Pennine Round 2022

2022 was the first year back for the BPCup following a two year break due to the Covid 19 pandemic which put paid to many sporting activities.

Fortunately, although only having one round, our pilots were able to enter their flights in the UK XC League and thus earn points towards their overall scores in the competition.(see Rule 16 under Rules for details of the handicap system). 

Parlick - August 2022 - Report by Mark Simpson

“Tonight, Matthew, I’m going to be a Comp pilot”, infamous words that sprung to mind as I paid my fees to enter my first competition, the BPCup 2022. Now to most people entering a comp it is no big deal, but for me it was like I’d just paid good money for a results sheet to tell me how bad I was at my chosen hobby compared to everyone else, so why bother?

I had heard about it from a telegram message and it was described as the ideal starting ground for people new to the competition format and gave the opportunity for less experienced pilots to ask the stupid questions without fear of ridicule, which suited me perfectly, plus only C rated wings and below could enter.

The competition is based on six tasks but depending on conditions on the chosen days (four consecutive) you also enter up to six flights on XC League that can count towards the overall score, but only flights between the 25th May and 25th of August inclusive can be used, so a great incentive to get some xc in to build up some points should the weather not play ball and some tasks have to be cancelled.

I set off on Thursday lunchtime with an estimated three and a half hour drive up to Bowland Forest Gliding Club at the bottom of Parlick Hill in Lancashire, that just so happened that I used to climb as a kid, I grew up locally in Preston down the road, so a bit of nostalgia and flying combined. On arrival it didn’t disappoint as childhood memories came flooding back of the torture I endured being dragged up the hill, another pointless walk with my parents, perhaps it would have been different if we were allowed to jump off the top back then rather than having to walk back down.

Parlick is a short walk of about 30 minutes depending on fitness and we had the chance to have our bags dropped at the bottom from camp by Gareth (meet director) so a lovely start to day one. The first task was a cat’s cradle with two waypoints and a start and end of speed section and a glide back to the landing field, sounds simple. Now bear in mind I have only just started using my instruments to navigate downwind and after my last two flights both impinged airspace, including a PB of 122K, I have had little success. I am what some would describe as a slow learner if being polite, but I acknowledge it’s just me being thick with the mental capacity of a cabbage when it comes to flying and trying to read my phone, but as I said earlier this is exactly who the BPCup is designed for. So, after lots of help from fellow competitors the task was put in my phone and the race began.

I spotted two buzzards out front along with Tom, who beat me to be the first to launch, so I headed out behind in search of that first climb and it worked perfectly as we both started to thermal up. Then another nine pilots launched from the hill once we provided a reasonable guarantee that the bottom landing field was not calling just yet!

Now the good thing about competition flying is the level of experience amongst fellow competitors, which varies massively from the beginner like myself to others that are regularly flying 100k plus declared and everything in-between, but the downside to that is you soon realise how bad you are at flying when surrounded by people who just do it better.

I held back and made the most of every climb when I found it, topping out at base each time. The only issue with this was that it was very slow as the results revealed, I was nearly five mph slower compared to the fastest. The upside of my slow speed was that I was only one of two competitors left in the air towards the end, I assumed everybody had completed the task and gone home to be honest. On landing I was greeted by Tom who said I had made ESS, gees what now, another bloody infringement, but it turns out ESS means end of speed section! I was short of goal but really pleased that I’d managed to follow a route at last and no breaking airspace. As it turns out after all the IGC files were submitted I was in fourth place, happy days.

Day two task was set on the hill and a more downwind route was the plan, but with a very low base of around 2800ft it wasn’t going to be easy. More than half the field hadn’t got away yesterday so were awarded minimum points, this meant a little more tension in the air for some as people jostled to quickly enter the task on their phones and secure a good launch position.  I could afford to sit back and only launched when I could see someone climbing out front, but I wasn’t the only one and a mass launch ensued. What I can say is the standard of airmanship was superb, not once did I feel flustered when thermaling with other pilots, everyone just seemed to gel perfectly.

As predicted the height of base was a big limiting factor, Parlick being around 1300ft so any downwind dash would have been a glide into the moors behind, which I didn’t fancy, and as it turned out no one else did either. Some pilots tried to push around the side but were unsuccessful and the remainder generally just stayed on the hill praying base would lift with a chance to escape. After an hour and a half in the air I was getting frustrated, I could see some pilots making a run down the ridge so decided to follow. Ten minutes later I was on the ground but still smiling and another great day was added to the memory bank. IGC files submitted and the difference between first and last place I think was 0.8 of a point, I’m still in fourth!! I feel guilty now because at this stage I was praying for the other tasks to be cancelled so I could keep fourth place, I know, I’m going to hell.

Task three and the weather was not looking great so another cat’s cradle task was loaded onto the phone to allow pilots to remain close to the hill as downwind was very unstable with some scary looking sky to say the least. Now I love a chat on the hill prior to flying and its rare that you turn up and can fly straight away but today we would wait over five hours with only a top to bottom ten mins before the task closed. The wind had gone round the hill a full 360 degrees since our arrival and was forward launch only by now, so that’s always fun to watch. It seemed to catch a few people out but only pride was hurt. The task was over, and no one had manged to secure minimum points or minimum distance to register the round, my wish had come true, nil pois for everyone.

Day four and we woke to strong wind, forecast to get stronger as the day went on so the decision was made to cancel the day, disappointed but deep down I was still praying for fourth. Now because only two tasks had been completed, four flights on the XC league would now be used to calculate the scores. Remember I mentioned I’d lost my longest flight and another just under sixty kilometres to airspace infringements, well those mistakes just cost me fourth and I came in sixth once the results came in, but fourth for the weekend so not too disappointed, but certainly room for improvement.

So that was the end of my first real competition, and I can’t stress how much I have learned. The knowledge you can gain from events like these is unlimited and all you have to do is talk to your fellow competitors, it’s that easy. Yes, the hill can sometimes look like a misplaced SAGA holiday as the average age of pilots can top the sixty plus mark, but the experience and skills these pilots have is second to none. I can’t think of another sport where experience and knowledge will out fly enthusiasm and the first up the hill all day long. It was a real pleasure to share the skies with like-minded people, and yes, I will be back next year, if they will have me.

 

1st - Tom Hodgkin - Air Design Volt 4

2nd - Martin Horn - Ozone Delta 4

3rd - Brian Greenwell - Advance Sigma 10

Most Improved Pilot - Danny Murphy - Air Design Soar

Best Newcomer - Tom Hodgkin - Air Design Volt 4

Overall results

Our three top placed pilots, left to right -Tom Hodgkin, Martin Horn and Brian Greenwell.  

Pilots and guests relaxing at the evening BBQ

Photos by Lester Gordon

Finally,  a great big thank you to the sponsors – Beeston Brewery, Cross Country Magazine, Foster Knight, Ozone Paragliders, Superdesign and V12 Outdoors. Not forgetting our hosts Pennine Soaring Club and the Bowland Forest Gliding Club,  – we couldn’t do it without your amazing support.