Staying aloft in light wind conditions in a paraglider or hang glider is commonly called scratching. It is called this because experienced pilots fly very close (almost scratching their wing tip) to the ridge in order to maintain altitude or stay up. One of the keys to maximizing your chances of success on such a day is proper speed control.
On light days, it takes more than flying at Minimum Sink to maximize the chances of getting up. “What?” you say, “Min sink is the speed at which you get your slowest descent rate, so how can this be true?” In a nutshell, on light days, the variance of wind speeds and lift at different sections of a cliff vary, making constant (speed to fly) adjustments the best way to stay up. This article addresses ridge soaring in dynamic lift only, not thermal flying. In thermal flights, flying too close to terrain is extremely dangerous and should be avoided.
(Disclaimer: This article is intended for pilots with experience in Ridge Flying. Whenever one is close to a ridge, having enough speed to manage direction and control are always more important than staying up!)
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