Jeff Ripley sets a new Pukemore site record - 68.9km

Jeff Ripley's picture

Raglan Harbour At the AGM on Friday night, several of us thought that the forecast looked promising for the following day and decided Pukemore was a good option.

The morning's forecast seemed to differ a little from the previous evening, with more of an easterly wind swinging to the northeast as the day went on. Pukemore was still our target. A quick check of the site record showed Russell Read had flown 61Km on 06.02.99 - about time we updated that one, I thought. The 61Km mark meant he would have landed a few Km to the north of Aotea Harbour. After checking the area on a 3D Topo for landing options, I went to pick up Alex and download the airspace map into my Garmin. This proved a little time-consuming and, with time ticking, we left for Pukemore, stopping to cast our vote on the way.

Spot Evan - between Puke and the West CoastSpot Evan - between Puke and the West Coast

Once over the Bombay Hills, we were greeted with nice looking cumulus clouds forming in the east and to the south. The day was looking good. Evan had come down but wasn't planning to fly too far because of work that evening and the logistics of getting there on time after a long flight.

On launch there were a few decent thermic gusts coming through, but well within the capabilities of the 8 or so pilots setting up to launch. I launched not long after Evan and we quickly found good thermals after pushing out the front a few hundred metres. Ten minutes later we were at 3500ft leaving the thermal and on our first glide towards Taupiri. The next few km to Ngaruawahia were a mix of broken thermals and crosswind gliding to keep to the east of the range, within glide of suitable landing areas if needed.

At Ngaruawahia I found myself below ridge height, with Evan a few hundred feet above, after taking a slightly different line to him. This was the first bit of real pressure. The wind was fairly brisk and I needed to find a good climb to go over the back from here. The trigger was found from a disused quarry and finally I was circling in a solid 2-3m/s climb. It broke up at about 3000ft and I went on glide towards Evan who was climbing above a smoky fire near Glen Massey (trust Evan to sniff this one out).

Raglan HarbourRaglan Harbour

Raglan Harbour was now in clear view. We left what was to be the last good thermal in which we could do more than one circle without falling out or losing it completely. The next ten kms were a rollercoaster ride through small thermals blown to bits by the strong wind. Things were looking grim for me as I kept losing altitude with only a couple of kms between me and the harbour. Evan was a few hundred ft above me. I hastily unbuckled my pod harness and picked a couple of average landing options. To my amazement, the high ground I was passing worked nicely and, after several minutes, the thermal consolidated into the best climb of the day, topping out around 5000ft.

Best climb before Raglan harbour: click here to check out the details on LeonardoBest climb before Raglan harbour: click here to check out the details on Leonardo

For the first time in 40Km I was comfortable enough to take a few photos and enjoy the view, maybe not as much as Evan though > one of the first things he asked was "did you see the mountain? " I had to admit I hadn't even looked in that direction.

Bridal Veil FallsBridal Veil Falls

A reasonable glide and a couple of small climbs took us to Bridal Veil Falls, time for a couple more photos as we circled and drifted in light broken lift for a few more kms. I could now see the 61km mark I needed to pass. I was low at around 1500ft and had to find one more climb or I would fall short of my goal by a few kms. For the second time in the flight, I un-clipped my pod and checked for landing spots along what I thought was my final glide. After what seemed like ages (a minute or two) the air got a little bubbly and I turned to see if I could find a core. Evan seemed to be right on top of it so I merged into his circles and climbed to 3000ft as we drifted closer to the coast.

View towards Kawhia HarbourView towards Kawhia Harbour

At this point my GPS was showing a distance from launch of 60Km so I knew the record was in the bag. Both of us were wary of potentially being blown off shore with the NE wind. Evan indicated he was going on glide towards the village of Aotea. I hung back and climbed a little higher and decided to fly more downwind along the coast. My glide was good as I watched Evan going through some sink as he pushed crosswind. I was directly over the Aotea harbour entrance at around 2200ft when I noticed my glider stalled behind me and clapping hands (maybe it was saying "good flight dude here's a round of applause"). The glider surged forward and gained flying speed - I resisted breaking it until I was sure it was well in front of me. Any thoughts of more photos were quickly abandoned as I tried to get my heart rate back to normal. I think I had flown through a sheer layer as my glide was now fairly poor. I picked a spot on the beach a few km south of the harbour entrance as far away as possible from the hills behind the beach and any likelihood of turbulence. I watched as the GPS clicked over 68.5km then turned into wind and landed on the dunes.

Beach landingBeach landing

A quick pack of the glider and then I was off, walking north along a remote west coast beach towards the small village of Aotea. A very pleasant 45 minute walk brought me back to civilisation and cell phone coverage. I couldn't believe my luck when Alex said he was driving my car near Kawhia (just over the hill) and had already picked up Evan. A few minutes later I was bundled into the back of my own car and driving to Auckland.

Big thanks to Alex and Nick for the fantastic retrieve and having to put up with Evan and me still pretty hyped up all the way back after a seriously good day out.

Needless to say, Evan didn't make work that night!

Final distance: 68.9Km

Max Height: 5000ft

Min height: 3ft

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