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Windsurfers over Famara

Not long passed my CP with the expertise of the Freeman, Potts partnership and the Cheviot hang gliding school. I was clipped into the winch near Cockle Park with my recently acquired Clubman and Chris Foster asked me if I’d be interested in a trip to Lanzarote. Definitely!

Mid January. Manchester airport. Wet and cold, “Now remember it’s a windsurfer, not a hang glider” “Eh?”

Still mid January, Arrecife airport, Sunny and warm. “Ok, it’s a hang glider again.” “Eh?”

Getting the hang gliders through the check-in and onto the plane was much simpler than I thought it was going to be. Getting them onto the roof of the hired car was only accomplished without being arrested or having to get a truncheon extracted from anyones body parts, due to the diplomacy and tact exercised by Peter Talbot and Chris when confronted by an irate local Bobby having a bad day! “To the Pub “ Says Dave

Day 2

English breakfast devoured and head for Mala. Rigging the gliders was a bit of a muckaround as they were still in the foam, bubble wrap and tape used for protection in case a baggage handler ‘dropped them’. Checking them over, Alistair Johnstones’ seems to have suffered some minor abuse en route, apart from that, Let’s fly! “Come on Bob, you next” said Dave Hume. This is a bit higher than East hill I’m thinking.

“See that bit over there? That’s the bottom landing”

Nah, he’s joking right? Nope! I can just make out a German who took off as we arrived, landing in the distant spot.

Christ, what am I doing here? I am totally out of my league.

Ali, decides to go. Couple of beats and gone. Chris has a go and looks like he’s not gaining for the first few beats, but, he found second gear and off he goes. Ali top lands telling us “It’s really smooth up there”. It’s really smooth standing here Ali, I’m thinking.

So, being the novice among the experienced (who seem to have forgotten their early flying days) I’m clipped in, hang check done about four or five times (at least). Watched a German getting blown backwards and crumple his uprights.

“Release!” What the hell was I worried about?

I’m too far from the ridge to be in the serious lift but I’m comfortable with this at the moment, so I just ignored Ali and Co waving their arms frantically trying to entice me in towards the jaggy bits. There were other people about but they seem to keep out my way. Either the red ribbon works or a Scotsman screaming with excitement is not to be flown beside. The scenery is mind blowing! No green fields, no sheep, just a vast amount of rough terrain.

A few more beats and I’m losing height due to my inexperience and cautiousness. I know what I should be doing but putting into practice is a different story. What the hell! Even top to bottoms in Lanzarote are worth going for when still in your training pants. Lots of 360’s on the way down to lose the height and a landing that puts a grin on my face. Lots of chat with other flyers, and everybody had a good day, and I stayed up longer than birthday boy Dave!

“To the pub” Says Dave

Day 3

A few of us are a bit under the weather today. Must have been the water??

English breakfast and one car goes north to Mala,(party poopers) the other goes to Macher.(drunken bums)

What a view! There was very little wind but there was a couple of para-gliders up at Macher but nothing much interesting happening until a couple of canopies kissed, resulting in them landing to untie the knot in one of them. No flying today. Tourist trip to see where the financially well off, park their yachts. Impressive!

Off for a newly discovered hang over cure. Tomato soup. Now that’s impressive.

“To the Pub”

Day 4

English breakfast and head north for a site called Mirador.
At the most northerly point on Lanzarote, this is another awesome place to visit.We stop at the bottom landing site for a recce as it is not visible from the top. Frankly I’m not surprised as it’s only a five-a-side football pitch. With goal posts, I might add! At this stage of my learning curve, I must admit I hadn’t really considered this little detail. All my previous flying had been done with a landing point fully visible from take off.

Up to the top and there is a tourist trap up there tempting you into a hole in the mountain to view the surrounding area for a couple of euros. If we get off we’ll be able to see it for nothing. Standing at take off, the 360 degree view is another amazing site but some heavy cloud and rain approaching from the North east soon tells us we won’t be flying here today.

Into the cars for a drive down the west side of the Island via a mountain top café for some local Paella (Yughh) and on to a ridge called Famara for a looksee.

Now, I’d seen pictures taken by Colin Chapman of this site but, standing at top take off is not to be compared to with Hebdon Wood. It’s a little higher and my training pants are getting wetter, and the thumping in my ears is getting louder. Not enough wind yet but, from this site we can see some action on another site called El Cuchillo. So, westward we went.

Not as high as Famara but a lovely hill with some extremely rough air. Not recommended for the inexperienced. Enough said. I opt for the recovery driving job on this and help everyone else with getting off. Including a slightly arrogant Dutchman. But, with a few quiet words in fluent Scottish he did apologise in perfect English.

Ali was up for ages as was Alan. Peter had some aggressive lift from where I was standing. Dave,………….. Well, he wasn’t up for long. Chris had yet another good flight.

“To the pub” Says Dave

Day 5

English breakfast and off to Macher again. The roads are a bit rough to these sites but if you had to walk up it would take a pretty big chunk out of your flying time. What the hell! It’s a hired car. Pity on the next bloke. “there’s the landing field over there” says Dave, Ali, etc About the same distance from Moneylaws to Coldstream, I reckon!

