King Karoly proves floppy is just as good as hard

The Dunstable site record has fallen. Yes, again! In less than 3 years.

Consider that the record, of 98 Miles, was set in 1998 by Pete Roberts on a Hang Glider and it stood for 15 Years! It was not until 2013 that it was beaten by another HG expertly piloted by Andrew Hollidge when he flew 153.9KM and most of it under 2500′

The picture is clear. To get away from Dunstable is not easy. To set a site record is even harder. To do it with a stiffy is hard but a floppy paraglider. Surely not possible?

Well, on 28th April 2016 Karoly Megyesi set a new site record when he flew 157.6KM on,…. Yes you guessed it. A floppy! A niviuk Icepeak 7 Pro floppy to be precise.

His tracklog can be seen here

It seems that getting away from Dunstable requires what would seem to be poor flying weather. All records to date have been set on ‘poor’ days. In 1998 Pete Roberts required a ground crew to hold him down as he launched his Hang Glider into very high wind. In 2013 Andrew Hollidge was the only person flying and scrapped up to 2500′ and stayed there cruising along on his Hang Glider. And the latest flight by Karoly is very similar to Andrews with a large proportion of his flight being 2500′.

After looking through the track log I noticed, in sheer disbelief, some incredible stats. A low save of 709′ (just 600′ AGL), a top speed of 82.8KM/H and a duration of just 4hrs 49 mins. It looked also like a flight of two halves with the first leg being very different to the 2nd.
Intrigued,  I asked Karoly to describe his flight.

He said “I wanted to make the coast but landed early” !

He then agreed to give a more detailed insight:

“Ok so this is how it happened. I knew from the weather forecast that a front will be approaching to Dunny around 2 o’clock so my plan was to takeoff early and leave the strong wind and rain behind. When I arrived to Dunny, around 9:30, people were already climbing. Especially Andy Wade. So, I was thinking this is looking better than what the weather forecast was predicting!
I prepared, I put the gear together and took off.
Immediately I could feel that this will be a great day. The thermals were very steady and reliable at 10 o’clock!
I climbed out with the second thermal to around 2500ft. It was very early so the cloudbase was low but the clouds were close to each other even at that height. I wondered if I could make a very fast flight towards Cambridge.

I found some magical lines pushing full bar and not sinking at all, sometimes hitting the 80-90km/h speed !
I stayed on bar all the way to Cambridge and made it there in around 1 hour 15 min (60km). Thermals were strong with 4-5m/s and I was banked over and biting into them.

After Cambridge the conditions started to disintegrate and that slowed me down but there were still some weak climbs and I managed to hold on. I had to change my flying, thermaling as flat as I could with just 1 up on the vario.
I held on and held on. Jumping between climbs and maximising my glide flying at trim or with half bar.

When I got to Bury St Edmunds I felt the wind had picked up and the direction changed to SSW so the thermals were broken up and drifting a lot! Most of the time I was very close to the ground but I never thought I would go down. I was enjoying the flight and somehow I always found a sunny spot within the big shadows. Tractors and combine harvesters saved me and I even headed towards some running horses who sent up some thermals for me!

In the meantime I was getting closer and closer to the coast it was a very exciting moment. It had been a strange, fairly low flight, with me only once getting a good enough height gain to make cloud base. I had taken off from Dunstable in the middle of England, flown over totally flat terrain and there in the distance was the coast! I had been low for the last few km and was still low. I looked at my distance and I knew I could take the site record. But now there was a new game on. Will I make it to the coast? I want to make the coast! I really want a photograph of me with an ice cream to send to the lads at Dunstable. With visions of my glorious photograph of me proudly holding my ice cream trophy in the air my mind was suddenly set on this new egotistical goal. I had transitioned from a fun flight with no aim to a desire to reach a goal and an ice cream. Maybe having a goal is not a good thing as unfortunately on the last climb I made a few bad decisions. I followed a bird instead of staying on the sunny spot, I hit a sink and, being low, I was not able to get through it and landed.
I was very happy. Not just because I had a great flight but I was very cold and tired and it was a relief to be back in the warm. I was delighted to see a bus station just 500yds away. So, I caught a bus to Ipswich and from there got the train to London. I was home by 9PM and still thinking  that I could have made it to the coast if I had been more patient with that last climb.

But hey I have to leave some purpose for the next flight!


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TOP TIPS May 2016


Two paraglider pilots dealt with nasty collapses at Dunstable today due to turbulence (around 13:00hrs 17th May). Both pilots recovered to normal flight and landed safely. 

Anticipate more turbulence when the air is cold, the sunshine is hot and the wind is moderate to strong. This problem is often magnified between 11:00hrs – 16:00hrs when the day’s thermals really start to mix the air up. The cloud tops will often have a shredded appearance instead of a neat, well defined ‘cauliflower’ form.

