When I first went to look at an Antares it was more out of curiosity – I had heard that it had a big cockpit and I was close to physical and weight limits in my LS8. Seeing one in the flesh became “love at first sight” and three hours later that turned into “love at first flight”.
I started to imagine how well it would suit my needs in Scotland (I fly from Portmoak, about half an hour north of Edinburgh) where on a few magical days each year we get excellent wave – the combination of comfort, high speed performance and ability to launch exactly when I wanted (self-launching directly into wave on short winter days to save precious daylight or at sunrise on a summer morning to attempt long distances) was just irresistible.
Since taking delivery in March this year I’ve flown some 200 hours and about 9000km and the love affair continues. ‘ve had some flights of more than 8 hours in the cockpit and still been in perfect comfort. Just knowing that there is a reliable way to avoid long retrieves gives confidence to explore distant and inhospitable areas where there are very few fields – and in winter they are often full of sheep. Nine times out of ten you don’t need to use it – but when I have it has been 100% reliable.
The performance has worked too – even in the weak conditions of this year’s UK Mountain soaring Championship the glider helped me to win the competition – something I’ve been trying unsuccessfully to do for the last six years. In stronger conditions the Antares really is the weapon of choice.
On 10th August I had a go at the UK 300km out and return record which stood at 121kph. Launching around sunrise was beautiful, and in non-perfect wave conditions I managed 158kph and was back at home before well before the weather closed in at noon.
November is a time when many pilots put their toys a way for the winter – but recently we’ve found it to be the best month of the year. UK weather patterns are never very predictable but sometimes the Scandinavian blocking high pressure stops Atlantic storms reaching through to the east side of the UK. If a deep depression reaches southern Norway, it leaves a nice north-westerly airflow in rising pressure over Scotland. If the jet stream is overhead and the rising pressure prevents excessive cloud cover conditions can be very good.
In recent years it seems that the Scandinavian high doesn’t decay until later in the year than previously – leaving November as a good month even though hours of daylight are short. In the first ten days of November this year I flew on four days and did some 2250 OLC km (1215 nm). The highlight was an attempt on the UK 500km out and return record – to achieve that in Scotland needed a new turn point, Tongue, a village right on the north coast at nearly 58 and a half degrees N – further north than any glider has been before.
Cloud cover was between 4 and 7.5 octas and flying heights between 6000 and 11000ft. Running along wave bars I fly at about 100kts, slowing to maybe 70kts if there is unusually strong lift or a weak area ahead. Jumping to an upwind wave bar demands something like 130kts to avoid losing too much height (to minimise time in 800ft\min sing with a 50kt headwind). In the end the difficult parts were the start and finish which had almost total cloud cover, and deviating well off-course to find a good energy line into a previously unexplored area without landable fields. Nevertheless the speed came in at 117 kph (63.2 kts), 5 kph (2.7 kts) more than the existing record held by a Nimbus 3.
Both new records await ratification, but the potential has been proven beyond all doubt. I love my new toy!