Off she goes, Iain Oughtred's slightly foreshortened Penny Fee, at 15ft. Sails by Jeckells, spars by the wonderful Jeremy Freeland at Collars. The rest by Messrs Burke and Morgan (that's Jonny by the way...)

Thursday, 16 December 2010

Sail Planes

And now for something as close to my heart these days as boats: gliders and building them. Many years ago I came close to becoming a glider pilot in the course of writing a book about gliding (Gliding in Eight Days). The book plummeted like a glider in free fall, but it was appreciated by a few and one of them, many years later, taught me the second best thing to full-size gliding: model gliding.

It is now something of an obsession with eight (I think) no nine, gliders at the last count stacked in the toy cupboard. In order of size there is a Weasel (a little delta wing aerobat); Fusion (similar but bigger); Electro Junior; Phase Six; 2.5m Salto V tail; 2.7m Proxima slope soarer; 2m Kult V Tail by Tangent; Simprop 2.8m Solution and a 4.4m Multiplex Alpina, perhaps the most iconic of them all.

They say that gliding and sailing are similar. Not sure I agree, apart from both needing a keen eye for weather conditions. Sailing is more forgiving. Botch a landing and you'll be picking up pieces. Both use aerofoil sections to provide lift, but I have never understood quite how until now. One thing: gliders are far more advanced than sailing yachts. Soft sails? Pah. The recent America's Cup and foiling wing sailed Moths are showing the way forward. I'm willing to bet that in a few years time we'll all be hoisting solid sails - I say hoisted, as some method of reefing is needed.

Getting airborne is simple. But up here in the Highlands the landings are fraught with danger. Slope soaring entails throwing your plane off a cliff, and letting the wind which shoots upwards when it meets the slope keep the glider flying until the lift fails, wind direction changes or it's time for tea.

I hasten to add that sophisticated radio control keeps things in the air, a transmitter, receiver and up to six (or more) servos control ailerons, flaps, elevator and rudder.

More of this anon, as it's begun to snow and the Land Rover needs to be moved to the top of the track...

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