Cloud Streets, and the best view of Cromer Pier
Two weeks later I "went for it" again from Sculthorpe. This time I needed two launches to catch a thermal. The clouds were developing very rapidly with some menacing turbulence indicated - you can see this from the picture taken a bit later in the day (sorry lads about the picture quality under the wing). What's more, the clouds were "streeting": that is, they were forming continuous lines along the (westerly) wind direction, rather than being discrete scattered clouds.
This enabled me, on reaching cloudbase, to fly to the sunny side of the cloud street and then to fly fast and straight in clear air parallel to the clouds - the rising air forms a consistent line too. This is complete heaven for hang glider pilots (and is a situation that I have enjoyed only rarely ever since). At times I was a even few hundred feet higher than the main cloudbase, but still in clear rising air. You can get the impression of this from another of the pictures. Normally cloudbase (those flat bottoms to cumulus clouds) is at the same level all over the sky on a thermic day. And the best view of Cromer Pier? Yes, the image is blurred and small but it was taken from 4000' above Cromer - undoubtedly the best viewpoint!
The drift would have taken me quickly out to sea with this street - you can see the elongated cloud shadow over the water. To maximise my distance from Sculthorpe I needed to head south across the "blue" gap to the next parallel street, but had misgivings about encountering powerful sink (it tends to mirror the lift on the sunnyside) in the gap. In fact I made contact with the lifting part of the next street and very quickly was over the coast again, this time at Gimingham. Reluctant to throw away two or three thousand feet of altitude I flew back upwind in the lift line hoping to make enough distance inland to allow a further "street hop". But my progress upwind over the ground was much slower, and the streets were starting to develop into vicious rain showers - very unhealthy. It was definitely time to land. This flight covered 27 miles and lasted 1 hour 11 minutes. My actual speed over the ground whilst straight lining along the streets was probably in the region of 40 mph. That noble pilot Phil Chett came to retrieve me … (I definitely do need a section on Retrieves!).