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Paragliding at the Scarborough Cliffs


Paragliding the Scarborough Cliffs
The cliffs can be a great place to soar when the wind is too light at Taylors Mistake. But it's not a PG3 rated site for nothing, plenty of pilots have gone into the water, been blown over the back or ended up with a glider in the trees at launch. It definately pays to get a good briefing from an experienced pilot the first few times you fly there. This article might fill in the gaps.

I'll cover four parts:
1. Launching at Taylors and flying to and from the cliffs.
2. Launching and at the cliffs and landing options.
3. Wind directions to be wary of.
4. Flying from the cliffs to Sumner beach.

Launching at Taylors and flying to and from the cliffs.
The ideal wind direction is E to NE. The more east it is the more lift you can pick up on the glide out to the cliffs, also it is easier to gain maximum height at launch.

The best course when gliding to the cliffs is direct from launch over the center of the donkey paddock, this avoids any rotor or other terrain induced turbulence that can be encountered to the left of that track.

One spot that has caught plenty of pilots out is the donkey paddock itself. The top end of the paddock gets lots of rotor but is a very tempting place to land if you get low, better to play safe and land a little further down the slope. Even the small valley just before the donkey paddock can get quite turbulent when the wind is slightly north.

You normally need at least 50M over the power lines to the left of takeoff to be able to reach the donkey paddock at a good height. If you reach the donkey paddock and are low there are three options, creep over the cliff edge and pray you don't get smacked by rotor, land on the donkey paddock and walk to the cliffs launch or land at the bottom of Taylors.

The thing that is most likely to cause problems when flying from Taylors Mistake to the cliffs is a wind with a bit of north in it, this has led to plenty of accidents and people ending up in the bomb out.
Gaining sufficient height at take off is more difficult because the lift vector is skewed to the left.
You are flying with more of a head wind component so your glide over the ground is reduced, meaning that you need even more height at launch to make the glide.
There will be more terrain induced turbulence as the wind blows along the top of the ridge.

Returning from the cliffs to Taylors is often easier than flying to the cliffs because you will gain plenty of height at the cliffs. If you have plenty of height you can track direct from Whitewash head back to Taylors launch and easily avoid any rotor behind the cliffs. On the other hand being low at the cliffs can present a few problems, rotor behind the cliffs and the power lines running down the ridge all need to be taken in to account. If you arrive back at Taylors low sometimes it's worth continuing on into the gut and trying to get up there.

Launching at the cliffs.
Launching at the cliffs can be pretty daunting, there is not much room and the margin for error is small, directly in front of launch there is a steep slope which quickly becomes a cliff. Your wing will be sitting in a bit of dead air when it's laid out making reverse launches a challenge given the pine trees in front of you and the cliff behind.
If the wind is slightly north it will be cross at launch making things really difficult, probably not worth the risk.
After launch turn left and soar between launch and the small point about 50M to the left of launch. You need to gain at least the same height as the top of the pine trees behind the small point before gliding over to the larger cliffs.

There are four options for landing at the cliffs;
1.Top land at the launch. Again limited space and often good lift can make this tricky.
2.Land on the donkey paddock. Avoid the temptation to land at the top of the donkey paddock where significant rotor can exist.
3.Land at the bottom of Taylors.
4.Land on Sumner Beach adjacent to the Sumner surf club.

Wind directions to be wary of
The cliffs and Taylors Mistake can be flown anywhere from N to SE.
If the wind is too far round to the north it makes it difficult to get to the cliffs from Taylors and makes it tricky to launch at the cliffs.
If the wind is too far round to the south east and strong, pilots can get trapped at the Whitewash head end of the cliffs unable to penetrate back to launch. This is because the lift vector is skewed from the vertical, meaning plenty of wind but not much lift.
Always monitor your ground speed and the wind direction, look for the wind shadow on the right hand side of Taylors Mistake beach. Several pilots have gone too far back at the cliffs and been pushed into the lee ending up in the water near the Sumner lifeboat station, not a good look.

Flying from the cliffs to Sumner Beach
You need to have enough height at Whitewash head to be able to see the Taylors Mistake surf club above the pine trees close to launch before flying across Scarborough Beach to land at Sumner Beach.
Once you gain sufficient height you need to track north past Whitewash head for at least 50M before turning left and heading for Cave Rock, this gives you some clearance from the rotor zone behind the cliffs. Do not land close to Cave Rock as there is a nasty little rotor zone in the lee. Also do not land too far down towards Shag Rock, if the wind is strong you risk getting pushed back into the estuary.

Pilots in the water, pilots on the rocks at the bottom of the cliff, pilots stuck on the side of the cliff, broken bones, reserves thrown, gliders in the trees … a long list of stuff ups by pilots taking the cliffs too lightly over the years. Hopefully this article will go some way to making it a safer place to fly.

Steve O'Shaughnessy

M 0274324874