Sky Surfing Club paraglider crosses the Solent for free – by air

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Thursday 16th September 2021 12:00 pm
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Halfway across the Solent. Picture by Dan Horeman

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THE SOLENT can be an expensive stretch of water to cross.

However, paraglider pilot Dan Horeman, a member of the Sky Surfing Club, made the crossing for free – by air.

Launching from Harting Down at 1.20pm into a weak thermal, Dan and fellow member Frazer Wilson climbed south-west from the hill.

“Very quickly we were committed to leaving the ease of landing by our parked vehicles”, said Dan.

“For the first 8km we were very low at around 400m above sea level. We both knew we weren’t going much further unless we managed to push south away from the cloud-shaded ground that was starving the airmass of the thermals we needed.

“With a quick shout we were off racing forwards towards the sunny ground, spreading out and hunting for a thermal that would allow us to continue our flight towards the coast.

“Frazer’s eagle eyes caught sight of a bird circling over some woods close by. With another shout we were off.”

Both pilots eventually found a strong thermal with which to circle skywards, back to cloudbase at an altitude of 1,300m.

“It was at this point that the potential to fly across to the Isle of Wight was in the front of my mind,” said Dan. “Unfortunately Frazer lost sight of me, and living locally in Bosham he decided to fly home.”

Dan continued his flight south. “The sky between the Isle of Wight and I was blue with no cloud, so I now had to be patient,” he said.

“Holding back and pushing slowly west along the front edge of the cloud, I drifted towards the coastline of Portsmouth. I knew that the shortest distance across the east channel of the Solent was between Gosport and Ryde.

“For safety reasons I had chosen to aim for as close to Gosport as I could, where I would make my final decision whether it would be safe to attempt the crossing.

“Approaching Southsea, I could hear loud music and realised that I was directly above the Victorious festival.”

At this point Dan made a few calculations: with 1,300m of altitude, a crossing distance of 5km and a decent tailwind he estimated he had the height to cross the Solent, even allowing for some sinking air.

“I could also see small bits of cloud forming over the centre of the Solent,” he said.

“With this in mind, I decided not to take the shortest route across but to push further to the west towards Cowes. With a light bit of lifting air all the way across I flew for 11km over water, making land between Fishbourne and Cowes still with 1,000m of altitude.”

Dan hooked more thermals back to cloudbase which gave him enough height to fly the breadth of the Island, landing between Freshwater Bay and the Needles. He had flown a distance of 55km.

Now came the real challenge – making the return trip back to Harting Down to retrieve his car.

“Actually, it wasn’t too hard,” said Dan. I walked for around 20 minutes to Freshwater village – luckily my flying kit weighs less than 10kg. Then followed a bus ride to Yarmouth, the ferry back across to Lymington and two trains to Southampton where I live.

“At this point my very understanding and supportive partner picked me up and gave me a lift back to Harting, arriving just before 9pm.”

The return trip of four hours was more expensive than the two-hour flight across the Solent. “It was what I like to call a life day, one that I’ll never forget,” added Dan.

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