It may not have been a great Autumn, and visitors arriving during late September had a pretty torrid time with wet and un-soarable conditions, but this is Portmoak and when things do get good they can get properly good. Last week was one of those times. The pilots involved will know all too well about their individual successes, but it's worth just thinking about the overall scale of accomplishments because it wasn't just a few well-kent suspects at work either.
Last Tuesday Sant had predicted good conditions and organised with Tony Brown to do some early aero-towing. No less than ten Portmoak pilots put notable flights on the BGA ladder. Top scorers of the day were Tony Spirling and Kevin Dillon who both did 500km+ flights in pure gliders, Phil Dolan did another 500 while Adrian Docherty extended his boundaries with 100km and Sally Woolrich climbed to 10,000ft during a check flight.
Just 48 hours later they were at it again. Thursday saw eight Portmoak flights posted, some of them truly remarkable. Tony Spirling did another 500, this time at 150kph!
Ed Downham had brought the amazing EB28 up from Dunstable. His syndicate partner's ear infection was rotten luck for him but proved a blessing for Alan Gillanders who "offered" to sit in the back seat in his place. On asking Ed where they would head to the reply came "Dunkeld". Alan thought that would be pretty nice - but soon realised that Dunkeld was actually the start point for a 1000km declared flight that would take them to Campbeltown, Arran, Inch and Rothesay before finally getting the feeling back in his feet some 9 hours later. Wow. No-one has ever done 1000km in NW wave before.
Meanwhile John Williams was taking the Antares around a 903km declared task in less than 6 hours - not bad but even that performance had him third Portmoak pilot on the day on OLC! Top score of the day, and perhaps of all time on the ladder was Sant who whizzed around 780km at a handicapped 148kph!
After those two days it's worth a look at the National ladder to see who the current contenders for annual BGA trophies are. There are a few names we know. Sant and John now lie first and second overall while John is looking good for fastest 300km and 500km flights. And Ed and Alan's flight from Portmoak is in line for the Wakefield Trophy for longest in the UK for the whole year. In fact the Wakefield Trophy changed hands no less than three times on Thursday afternoon as John, Sant and then Ed posted their flights. And the year's not over yet....
A final point - it's not just the guys in open class gliders doing this brilliant stuff, the most impressive achievements have been in working class gliders - eg Sant and Tony, Discus handicap 98, and Kevin Dillon DG100, handicap a lowly 90.
All of this is just a great reminder of what is possible from our fantastic site. If you too want to join the fun and develop your skills to compete and enjoy at this level just ask your friendly instructor how you can take the next steps in the journey to exploit the potential of our fantastic country.
Fly fast, far and safe
Mike Carruthers CFIby