  • Look for signs of difficulties ground handling, collapsing wings and reports from recently landed pilots of “rough air”.
  • Measure the wind speeds or pester those who are measuring it. Use this information as well as the forecast wind speeds to inform your decision whether to: go XC/climb in thermals/ridge soar/wait/go home/or in extreme cases even return to work. 
  • Low flying (take offs, ridge soaring, landings) when it is thermic are extremely hazardous, especially for low airtime pilots who have not yet done any 360’s or thermal climbs because collapses closer to the ground give little time for recovery. New pilots are advised to avoid the middle of the day in such conditions.
  • Feel the air – is it smooth(ish) or are you having to control pitch, role and yaw a lot more than is normal? This can be felt on the ground before you take off.
  • Keeping a little more break on during gusting winds allows more control of pitch movements. 
  • Practice weight shifting until it becomes instinctive.
  • When caught in turbulence and dealing with collapse/s steer a safe course by looking where you want to go… and you will go towards safety.
  • Sufficient altitude gives you time to think and react appropriately.

Ian Hopcraft. DHPC Safety Officer

2014. What a year for XC

Well it seems that the 2014 XC season is over and the winter has finally arrived. For many pilots this will be their most memorable year with personal best XC flights being made. For others, myself included, it was probably the most frustrating year. I had never seen a paraglider over my house before but this year it happened three times and two of those were record breaking flights on days that I just could not fly. Sheer torture.

The Sharpenhoe site distance record fell twice and there were several other flights in between those 2 record breakers that were absolutely epic. Several of them over 200Km.

In this years XC league just under 2000km were logged from Sharpenhoe alone. It must be well over 2000km if we include all those unlogged XC’s. The site record changed hands twice in the year with Hugh Miller, Guy Anderson and Mark Watts jostling for pole position. It was finally snatched back by Hugh Miller with an incredible flight of 228.2Km with Mark Watts just  0.2KM short. Hugh retains the site record for the 2nd year running. Last year the record was 178KM when Hugh smashed the long standing site record of 98 miles (159Km) set by Pete Roberts way back in 1998.


The Sharpenhoe hall of fame: Click on the KM to see the log.

Hugh Millers incredible flight of  228.2KM on 24/07/2014
228.0km Mark Watts
205.5km211.4km  Guy Anderson
178.4km209.8km, 211.2km Hugh MIller
190.9km Kirsty Cameron
143.2km Helen Gant


Here are all the XC league flights from Sharpenhoe during the 2014 season.


Dunstable did pretty well too with 5 XC’s logged one of which was Karoly Megyesi with an amazing 120.2KM on a paraglider.

Here are the XC league flights for Dunstable




Congratulations to everybody in both these lists for such incredible flights.

Sharpenhoe has fallen.

“My longest flight anywhere on the planet is good enough but doing it in England, from the tiniest hill imagineable, wingtip to wingtip with my old mate Hugh that really takes some beating… Some days are special but this one was off the scale.” Guy Anderson


It was only a few weeks ago that Hugh Miller was awarded the Chris Ellison award for his record breaking flight from Sharpenhoe Clappers. This years season has already seen some astonishing flights logged in the XC league and one of particular note is another record breaking flight from Sharpenhoe.

Yet again, the infamous Hugh Miller managed to bag an incredible Sharpenhoe flight but this time he was not alone. Guy Anderson left Sharpenhoe with Hugh and managed to log a breath taking 211.4km followed closely by Hugh who logged 211.2 km. Their flights started at 11:11 on 15th April and finished at 17:47 when they landed in the Brecon Beacons near Libanus. Guy and Hugh are currently first and second in the uk national xc league.

Guy’s flight can be viewed here and Hugh’s is here

Guy produced a wonderful story board:

You can be forgiven for not knowing about Sharpenhoe as even if you drove past it you probably wouldn’t even think it could possibly be a flying site. A shallow slopey field next to a small tree-lined bowl doesn’t give much clue of what followed.

Hugh and I had been looking at the track of the anticyclone moving across the UK and it just happened to be perfect for Sharpenhoe yesterday with forecast NE flow early in the flight moving to just south of east into Wales. We declared a goal of 150km in Leominster and leapt off, together with Jimmy Piper. The first climb out was slow and scrabbly and barely got above 3k ft. This set the scene as we struggled for nearly three hours to cover 60km. Plenty of thermals but all super scrappy, Jimmy was very unlucky to drop out just before the conditions started to improve.

