Some excellent XC flights again in January, with big altitude gains and long flights, including a crossing of the Pakhuis Pass (last done in 2009, and previously 20 years before that). 

Flight of the Month went to Steve Pelley for his first thermal flight (a big moment for any soaring pilot). This was an exceptional feat considering it was effectively a low save on a small hill (i.e. very, very tricky). Well done Steve! 

From Steve:
"I headed out to the hill hoping to catch a decent post-frontal southerly and some much needed 'going-up' instead of all this 'going-down'. Have to say when I arrived it was looking good with the wind ssw and perhaps a bit gusty but blowing nicely. Rigged as fast as I could and trotted to the launch with my beloved Sport 2. Straight after take off I banked right expecting to climb nicely but to my disgust I was just sinking like mad (a look to the water resevoir revealed that the wind was now quite SW, mutter mutter). I was DONE with foofies and so decided to scratch around looking for something even though by now I was really low (if needed, I'd made up my mind to land in the field way short of the LZ and just walk it out). Nothing, sinking sinking. Then suddenly, a few beeps and a few meters! I turned back to find it, more beeps, more meters. I was too low to turn full circles so took Don's advice and tried some tight S's - worked a charm and I slowly clawed my way back up to launch height finding lift here and there. Soon I was above the hill and then this monster hoisted up my left wing so I heaved everything into it (thanks Lennox) and who would have believed it -  turning 4 tight turns I climbed from 450m to 650m at 1.2 m/s. I would never have believed you could climb while banking so steeply. At 650 meters I could have kept going but by now the thermal had drifted to above the 'car park' on the hill and I didn't want to go further back than that. What a view! Never been that high agl and to think after take-off I was 40m below launch. Awesome flight."