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Flying in Jersey | Back to Article Index

Published RCM&E July 2001

Like the rest of the country, since the end of February, all our usual flying haunts have been closed, although as I write there is a steady trickle of sites being re-opened, mainly it would seem, perhaps cynically, those with substantial commercial interests! The Foot and Mouth crisis is terrible and I agree with the restrictions as it is a small price to pay to rid ourselves of this horrible disease. I just wish those in charge had attacked the real problem in the beginning with the same energy as they closed public access to the countryside. Anyway enough of the politicking and on to the meat of the article.

For several years I have had an open invitation to visit modelling friends in the Channel Islands but for one reason or another (mainly workload) it has not been possible. Well this year I managed to complete my winter projects ahead of schedule, fill the shelves with kits and do my end of year accounts all well before the start of the summer show season when I had a phone call from one of said modelling friends. The thought of a weekends flying after weeks of deprivation suddenly became extremely attractive. Organising the trip and finding willing travelling companions was easy. Initially I was going to book the ferry and persuade our hosts to find suitable accommodation for us on the island until I saw an advert in one of the national dailies. I was able to book the high speed ferry to Jersey from Weymouth (journey time approximately 4hrs), two nights hotel accommodation with breakfast and evening meal, two per car and sharing a room (twin beds!) for less than 125. The cost of the ferry fare alone would have been that! Prices vary according to time of year and the time of writing scheme only runs from March to October but it could be extended. We hope to go again the middle of October! Our trip was organised so we caught the early morning ferry and arrived in Jersey just before midday and left on the 8.30pm ferry on Sunday evening. This way we had the possibility of almost three full days flying, subject to the weather of course.

The Jersey Model Aero Club.

This is a well organised club with excellent flying facilities. They have a power site with a tarmac runway in the direction of the prevailing wind and two more rolled sand runways to cater for other wind directions. On one approach to the tarmac runway there is the remains of six foot tall burnt gorse to catch those low on finals otherwise all approaches are obstacle free. The day we flew there it was a little turbulent as the strong wind was coming off the sea and over the cliffs some 2-300 metres away. There are some restrictions on the power site but the club will explains these to visitors. The site was closed the Sunday morning we were there due to it being in the middle of a full bore rifle range. Details of these restrictions and contact with the club can be found / made via the club website which is best found via the BMFA website. For the slope soaring enthusiast the club has a keen slope following with several excellent coastal sites to suit almost any wind direction but more of that later.

Jersey and the Sites

We were able to visit four of the seven sites shown on the very professional map prepared for us by Chris Munns of the Jersey MAC. We managed to visit 4 of them and fly 3, all were excellent sites. All are within a 20 minute drive of St Helier. Of the four sites we visited two were of the get out of the car, rig the model and fly whilst the other two involved a 2-300 metre walk from the car park. The locals said they liked to avoid these sites because of the walk! No comment. Before describing the sites a word about driving in Jersey for those who have not visited the island. Jersey is a small island, some 10 miles wide by 5 miles deep. It is criss-crossed by dozens of roads, in fact there is a road junction almost every 2-300 metres. There is a 40mph (65 kph) speed limit throughout except in built-up areas where it is either 30 or 20mph. I personally would not want to drive any faster as most road junctions have restricted visibility and are accidents waiting to happen for the unwary. In anycase what is the point of racing around when most journeys can be completed in 20 minutes! On the positive side the local drivers were very courteous and more than willing to make allowances for bewildered tourists!

Portlet Common (SW - W)

We disrespectfully nicknamed this site Pork-Cutlet, even the local flyers started calling it by this name by the end of the weekend. Of the three slopes we flew this was the least stressful in the 'what if' stakes. It is only some 250ft (80M) high, 70-80 metres long with full access down to the sea. In some ways it is an elongated bowl as the coastline juts into the sea at both ends. This we found handy if the wind shifted and was not blowing directly onto the face of the slope. On the right hand side and at right angles to the main slope overlooking the beach at St Brelades there is a sheer cliff leading inland with a path to the base of the cliff. During our flying session there on the Friday the light wind swung through 90 degrees and we soared these cliffs. At the time the tide was out and small thermals were also popping off the sand on the beach!

As you would expect the lift with the wind coming straight off the sea is very smooth with an excellent lift to wind ratio although we did not get the height we got from the higher 'Stinky Bay' slope. On the day we visited Portlet Common we experienced three flying sessions in one. When we first arrived the lift was ideal for sports aerobatic models with semi-symmetrical wing sections. The lift was more than sufficient to fly more advanced aerobatic models such as the Turbo Esprit but the Rico-SHEs were much more fun. This was followed by a period of very light winds during which the wind swung northerly 90 degrees. Out came the floaters such as the WestWings Orions and the Eppi-SOAR / Summer Breezes. At times it was a struggle to keep the models up in the almost non-existent wind hence our discovery of 'beach thermals'.