Send the guinea-pig up. Alan steps forward. Off he goes and gains a little, but it’s obvious we won’t be staying up long today. Chris goes next and shows the way to the field. I’ve never flown over Main roads and roundabouts before.

What a flight! A top to bottom in anyone elses book, but in mine? The most exciting top to bottom I’ve ever had. Being about midday, there were plenty lumps about which made for some interesting facial expressions as the legs were dropped from the harnesses.

“To the pub?” Nah, let’s stay and watch Alan screw up his landing. I’ve never seen cross wind landings done before on a hang glider, but if he’d told this was his plan I would have brought my camera, just so he could perfect his technique with the aid of pictures.

Fortunately, Chris got it on digi film. Back to the top for the other car and Mr. (can’t keep it up for long) Hume has a go. And guess what?

Then, we’re of to Famara as the wind has done a U’ turn. Top take off and I am having a problem hearing due to the sound of blood being pumped through my head. So, after watching Alan disappear, Chris and Ali start charging up and down the ridge. Peter has a go and makes it look really easy, “Release!” This is what it’s all about. A massive ridge running North, South with the flat land below. The beach and the town all within easy reach for most, but I’m staying here where I can see the landing field and practice flying a bit closer to the hill with some 360’s thrown in for confidence. What a flight! Best yet. Pitch dark when we all get picked up due to a mix up with who was to pick up who? Who’s missing? Where’s the car? Who has the keys? Why was Alan left alone in the dark with a stray dog? How long was Dave up for?

Head for…….. Yup . The pub.

Day 6

English breakfast and back to Famara. Bottom take off this time as the cloud is sitting on the ridge. This makes the site a little busier than yesterday and certainly keeps you alert and on your toes.

A few paragliders training on the lower slopes, working their way up as they get more confident. Lots of Germans, Dutch, Norwegian and French flyers speaking a universal language. Well, almost. One incident was a little confusing due to the misunderstanding of the word “free?” Most people would take this to mean “let go” or “Release” but the Germans preferred to know if the Nose man was hanging on to the wires or were the wires “free?” ie. Loose. Then “ok” means “I’m going”. Thank god it’s not a 747 checklist!

Some thermals left me well above take off and that’s without doing 360’s. Words of encouragement from Mr. Hume. “Bob, your 360’s are alright,but, you need to do them in the lift not in the sink. Duh! I find myself venturing further and further away from the take off point. Gaining confidence, I begin taking some pictures with the camera mounted on the uprights. Don’t know what I’m taking them of, so I just keep pressing the button. Then, rain. Jesus, think Bob, think, what did it say in the book about flying in rain? Nothing? What’s everybody else doing? Running for cover? Nope. I could see Chris (below me I must add) so all must be ok. The air was more violent but with the cloud heading away it all settled nicely and I had something else to add to my book of experiences.

My arms were just starting to ache when I found myself drifting away from the ridge leaving the lift area and heading for the bottom landing field. There are streamers all over the place telling you the wind direction from way off, so plenty of time to get prepared for the “iffy” Bit. Everybody had a good day today. Everybody stayed up for ages. Well, except Dave of course. Something to do with, “the adhesive content of the water droplets” on his leading edge. In otherwords “Ali didn’t wipe the water off properly”


“Never mind Dave, let’s go to the pub for a change” “To the pub” Says Dave

Day 7

English breakfast and back to Famara. I could never get fed up with this site it is so large compared to the hills I’ve been on back home. Will it ever be the same?

I have to mention at this point that, things are starting to fit into place now. Confidence is increasing. I’m more relaxed than I’ve been. Keeping more in the lift band than out. Experimenting with my kite more. So, off we go.

The top take off is clear of cloud but we still go off from the bottom one. The cloud is still covering the ridge to the north preventing anyone from heading up the island too far but, it looks to be clearing with blue skies behind. This means the more experienced bunch will head up the ridge leaving some space for me without having to worry about traffic.

Chris has his new digital video camera mounted on the keel of his Discovery, which is going to make some interesting viewing later.
Alan top lands in a very unusual direction again Squeezing between Parked cars and hang gliders much to the delight of everyone watching, who all cheered and applauded. More from relief than from enjoyment though.

Another cracking day’s flying and the last, but everybody had another good day’s flying and Dave managed to stay up this time. We all landed in time to watch the cloud just clearing from the ridge.
Packed up and head back to short pack and wrap the kites for the journey home.

“To the pub” says Dave. So we did!

Getting home was uneventful but full of memories and should’ve dones but there is always next year. Lanzarote is ideal for the novice looking to accelerate his or her learning process due to the weather being better than Britain in winter and the number of sites located on a very small Island, but you have to have the right people guiding and advising you like I did! Thanks have to go to Chris for organizing the digs and being an excellent club coach, Dave for organizing the flights and always flying below me, Ali for the laughs and helpful advice , Peter for the confidence to get me off the top and, Alan for showing me how to and HOW NOT TO!

Thanks also to Ronnie Freeman and Selby Potts for the tuition enabling me to go on this trip.

But thanks to them all for their invaluable knowledge and help.

Next year chaps?

Bob Sutherland

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