Cloud streets over launch at Neverland on Monday. Photo by Neil Sirrine.
Chris Lee: Fourth flight with the new Triple Seven Queen 2 MS. Perfect forecast on tap at South Florida's world-renown XC tow site, Neverland, near LaBelle. Wind in the mid-teens early, then slacking off late with 3m/s thermal updrafts and cloud base at 3600' and rising.
I launched first and went through lift at 1200' but decided to stay on the line and push upwind so I would have a better chance of staying around launch while waiting for my partner, Kelton Kenney, to get airborne.
We hooked up by the channel and proceeded across the Triangle of Doom with good altitude.
Kelton hit big sink just after the Triangle but dug himself out working a treeline bordering a sunny field. Once he got high again, we mostly stayed at cloudbase skirting the west, sunny, side of the cloud street and jumping from one close cloud to the next.
Near the DeSoto Correctional Institute, I pushed straight through under a big cloud and got hammered, losing half my height to 2000’ before finding some light, maintaining lift in the shade. Kelton stayed at cloudbase and skirted around the sink hole as I tried to hang on. Eventually I transitioned to the sunny side of the cloud where lift got much better just as Kelton went around a horizontal peninsula of the cloud and out into open sky. He found nothing but sink in the blue hole and eventually sank out in an orchard.
I got back to cloud base and continued patiently on, encountering a solar farm just a bit downwind where there was lots of lift with different groups of birds taking a few turns in each thermal before going on glide, transitioning the area with hardly a flap.
Lift areas got wider and smoother, but not as strong, around the fourth hour and it became a balance of circling in light climbs vs pushing further on course. The winds had slacked to single-digits so the only way to make progress was to go on glide.
Cloud streets started dissipating until there was just one line within reach. It was a lifty line so I was able to travel a good distance on it, just stopping for a few turns occasionally. Further west a rain shower was dumping at the end of the cloud street and the last thermal drift was pulling towards the storm so I had to leave it and start looking for an easily accessible road to land by.
Personal best duration of 5:04 hrs and distance of 124.5 km / 77 miles.
We are a group of paragliding pilots based in the St. Louis area.