Later the wind returned to the west and strengthened to a steady Force 4-5 (16-20mph). Out came the Turbo Esprit and the like. This flying session made me aware of the size of the slope as these can models consume a lot of sky. There were 5 or 6 models in the air and we were all doing cross-wind aerobatics. Discretion being the better part of valour I decided to land as I did not want to mid-air one of my breakable front line models this early in the trip.

The landing area consists of short heather / gorse scrub. The air is smooth but there is a slight incline which means the model is landing in lift. The technique is to come in lower than you would normally, shorten the crosswind leg and use the wind to kill the speed on the final crosswind turn into wind. Downhill landings can be a little disconcerting as in trying to put the model down the speed rapidly builds up to 'chicken out' level. If this is the case DO NOT go into the must land at any cost mode, abort and go around again. Remember he who runs away ....

Summary - a very relaxing slope with good access (parking is adjacent to the slope), good clean lift and a thick pile carpet to land on.

Les Landes (Stinky bay) (SW - W)

We spent Saturday of our weekend break in this area as the slope is only 200 metres or so from the power site. The cliffs are some 400ft (120 metres) high and are best suited for westerly winds with a touch of south. The lift is excellent and again very smooth. There is plenty of sky-room but the landing spot needs picking with care as whilst there is plenty of room there is not the vegetation cover of Portlet Common. Where there is no vegetation there is scree which can inflict serious 'facial' damage on a model. There are also a number of old concrete gun emplacements close to hand which can be found on a 'misdirected' landing approach! Whilst my sub-conscious concerns re mid-airs were nowhere nearly so prominent as at Portlet Common you must make allowances for 'mistakes' as there is no access, except by boat, to the bottom of the cliffs. Graham Hill one of our party chose to ignore this as he frequently tired to emulate Mose's party trick at the Red Sea with the 'Vee' tail of his Rico-SHE at the bottom of his outside loops.

StinkyBay on the 'sites' map Chris Munns of the Jersey MAC kindly prepared for us credited this slope as being turbulent on launching. We did not find this in the Force 4 - 6 winds we flew in although we did find the air lumpy at the power site some 2 - 300 metres away.

Other than the comments above the landings at Stinky bay should follow normal slope practice i.e. downwind, crosswind and final approach. Keep the speed on, do not go too far back and do not be afraid to go around again if you are too high. Always cater for the 'what if' situation by keeping your options open.

Summary an excellent coastal site. Incidentally it got it's Stinky Bay label due to the smell given of off at certain times of the year by decomposing seaweed.

Devils Hole (NW - N)

Unfortunately due to a bit of rain and zero wind we were unable to fly this site. Like Les Landes (Stinky Bay) there is no access to the bottom of the cliffs. There is a short walk from the top car park of the Priory Inn to the slope which is stepped. Judging from bits of modelling debris we found it would seem most of the flying takes place on the lower step. This would make sense as the upper slope lies in the lee of another slope which would make the air turbulent and interrupt lift production. Best wind direction for Devils Hole is 280 - 290 degrees but it will work over a slightly wider arc. Hopefully on our next visit we will be able fly this site and report back. Incidentally the food in the Priory Inn is not bad and excellent value for money (it's the VAT that makes the difference!).

Jardin D'Olivet (N - NE)

After spending a very long lunch hour in the Priory Inn waiting for the rain to stop we first visited the Devil's Hole as it was next to the pub and then visited Jardin D'Olivet. By the time we got here the rain had stopped and we could fly! This is probably the best site we visited if only for the views. Again there is no access to the bottom but there is reasonable access down the slope to retrieve most mistakes. The vegetation in most parts is helpful, in others it could impart superficial damage during a normal arrival. The slope is some 4 - 500ft (150 metres) high. Unfortunately the landing area is in lift so low tight approaches are the order of the day. Like Portlet Common the air is very smooth. The wind was very light when we flew here so we only flew floaters, evens so the lift was excellent despite the breeze struggling to disturb the frequency ribbons. There is a 250 metre walk from the car park to the slope which works best in a north easterly. There is also an excellent northerly slope with a bench to sit on overlooking a small port at it's base.

Summary

Jersey has excellent slope soaring sites and if you live within easy travelling distance of Weymouth well worth a long weekend visit. There is a ferry from Southampton but this takes 12 hours to get there as opposed to the 4 hours of the high speed Weymouth ferry. I would advise taking three models, a smallish floater, a sports aerobatic model and something a little more serious. If you do go please contact the Jersey MAC, they are very friendly and you will find their advice very helpful. We booked our weekend break through Sundecker who work in association with Condor Ferries and is a agent for the Channel Islands Travel Service. Sundecker can be contacted by telephone on 0845 8001010 or via their website www.sundecker.com . Finally our thanks go out to Chris Munns, Jim, Simon, Andy and all those of the Jersey MAC who made our stay so pleasant.

by Stan Yeo

 

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