The drift took us too far south for our goal and as we arrived at Cheltenham we had to decide whether to head into Wales or turn down to Devon. The line into Wales was working beautifully by now and we raced along stunning lift lines just pausing to stop in by now pretty stonking thermals. With no sign of a sea breeze, we blatted on hitting the Black Mountains just south of Pandy. From 5k ft in the evening sun they looked breath-taking. The day by now was clearly fading and after a bit of ridge soaring on the Brecons we dropped down to the road.

My longest flight anywhere on the planet is good enough but doing it in England, from the tiniest hill imagineable, wingtip to wingtip with my old mate Hugh that really takes some beating… Some days are special but this one was off the scale.

I suspect the Chris Ellison award may have Guy’s name on it next year.


Another flight of note from Sharpenhoe was by Karoly Megyesi who diluted his Dunstable only xc flights with 2 from Sharpenhoe. Karoly currently sits in 29th position in the xc league with all of his flights being from a DHPC site. An amazing feat.


Dunstable is one of the top ten XC sites in the country

Sharpenhoe Clappers has often been touted as a potential record breaking site for the UK. Many have tried and last year the site record fell. But have you ever considered Dunstable as a good XC site.

We all know how hard it is to XC from Dunstable. Even a flop over the back is difficult with the airspace to contend with.

But it can be done and just look at the current club XC league.

In first place is Karoly Megyesi and every single flight is from Dunstable!

Screen Shot 2014-04-15 at 07.20.02

Not only does this put him top of our league but it also puts him in 8th position in the National league. With all of those points scored from Dunstable!

Screen Shot 2014-04-15 at 07.20.39


Well done Karoly!

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Long standing Site Records smashed

2013 saw distance records for both Dunstable and Sharpenhoe Clappers smashed.

Sharpenhoe Clappers
Hugh Miller saw the forecast was good, joined the club and on 2nd May 2013 he rocked up to Sharpenhoe Clappers on what looked like being a great day for an XC (the third great day that week).
He simply launched and vanished. A staggering 178km later he landed in Castle Cary, Somerset. A new site record!
Sharpenhoe site record was previously held by the late and great Pete Roberts for travelling 98 miles (159Km) in 1998 on his Hang Glider. It is said that this flight was only a couple of hours long and required the assistance of several people to help Pete launch straight into a thermal on a very very strong wind day. The legends speak of one who rode a single thermal across the country.

You can see Hugh’s record breaking flight here.

Dunstable Downs
That same year, 22nd April, on an overcast day with no sign of XC potential and a poor forcast there was one lone Hang Glider pilot at Dunstable Downs. That pilot was Andrew Hollidge.
With the ridge to himself and a murky sky overhead Andrew managed to slowly climb out in weak lift. Not to a great height, just 2500′ but enough to set a new site record of 153.9km. He says that the entire flight was no higher than 2500′ for the entire flight but it was very bouyant. Once at height he was able to maintain height and bounce along to his final destination in Norfolk.
Andrews flight was the only flight at Dunstable that day. A lesson to us all.

The Dunstable record was previously 70M (112KM) in 1989 by the infamous Pete Roberts.

Award Winners

Thanks go to Kit Harvey and Lisa Wood for organising a very enjoyable awards night.
Thanks too to Lisa for the top quality trophies.

The following awards were presented:

Martin Hincliffe – Winner of the “Clubman” award – for helping with weather station relocating and generally attending and volunteering for everything!
Tom Kane – Winner of the Dunstable XC League with 250.2 points
Hugh Miller – Chris Ellison award (for longest XC from a club site) – For his 178km flight from Sharpenhoe Clappers to Castle Cary, Somerset. A new site record! Sharpenhoe previously Pete Roberts 98 miles (159Km) in 1998
Damien Masterson – Most improved CP (HG))
Chai Anich – Most improved CP (PG)

The following special one off awards were also presented.
Marcus Goldsmith – Plastered award. For breaking his arm on a flying hol. And for eventually getting it plastered sometime later
Andrew Hollidge – A new site record (on an overcast day) from Dunstable with an XC of 153.9 km on his Hang Glider. Dunstable record previously 70M (112KM) in 1989 by Pete Roberts.

AndrewH Damien

Andrew and Damien receiving their awards.

New Committe for 2014

Your 2014 committee:
Kit Harvey – Chairman
Steve Meadowcroft – Safety Officer
Richard Greaves – Chief Coach
Lisa Wood – Secretary

Tony Aldous – Membership secretary

Cris kent – National Trust site liaison. Dunstable and Sharpenhoe
Andy Keyte – Chinnor site liaison.
Ian Conway – Treasurer
James Dell – Website and weather man

Contact details for all can be found in the Members Database.


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Thermalling Rules

The following information was compiled by Jim West in response to a question about thermalling rules/etiquette at Dunstable Downs. This is of particular relevance when sharing a thermal with a different type/performance aircraft. e.g. Sailplanes.

