Saturday, 7 April 2012

RCCGB The Swarm Storm!

Date: Thursday 22 March 2012
Venue: Thorpe Park
Who Went: Me and a large number of other RCCGB members, including Andy Hine, Alan Chilvers, Andy T, Barry, Big Stevie B, the two Gareths, Lucy Cosnett, Mark Blundell, Mary (Regatta), Planenut, Smiler.

DISCLAIMER: The above is not intended to be an exhaustive list of everyone who attended. It's a list of members who I spoke to / rode with. I sincerely apologise to anyone I've forgotten.

N.B. Any use of "today" in this report means Thursday 22 March 2012.

Rationale For Trip
The Club's first UK trip for 2012: a trip to Thorpe Park near Staines. The main reason was to ride the Park's brand new coaster Swarm which recently began operating on 15 March 2012.

Getting To Thorpe Park
Just like some other RCCGB trips I have attended the last couple of years, it was necessary for me to wake up at 4:30am, which for me is exceptionally early. From Bath Spa I caught the 06:13 train to Reading, for the connecting 07:24 train to Staines. I reached Staines at 8:05, which was earlier than I really needed to be there. To kill some time I had an Americano coffee at Costa Coffee in the town centre. Just before 9:00, I caught the Thorpe Shuttle bus from Staines Bus Station to Thorpe Park. I met and sat next to Barry on the bus.

Welcome To Thorpe Park
Barry and I reached Thorpe Park just after 9:05. Loads of other RCCGB members including Nev were already waiting outside the main gate to go in. The sun was shining brightly. Around 9:30 we were all led in through the side entrance. Tickets were handed to us and scanned on the way in. Having entered, everyone waited just inside the main gate for a few minutes, before assembling on the Bridge for a group photo.

Swarm (roller coaster)
Once the signal was given, everyone headed through the Dome and beyond all the way to Thorpe Park's newest coaster Swarm for a pre-opening takeover. Although we got there around 9:45, there was about 15 minutes' wait before it actually opened. Meanwhile, Nev told us how much it had cost, and compared it to someone buying a brand new car and expecting it to start every time.

Around 10:00 we began riding Swarm. This Bolliger & Mabillard Wing Coaster (Custom) is a fairly new model, which has been in production since 2011. According to the Roller Coaster Database, this is currently one of only four coasters of this model worldwide, and the second to enter operation. Its maximum height of 127' (38.7 m) makes it the fifth tallest coaster currently operating in the UK, and Europe's tallest winged rollercoaster.

The station resembles a damaged church with a missing roof, what is the significance of that? I got on the train from platform 2. The train climbed the lift hill, descended the steep first drop, climbed the next hill, flipped over at the top before going down again. This was followed by a loop, another flip-over and the rest of the course back to the station. Altogether a mega fun new addition to Thorpe Park; indeed the ride was over a bit too soon for my liking. Does anyone know the significance of the broken aeroplane on the ground though? For now this was my only go on Swarm.

Normal Opening Time
After the initial Swarm takeover, members dispersed all over Thorpe Park to take over the rides. The following is an account of what I rode the rest of the day.

Quantum had no queue at all. Unfortunately when I got there its safety bars had been shut and the ride was about to start, so I had to wait for its next run to get on it. Basically it's a "magic carpet" ride, with rows of seats facing the centre. The ride went up part way in one direction, down and part way up in the opposite direction, then down to the home position. Next time around it went up higher each direction. Eventually it went really high in each direction. The best bit was when it went right up and over to do a complete loop. Finally it slowed down, stopped and everyone left the ride. A mega fun ride in the "Thrilling and Fun!" category. This was my only go on Quantum all day.

Colossus (roller coaster)
This Intamin AG Looping Coaster (Colossus) has been operating at Thorpe Park since 22 March 2002. According to the RCDB, it is still one of just two coasters of this model worldwide. Unlike my 40th birthday visit last September, I was able to walk straight up to the station, and just like the other few who were waiting, got straight on to a train. Once despatched, the train set off uphill, around a bend and down a steep hill, round the vertical loop and under a bridge. Next it went up half a loop, before doing a U-turn whilst inverted and down another half loop. After that it went back under same bridge as earlier, up and down a bit, along a flat section, and into the horizontal corkscrew. Finally the train headed around the end bend on an angle, along the home straight and back to the station. A fun ride, I was totally relaxed and didn't scream at all throughout the ride, unlike when I first rode it in June 2005.

