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Mike Cavanagh Goes 101km: Cumbria to Scotland

July 23, 2009

The goal of flying over 100km in a straight line has long eluded the Cumbria paragliding community, but recently Ozone’s Managing Director, Mike Cavanagh, escaped from his computer and launched his Mantra M3 from Blease for a 101.75km flight over the border to Scotland.

Mike is one of the original founders of our company, and for more than a decade he has been spending a lot more time running Ozone than he has in the air, although nowadays he still finds time to catch a few thermals on the good days.

Ozone is a pilot’s company, and we’re proud of the fact that even our managing director still gets out for XC flying when it’s good. Even our test and design team, after spending all week in the air developing wings, heads out for XC adventures on the weekends – in fact, David Dagault (Chief Test Pilot and Designer) and Luc Armant (Test Pilot) are currently leading the French XC league!

Below is Mike’s account of the local record flight:

“July 11th – a bit of a surprise! The usual indecision was present – to go somewhere in the south lakes – Barkin, Cautley, …if wind was light maybe the Langdales. Perhaps out to the Dales to Staggs or Semer Water. Luckily the fact that my car was still in the quarry at Clough, after flying from there to Whitestones the day before, and Ben was offering to drive up there rather than hoping we could fly to it, had us heading north. Once we were in the north lakes we still had a bit of indecision between Souther and Blease. We saw people high on Souther but when we got to the road end we could only see people struggling on the hill with wind off to the south. Catherine and Katie pointed out the high ones that had a lucky break with a single cloud helping them get high. We still had thoughts of a Dales site where the Pennine clouds looked a lot better before taking the more sensible and more immediate option of Blease.

It turned out to be bang on and, in reality, quite windy. I was thinking about the usual batting about, to try and work out a triangle, but the wind and a rowdy climb out near the top made me consider a bit of a down winder. So I flew out to Souther where I got quite high leaving all options open. Good looking clouds in the Pennines reached out to Carlisle, so I thought I would glide into the blue and hopefully pick up something that would get me that far. In reality it was nice to go for a nice long glide without having to think about the hills!

Over the lone windmill at Calbeck out in front of Carrock it was starting to look tricky but my last major trigger, a quarry, was still within reach, and beyond something that looked like a chicken farm. Downwind of this it worked and although it was not very organised low down the lift got me back high, the drift not far off where I wanted to go to get across the Solway near Carlisle and where the good looking clouds were still in some abundance.  The glide was good and the first clouds worked, I had reached my target and I had a good feeling. There seemed to be nice clouds heading the right way, just about down wind, although they were on the edge of blue sky. There were better clouds if I was willing to track due North, but the thought of the strong wind that I would be slightly cross winding, the hills and big tracts of forests all persuaded me to keep out of the boonies however good the clouds looked.

The line of clouds also kept me closer to the motorway and they worked like the stepping stones you dream about. I took most climbs high rather than long glides and skip them as the climbs were stronger higher up. I didn’t drop below 800m all the way to Moffat! And I think the ack-ack guns that I believe the Scottish flyers have put in place to keep us south of the border must have been out hunting haggis as I crossed the border with a smile.
On the way, some wind mills confirmed the south easterly. At Moffat I faced another choice. My line of clouds, close to the wind direction were petering out into the blue, there were very good clouds if I was willing to cross wind a lot and head up the valley towards St Mary’s Loch. There was also a third option, between the other two, directly north, but this was a bit blue and went over Devil’s Beeftub, an area where I have failed to find any thermals on a previous trip when me and Alex drove up there – I did not fancy that again.

As I was over Moffat I knew it was about as far as people had got on previous flights and although my clouds were petering out, they looked like they would get me the 100km! Tinto was also beckoning and the motorway was on the track! Decision made and off I glided into the roughest of thermals, a bit of a wake up after the nice climbs I had got used to. There was an 8mps lurking around in there which gave me quite a tussle, but ultimately it got me back high. Meanwhile those clouds had petered out faster than I hoped and my next glide turned into my final one as the last decaying cloud failed me. I thought about heading for a hill to wait, but looked at the distance on my gps saying 98km; hopefully just carrying on with the glide and landing by the road would get me 100km in a straight line. It was bit closer than I expected as I touched down by the pub at Crawford – 101.75km. I had a big grin on my face and hoped the machine was telling me the truth.
Some perfect hitches got me back to my car and home before 8pm. Yeahey – I’m glad we chose Blease today!!”