Hang Gliding at Apollo Bay early Autumn 2023

South-easterly winds of 12-14 knots were forecast for Friday at Apollo Bay. By 1045 on that Friday Bruce, Hughbert and I were standing on launch with a 10-12 knot south-easterly blowing directly up the hill into our smiling faces. There were occasional whitecaps on the sea indicating light but suitable wind strength; the windsock we placed beside our takeoff strip was showing south-east; and the boats in the harbour on swing moorings were all pointing south east. Each of these boats in the largely current-free harbour is in effect a 40 foot windsock for us when we launch and while we are airborne, being clearly visible over the 2.5kms between us and the harbour. They provide great advance notice of any change in wind direction heading towards the coastal hills while we are flying, and they also assist in deciding whether to land to the north or the south on the beach.

I took off at 1145 and Hughbert and Bruce followed shortly after that. Takeoff required a bit of a run. I turned left along the hills towards Marriners Lookout basically maintaining takeoff height plus a few feet. I kept an eye out to sea which is where the first indication of any change in wind strength would be signalled. I was hoping for a slight increase. After 10 minutes or so of flying back and forth just above Marriners Lookout at 800-900 feet, about 3kms offshore I spotted the clear signs of a band of slightly stronger wind approaching over the sea. The water was slightly more textured, the white caps were more marked and wind lanes were visible. The wind was about to increase in strength, but not dramatically. I didn’t have long to wait until a wind of 15-17 knots reached the shore then me.

I was able to climb in this slightly stronger wind to my maximum height on the day of 1916 feet above sea level. Given my takeoff elevation was 846 feet above sea level, my height gain above takeoff was 1070 feet. From that height I could see east to Cape Patton and south-west to Cape Otway, and north back over the eucalypt forests on the hills and valleys west of Wild Dog Creek. My glider can fly safely at quite low airspeeds. This allows me to hover above the ground on days such as this one by flying at an airspeed which is the same as the wind speed. On this flight it allowed me to take in at my leisure the magnificent cape to cape panorama before me.

Bruce and Hughbert in their superior high-performance gliders and using their superior skills, flew to Cape Patton and back before landing on the beach where I landed.

For the hour and some minutes I was flying the wind had periods of being light as it had been when I took off, alternating with periods when it was strong enough to let me climb back up to altitudes over 1800 feet. There were some thermals around which provided lift over and above the ridge lift provided by the wind blowing onshore and over the hills. Most agreeable conditions.

When I eventually decided to land I flew in quite buoyant air towards my house, hoping (without success) to spot Liz and Magpie in the garden to signal that I was about to land, then flew on and landed on the beach near the servo. There is a wide gap in the dunes there which makes it easy to carry the glider from the beach to an area of mown grass behind the dunes which is sheltered from the wind. The perfect pack-up location – far superior to a windy beach.

We enjoyed a slow pack-up, lunch with Liz and more than a few conversations with interested passers-by. An excellent day.

Hughbert putting battens in his hang glider wing

Hughbert on launch setting up his high performance Kombat hang glider out of the wind, with his back to an excellent view.

My glider has the green fluoro leading edge on the wings (and the kingpost coming up from the centre of the keel).

Bruce setting up his hang glider

Bruce setting up his high-performance hang glider. If the set-up area were carpeted it couldn’t be any more comfortable (but there might be less leeches).

Takeoff run commencing in Fun 190

The first step of my takeoff run. Bruce standing clear after manning the side wires to assist me as I moved to my launch position.

Photo from keel of hang glider of Fun 190 hanbg glider just airborne over Apollo Bay

This photo is a screen-shot from a GoPro video. The GoPro was mounted on the rear of the keel. This image shows the first moments after my feet left the ground.

Hang glider pilot putting his legs inside the pod harness after takeoff

Retracting the landing gear. I am inserting my legs into the tapered aft end of the pod harness, which has an aluminium stirrup for my feet to rest on. It’s very comfortable. Once my legs are in the harness, it zips up to keep it streamlined (low drag). This photo, and the three following, are screen shots from a video taken by Hughbert from the launch site.

Soaring away over Apollo Bay in a hang glider with feet inside the pod harness

Safely airborne – the search for the best lift begins.

Bruce's Combat glider over Skenes Creek with Cape Patten in the background

Hughbert took this shot of Bruce passing below and in front of him. Part of Hughbert’s wingtip can be seen in the top left of this image.

Hughbert selfie in the air in his Kombat hang glider over Apollo Bay

Hughbert took this portrait shot in flight. That’s his cabron fibre base bar at the bottom of the image.

From 1800+ feet above sea level, a magnificent view from Cape Patton to the Great Otway National Park near Cape Otway

Fun 190 hang glider soaring around 1900 feet above sea level with view from Cape Patten to Marengo

Cape Patton on the far left, and Point Bunbury and Hayley Point on the right.

View from hang glider of Apollo Bay township and Cape Patten in the distance

Point Bunbury and Hayley Point under the left wing. The coast below the right wing extends to Blanket Bay in the distance, with the hills of the Great Otway National Park obscuring Cape Otway beyond.

Landing and packing up

Hughbert on the left, and Bruce on the right – both on final approach to land. There was sufficient head-wind component on the beach when I landed to allow the Fun 190, with a very gentle flare, to come to a complete halt in the air just above the ground as it lowered me to a soft touchdown on the sand.

Hubert overflying Bruce's landed glider, on short final approach to land

Hughbert (above and below)

Hughbert landing on beach, as seen from behind.

Top left: Bruce, with his glider in the background.

Lower right: Hughbert’s 4WD with three hang gliders, and a surf ski just in case conditions weren’t right for hang gliding.

Hughbert and Bruce, I enjoyed your company on this flight in these great conditions.

Data from the Flyskyhigh app on my iPhone

In addition to producing data records such as those below, this remarkable app also provides in-flight date including: altitude, height above ground, distance covered, lift and sink (in feet per minute), airspeed and groundspeed, current heading, clock time and iPhone battery status. It starts automatically on takeoff, and stops automatically on landing. The iPhone sits on the far RH side of my basebar, secured in a RAM mount. The camera lens points forward, and I can activate video recording if I wish without taking the camera out of the mount.

While these track logs principally show the final approach and landing track, the track on the right-hand image shows in green the back and forth soaring in lighter winds, and in dark blue the soaring at higher altitudes when the wind was a little stronger. The black lines on the ground are in effect a ‘shadow’ of the track, drawn on the ground directly beneath the track flown. Note the S-turns before I lined up for my straight-line final approach (in orange then red) – these were height-loss manoeuvres. I planned to arrive over the groynes with more height than required, then wash it off with such turns. Aborting an approach and ‘going around’ for a second shot at it, as one might in a powered aircraft, is never an option in a hang glider.

3 thoughts on “Hang Gliding at Apollo Bay early Autumn 2023

  1. It was a pleasure to be flying and sharing the skies over Apollo bay with you, John and Bruce.
    Hang gliding is awesome and the friendships are just as good if not better.

    Liked by 1 person

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