Of course, once wasn't enough. Having left via the exit path, I headed straight back to the entrance to have a second go on Colossus, this time in the 6th row. Once my second go was over, I headed for a different ride.

SAW - The Ride (roller coaster)
This Gerstlauer Euro-Fighter (Custom) has been operating since 14 March 2009. It is one of eight coasters of this model currently operating worldwide, although a ninth is due to open this year. Unlike on my 40th birthday visit last September, SAW - The Ride was walk-on. I sat in the far right seat of the front row. The car set off through the building. I noticed a dip in there. Once outside the building the car worked its way around to the vertical lift. The car climbed the vertical lift, went down the beyond vertical first drop, around the vertical loop and back to the station.

Having left the ride at the end, I went straight back to the entrance for a second go, this time in the far left seat of the front row. This was my first ever time of having two goes straight off on SAW - The Ride.

Altogether a fun ride; on both goes I was totally relaxed the whole journey and did not scream at all. However I still feel the ultra violet and other lighting effects plus air currents in the building unnecessary overkill. You wouldn't get those in a real factory sawmill. Why do they bother having them here? I didn't have any further goes on this later.

Stealth (roller coaster)
At last, I finally reached Stealth. This Intamin AG Accelerator Coaster has been operating at Thorpe Park since 15 March 2006, and is one of 14 coasters of this type currently operating worldwide. With a maximum height of 205' 1" (62.5 metres) it is the second tallest coaster currently operating in the UK. Its top speed of 80 mph makes it the fastest coaster currently operating in the UK. Furthermore Stealth is the second fastest coaster currently operating in Europe, although this statistic will change when two new coasters ring°racer and Shambhala open in mainland Europe later this year.

Since Stealth opened in March 2006, I had visited Thorpe Park twice: RCCGB Saw-Ted 21 March 2009, and my 40th birthday 30 September 2011. On both occasions Stealth was down all day. Thankfully Stealth was running today, and furthermore the queue was quite short, so I quickly got on the train. I sat in the left seat of the back row of the front car. The train set off, climbed the vertical lift hill, went over the top and down the vertical drop. Having landed, there was one more gentle up-down undulation, before the train was back at the station. Wow, a mega fun ride. The snag was the fun was all over too quickly! I'm not sure I'd want to queue for an hour for such a brief ride. Still, I was so glad to finally ride it on this my third visit to Thorpe Park since its opening.

Nemesis Inferno (roller coaster)
This Bolliger & Mabillard Inverted Coaster (Custom) began operating 4 April 2003 and is currently one of 15 coasters of this model currently operating worldwide, with a 16th due open later this year. There was now about 15 minutes wait for Nemesis Inferno; I joined the queue at 11:37 and was on the platform at 11:54. I sat in row 4. Once despatched the train set off around a clockwise downhill spiral around the volcano, then through a tunnel. After that it went up the lift hill and downhill several times, and around various bends. There was one loop-the-loop along the way. I thoroughly enjoyed every bit of it, and didn't scream or shout "Mercy" (unlike my very first visit to Thorpe Park in June 2005).

X:\No Way Out (roller coaster)
Just like last time, I had difficulty finding this indoor coaster, and had to ask someone the way to it. Having finally found it, I entered the building and found no queue for the train. This Vekoma Enigma has been operating since 23 March 1996, and is one of 3 coasters of this model operating worldwide. The train is unusual in that the seats all face backwards to the direction of travel. What looks like the first row (row 5) is in fact the back row, and what appears to be the back row (row 1) is the front row. Confusing to say the least! My first go was in row 1.

Having left the ride and building at the end, I re-entered the building for a second go. Back at the loading waiting area, there was a delay due to a clean-up taking place. After a few minutes, riders were able to get on the train. This time I sat in row 5.

