Prepare yourself for a tale of woe but then ultimately, triumphant-ness.
Monday night, 30th March: At work.
I pulled a muscle in my back while vacuum cleaning which was a shame because I had planned a sneaky weekday buggy session for the following day. The forecast was looking good, 35mph-48mph winds, pretty high for inland! Red arrows covered most of the UK weather map indicating some heavy gusts to come. Nonetheless I was keen to test my new rearward facing camera and GPS setup that I had prepared over the weekend.
All I can think about now is getting back home, taking a load of painkillers, rub in some deep heat and getting plenty of rest but unfortunately I still have another five hours of mopping floors, sweeping car-parks and cleaning toilets ahead of me.
I was in a lot of discomfort. Just lowering myself into the car was a carefully orchestrated affair. My back was so bad that I couldn’t even reach for the seatbelt. Forget all hopes of sitting in the buggy tomorrow. Just get me home I thought. It was the early hours of Tuesday morning before I finally made it back, although very late, 3am. Exhausted and in a lot of discomfort I slept through til 10am.
Tuesday 31st March: The morning after
I awoke with what I can only describe as a miraculously recovery! Well actually there was still a dull pain but compared to how it was last night I can only think that some sort of divine intervention was responsible, either that or strong painkillers. Last night I couldn’t even think about sitting in a buggy, but now I’m thinking, Hmmmm, maybe. I’ll see how I feel after work.
Arrive at Purley
I check the forecast again, gather my stuff and head to work for a couple of hours then decide to drive up to Purley and check it out.
I arrive to find that the council are cutting the grass. Nice! However, as expected the wind is murderously strong. The gusts are so powerful that as I get out of the car I’m shoved straight back inside. An omen perhaps? Luckily I catch the door with my leg and not my fingers. I glance in the rear view mirror and see my hair that only moments earlier was fairly tame was now looking like I had been pulled through a hedge backwards.
Omen or not I decided to do this. I unhook the trailer that I use to transport the buggy with all my gear and push it onto the field. I want to keep clear of the tractor mowing the grass so I settle under a football goal post. The high winds were making the goal posts reverberate in a harmonic way like a choir of angels.
My first attempt at launching the kite failed. It flew to the zenith and immediately fell out of the sky. It was near impossible to trim for the conditions. I recorded wind speeds at waist height as low as 16mph and as high as 45mph and the wind would often switch between the two extremes within just a few seconds.
The 9m Genetrix Hydra I was using has an official wind range of 16kts – 40kts on water which is huge but the sub 10mph lulls were making my attempts to climb into the buggy difficult.
On the Move
Though like any kite the Hydra settled down once on the move and I had enough weight and momentum to roll through the lulls until the next blast wave hit.The gusts were just extreme. The power from the kite would try and wrench the buggy sideways but the Dominator is just too solid, heavy and planted to stand any such nonsense.
I had to cross myself a few times and hope for the best. In the video there is nothing much to really convey the true nature of the beast, it really doesn’t do it any justice at all. Sheeting the bar in had me groaning as the air was squeezed from me, much like a bear hug. Under the cool calm exterior of the helmet lies the contorted face of fear. Much breathlessness and ranting is concealed beneath.
Towards the end of every run I carefully millimeter by millimeter edge back upwind. Power-sliding to slow down is not an option on this dry surface as the very real possibility of flipping the Dominator doesn’t bare thinking about, especially as I’m shoe horned in. So you’ll notice that at the end of each run you’ll see me hanging off the bar fully de-powered and taking a long time to slow down.
At first glance ‘Purley Way’ looks flat and level but it actually lies on a hill that declines northward. At the far southern end you can clearly see the city of London laid out before you on the horizon. The most recognizable landmarks are visible. At the northern end you cannot. You may notice this incline from the footage captured with the home-made weather vane. My new PB was achieved going up that hill. That as they say on Top Gear is, ‘the power of power’…. yeah I don’t know what that means either, but it sounds cool.
I had the place to myself on freshly cut grass and the winds I can only describe as demonic, not because the wind speed was particularly high but because of it’s quick tempered schizophrenic nature on a surface as dry, tyre snatching as that made it potentially dangerous in the gusts, but what a session! I’m so glad I made the effort, and a new grass stained PB to boot! Very pleased!
I’m not sure how to wrap this up except to say that the buggy was amazing, the kite was amazing and the wind was biblical and frightening. It was riding on the ragged edge for sure but it was also the most fun and powered session I’ve had there in a long time. You could ride at close to 50mph up and downhill all day.
I wish it was like that all the time.