into the air. After some refamiliarisation on training kites without further mishap, he started to borrow Tony's Magic 155FR. The "155" meant it was smaller than the regular Magics (and sank faster), and the "FR" designation ("Full Race") meant that it was tuned for high performance and consequently flew like a plank until Tony worked out how to de-tune it and make it flyable. But being kite-less at this juncture (remember Lanzarote) I was in no position to be unduly critical. Nice looking clouds up there …
That black lump attached to the keel was, I think, a recording barograph that Tony had acquired. The black lump at the nose of the keel was, probably, a wrapped-up kite bag. Could these have been for the eventuality of an XC out-landing … ? Probably. But by the end of 1988, despite quite a lot of launches, I hadn't logged any XC's at all. The damn fields at Fransham were too small. They didn't allow enough altitude to be obtained from the launch before you had to release, and then you could do little more than fly back to the launch point weaving between tall hedgerow trees.

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On light wind days, the height obtained was even less. I do remember crying quietly behind the hedge in abject frustration whilst birds soared all around into a perfect thermalling sky. We experimented with step tows to overcome this problem. I won't try to describe the technique in detail - the memory of it still makes me ill. It entailed turning downwind on tow, with the towline still attached, to pull some towline back off the winch drum, before turning into wind for a further pull under tension from winch. After two or three hair-raising steps you could reach 1000' or more (1400' - so says my log book) which was well worth having, but it slowed down the launch rate significantly, so it wasn't always popular with pilots waiting in the take-off queue. By the end of the year I had received 96 launches, and apart from one splendid flight with XC potential back in May lasting 2 hours and thermalling up to 5000' but staying within range of the field on a borrowed kite (thank you Tony), none of these resulted in XC's. I had also overcome the possible trauma of flying the coastal cliffs from West Runton and Cromer on a couple of occasions. Looked like hang gliding was back on the menu …

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