Flying Fish (roller coaster)
Having ridden six out of Thorpe Park's seven roller coasters today, it was now time to ride the smallest one, Flying Fish. This Mack Rides Blauer Enzian originally operated as Space Station Zero from 1983 to 1989, and Flying Fish from 1990 to 31 October 2004. After being in storage during 2005 and 2006, it was brought back into service, still as Flying Fish, at the start of the 2007 season. Unlike the other six coasters, this does multiple laps of the track in a single turn, although the actual number you get seems to vary from turn to turn. Just like mid-afternoon on my 40th birthday visit last September, this was walk-on. For now I just had one go. My verdict: tame compared to even Hornet at Flambards or Maximus at Devon's Crealy, but still worth riding to say I'd ridden it this visit.

Lunch At Crust
Feeling peckish, I went to get some lunch somewhere. I went to Crust, where I had a chicken salad baguette and black coffee. I sat at one of the benches near the lake to enjoy them.

Flying Fish (roller coaster)
My first ride after lunch was one go on Flying Fish. This was my final go on here for today.

Tidal Wave
"You will get very wet on this ride". Although it was a sunny day, the queue was very short. When I reached the station, I put my cagoule and leggings on. There was a large climb to the top. At the top the boat did a U-turn and down the ramp (long way down), until it hit the water with a mighty splash. My T-shirt and jeans stayed dry underneath my rain gear, whereas everyone else became drenched! Serve the others right for not wearing waterproofs on the ride! Finally there was another U-bend and back to station. This was my only go on Tidal Wave all day.

Storm Surge
Although Storm Surge first opened in 2011, I didn't have time to ride it on my 40th birthday visit last September. Therefore I was determined to ride it this time. Being as I still had my cagoule and leggings on, now was a good time to ride Storm Surge. The waiting time for a dinghy was quite short, just a few minutes. Once seated in a dinghy along with a few other riders, the boat climbed the tall lift hill. Having reached the top, the dinghy floated down what is really a giant water slide all the way to the bottom, where there was a splash. Finally the boat sailed along a canal at the bottom, around a bend and back the disembarkation point. This was my only go on Storm Surge all day; it's a pity I didn't have another go on it later. Altogether a fun recent addition to Thorpe Park. My only gripe was the water in the bottom of the dinghy, I tried my best to keep my feet above the water. One really needs Wellington boots to ride this. The attendants ought really to pump water out of the boats between rides, provided it doesn't take too long.

Rumba Rapids
My first ever ride on this was during RCCGB SAW-Ted in March 2009. Having missed it during my 40th birthday visit last September, I was determined to ride it this time. Being as I still had my cagoule and leggings on, now was the obvious time to ride Rumba Rapids. I sat in boat number 10 (purple). A pleasurable experience floating around the flowing waterway and going up the ride, but more a relaxing ride than a thrilling one. This was my only go on Rumba Rapids all day.

Logger's Leap (log flume)
My final water ride of the day, one go on the log flume Logger's Leap. When I got there, the ride was walk-on. I sat in log number 5. My log sailed around the canal for some way before going up the first lift hill, and down a drop. The splash was nothing like as big as I thought it might be. My log continued for what seemed like eternity, until eventually it reached a second lift hill, followed by a drop, which produced another splash. Finally the log sailed on to the station. A fun two-drop log flume, but I'm still not really in a position to say which is the best log flume out of this and other two-drop log flumes I have ridden elsewhere. This was my only go on Logger's Leap all day. After leaving this ride I took my rain gear off.

I decided to do Samurai next, being as I was close to it. Unlike on my 40th birthday visit last September, the queue was very short this time. This Mondial ride consists of several seat rows which flip over as the main "spider" rotates. Not for the faint hearted! Despite that, I didn't scream at all on this ride, in fact I was quite relaxed. Another fun ride spin 'n' spew ride, but once was enough. I never returned to this later.

As I left Samurai, I met Alan Chilvers and spoke to him for a few minutes.

