After two years of enjoying the coastal delights of the Isle of Wight, the British Paragliding Cup (BPC) moved the first round back to the mainland and headed north; well north ….. to a small, quaint village nestling near the foot of mighty Parlick- spiritual home of the ‘Pennini’ and some of the best xc pilots in the land. Depending on where you come from Parlick is either a site to drool over, “God! It’s big – wish we had sites like this” or a foothill at the southern extremity of the Bowland Fells. With any wind from east, through south to west it’s ideal – any hint of northerly and you need to look towards nearby Pendle or Longridge. So pray for the right wind direction.
Chipping village may be small, but it boasts a couple of good pubs, great scenery and a millennium village hall that would be better described as a conference centre. As a base it was ideal; warm, friendly and 10 minutes easy drive to the main sites. Very few bigger comps have used the area in recent years so there was a touch of suck it and see about its suitability as a venue.
The weather was decidedly ‘off-putting’ - cool, breezy and determined to test the field – especially those who had to travelled furthest; but still they came, buoyed by the thought that day 4 held promise. With our usual Meethead, Laurie Gavaghan otherwise engaged, Gareth Aston and Viv Fouracre pulled things together in their usual easy-going, but efficient manner. The local Pennine club have always been a great bunch and their welcome was up to its usual standard, with all the sites sorted and the wind arranged for the main west bowl – all it had to do was drop to manageable levels and it was task on.
For the first three days the wind blew, the rain showers joined together at times into longer spells and only Simon Blake showed aviation was possible - albeit with a speed wing after 6pm. With the forecast still looking promising for the final day, pilots and friends drank, walked, chatted and held on – it was going to happen. On the Sunday evening morale was high; Monday was shaping up OK and at short notice we got ourselves a group meal in the Sun Inn. We squashed 40 plus people, over two sittings into a modest upstairs room for the Lancashire version of curry and chips. The only thing to quash the conversation was the loudest and strangest bingo game, it seems we clashed with the regular Sunday night entertainment. The only thing to do was have an early night and hope the forecast held.
Monday dawned as forecast, the sky had cleared, the wind was easing and most importantly it was on the main bowl. In fact, the forming cumulus looked particularly tempting. Despite a prompt set up and tasking the wind continued easing, until occasionally light and swinging increasingly to the south – an awkward direction that put the take off right near the point where the bowl turned away to the south. Still it was apparent from the decent clouds that it was working out front, although timing would be crucial and the bowl demonstrated scattered evidence of how scratchy it was.
With the thinking being that the window would be relatively small, a fairly short, elapsed time task was called. From take-off, an exit cylinder took pilots around two turnpoints, the furthest being on an adjacent hill to the north, before bringing pilots back to take off and a fairly easy run over the back to a goal at Dunsop Bridge – about 14k. Following a short spell of inactivity, when it got very light, a climb formed out front and a dozen pilots then piled off into the stacked melee. Those that stuck with it were able to climb to a decent height before dashing out of the start cylinder and racing without too many problems around the course before topping up on the hill and diving over the back for goal. For the impetuous and those who were too clever for their own good (yep, sounds like me) ….. who left the climb way too early for the lead out points it ended as a slope landing on the lower slopes at the north end of the bowl, followed by a sweaty walk up and fly back to take-off for a restart. Meanwhile – the lead pilots, amongst them Chris Blanchard, Ant Moore, Tony Blacker had stormed around in about 45 minutes. I think I had the dubious pleasure of dribbling into goal next to last with a huge surplus of height – but how does anyone tear themselves away from the best climb of the day? Maybe one day the tortoise will win over the hare – but it’s a long time coming.
With everyone promptly collected and quickly scored, the task and the event was deemed a success, the company is always good and the venue worked perfectly; maybe the weather didn’t cooperate, but that’s paragliding. A big thank you to the PSC as hosts, and Viv and Gareth for keeping it together and running things smoothly. The really staggering thing for me, is that many British pilots don’t realise what great home-grown events there are without recourse to the expense and hassle of an airfare, car hire, insurance etc. The next BPC event (31st July – 8th August) is perfectly based (food, bar, accommodation, breakfast etc) at the Gliding Club near Bradwell. If that doesn’t whet the appetite then I can only assume the BPC has been far too shy in singing its praises or the British weather has finally seen off the majority of UK pilots.
Report by Ed Cleasby (first appeared in Skywings in 2015) photos by Viv Fouracre