It is not intended to be a training aid, it is compiled from information on the internet and is provided here as a convenient collation of relevant information for Dunstable Downs.

Thermalling Rules (September 2012)

The increased performance of paragliders is tempting more PG pilots to try and join other gliders already circling in lift. At Dunstable Downs these can include hang gliders and LGC gliders. Pilots need to be aware that most gliding associations have adopted common rules for joining, flying in and leaving a thermal. The important theme is that when sharing a thermal you have to accept that safety is more important than optimising the lift.

I cannot find advice for pilots encountering aircraft with vastly different thermalling speeds. An LGC glider will be flying at more than twice a paraglider’s airspeed. To maintain position in a circle, the paraglider will have to fly at about half the radius set by an LGC glider. A paraglider trying to join an LGC glider already circling at the same height, will have an interesting if not impossible challenge!

Also bear in mind that each aircraft type has blind spots. The paraglider cannot see what is above the wing. The hang glider cannot see above or behind. A modern LGC glider cannot see below or behind and an older high wing LGC glider cannot see below or behind and can have restricted visibility above!

A hang glider or paraglider will usually circle tighter than an LGC glider and should climb faster if they are in the thermal core, requiring them to also keep aircraft above them in view.

The BHPA website has links to guidance from the FAI, interpretation by competition organisers and some other country’s aviation rules. These are summarised below. Extracts below were taken in September 2012. Pilots should also ask about additional local rules (sometimes a thermalling direction when low) and rules in foreign countries.

The UK A N O (air law) ( ) contains nothing specific to thermalling, but has the  general statement that “it shall remain the duty of the commander of an aircraft to take all possible measures to ensure that their aircraft does not collide with any other aircraft”

The British Gliding Association (for LGC gliders) has adopted the following rules (June 2010) (

Joining a thermal

J1) Gliders established in a thermal have right of way. All pilots shall circle in the same direction as any glider already established in the same area of lift.

J2) If there are gliders thermalling in opposite directions, the joining glider shall turn the same direction as the nearest (least vertical separation).

J3) The entry to the turn should be planned so as to keep continual visual contact with all other aircraft at or near the planned entry height.

J4) The entry should be flown at a tangent to the circle so that no aircraft, already turning, will be required to manoeuvre in order to avoid the joining aircraft.

Sharing a thermal

S1) Pilots should adhere to the principle of “see and be seen”

S2) When at a similar level, never turn inside, point at or ahead of another aircraft unless you intend to overtake and can guarantee safe separation.

S3) Leave the thermal, if in your judgement you cannot guarantee adequate separation.

S4) Look out for other aircraft joining or converging in height.

Leaving a thermal

L1) Look outside the turn and behind, before straightening.

L2) Do not manoeuvre sharply unless clear of all other aircraft.

Extracts from the FAI sporting code (May2012). ( ,select Sporting Code – General Section)

Competition organisers are advised that an over aggressive pilot (e.g. trying to circle tighter in the core) can disrupt an established group, risking collisions, and should be banned after a warning is ignored.

Expands (J4) to suggest that you should plan to join the other glider’s circle where they are flying away from you. It is ideal to join when the other pilot is on the opposite side of the circle.

Warns about a visual illusion that makes you think that the other pilot is going around your circle. The thing to judge is that if you are catching up, you are turning too steeply.

Sometimes thermals seem to have multiple cores. Pilots, circling in the same direction in different parts of a large thermal will still have the potential for a head on collision if they reach the same height. The advice is for all converging pilots to widen their circle to join in one circle.  There is additional advice on optimising the lift which may be of interest to budding competition pilots.

Extracts form the BPCup website (2012). (

They also warn about over aggressiveness (as per the FAI statement).

Expands on (J4) pointing out that if you fly directly at the centre of a circling group you will scare the circling pilots and maybe cause a collision. Echoes the FAI statement and adds that the joining pilot should initially fly a larger radius circle allowing them to judge the ideal time to ease in.

Has a different view of (J2) suggesting that the joining glider turns in the direction of the upper group as they are less visible. Should the lower group get near, the direction can be switched back.

Echoes the FAI advice for competition pilots.

The DHV (German association) advice to visitors. (

The first pilot to enter a thermal determines the direction of rotation. All other pilots joining later must circle in the same direction.

An Italian update for sport flight (Sep 2010). (

The first pilot that enters a thermal decides the turn direction (J1).

Other pilots must turn the same way (J1).

Pilots inside thermals have right of way on pilots outside thermals (J1).

Pilots in thermals must give right of way to other pilots that rise more in the same thermal (S4).

The Australian authorities also agree (BHPA report on Clatter June 2010 incident)

When thermalling give way to the HGs & PGs that are climbing up from below (S4).

Freeflight on Dunstable Downs