A kind of big wheel made by Huss. It is similar to Enterprise at Alton Towers which I rode during Loopathon Alton Towers in 2005 and 2006. When I turned up at this ride there was no queue, so I was able to step straight into a car and the door was locked shut. The cars hang from above, you sit inside but have no restraint. The ride set off clockwise. As it picked up speed, the cars flung outwards, and eventually the whole disc tilted so you travelled round in a circle at high speed on an angle. At this speed, centrifugal force kept riders firmly in place, hence no need for a restraint. I noticed it was almost impossible to lift my feet or arms when going full speed. Towards the end the disc returned to the horizontal position, the ride slowed down and the cars returned to their normal dangling position. A mega fun ride, but once at a time is enough for me. I could have ridden it again a couple of hours later having been on other rides in between, but two goes on this straight off would make me really giddy. As it happened, I never returned to this ride later in the day.

Vortex (Afterburner)
A Freak-Out / Afterburner type ride which swings and spins. I sat next to Barry on this ride. Whereas some riders were screaming, I remained quiet. One go was fun but I didn't want to risk a second go.

I had the chance to ride this during my very first ever visit to Thorpe Park: the 90 minute delegates' ERS 6pm to 7:30pm on day 1 of the InterSystems UK Symposium in June 2005. Of the four rides open to delegates that evening (Rush, Colossus, Nemesis Inferno and Slammer), I gave Slammer as I didn't like the look of it (but rode the other three rides). During RCCGB SAW-Ted (March 2009) and my 40th birthday visit (30 Sep 2011), I was keen to ride this but didn't (I think it was out of action either or both days).

This time Slammer was working, so I was determined to ride it. Like many of the other rides today, this was walk-on. I sat in seat 5A. I only remember seeing one other rider on this at the time. Whilst waiting for the ride to start, I felt nervous as to what the ride action would be like. Anyway the part of the ride with seats at both ends rose upwards before starting to flip over about its centre. During the flip, my end rose really high, over the top and back down again. I'm not sure how many cycles there were, but eventually the seat unit returned to horizontal whilst still near the top of the tower, before finally returning to ground level My verdict: not as bad as I'd feared, but once for now was enough! I never returned to this later. After leaving Slammer, the time was 15:48.

Mr Monkey's Banana Ride
A family ride in the "Thrilling and Fun!" category, this is basically a swinging pirate ship but the boat resembles a yellow banana. This ride was walk-on, in fact I was the only rider on it! I sat in an end row to get the maximum thrill out of it. A fun "fill in" ride to add to the total number of rides this visit, but one go was enough.

Detonator (drop tower)
A drop tower ride. Unlike my 40th birthday visit last September, Detonator was walk-on this time. The seats are arranged on a circular unit surrounding the tower. Once everyone was secured, the seat unit was pulled to the top of the tower, whereupon it was released. It's difficult to describe how it feels during the free-fall drop, but once again I was relaxed throughout the whole ride duration, and didn't scream at all. Sadly the ride was all over too quickly, it's just once up and once down. Another mega fun ride, the only way to find out what it's like is to ride it yourself. This was my only go on Detonator all day.

Having left Detonator, I met Mark Blundell and spoke to him for a few minutes.

Stealth (roller coaster)
It was now the final hour of normal opening time, so I decided to have a few more goes on Stealth next. I ended up having three goes.
First go: I sat next to Planenut towards the back of the train.
Second go: I sat alone on this go.
Third go: I sat next to Planenut in the front row, or pole position as Thorpe Park call it. Sitting in the front row allowed me a clear view of the track ahead at every stage of the ride.

Nemesis Inferno (roller coaster)
With normal opening time rapidly drawing to a close, I decided to cram in a few goes on Nemesis Inferno, which thankfully was now walk-on. I had time for three goes, and enjoyed each one of them.
First go: front row.
Second go: back row (row 7)
Third go: back row (row 7)

The time was 17:04 when I completed my third go and left Nemesis Inferno for the last time.

Swarm ERS
It was now time for the highlight of the day, the Swarm ERS. I'm not sure exactly what time it started, but anyway, it was 17:14 when I got there. At the Swarm entrance I met Gareth Preece and spoke to him briefly. He said he was about to go (and not stay for the ERS) due to the long drive home.

During the ERS, I had time for three goes on Swarm, as follows:
First go: from platform 1.
Second go: from platform 2.
Third go: from platform 1 (back row)

Whilst walking away from Swarm after my third go, I spoke to Lucy Cosnett for a few minutes.

Group Photo
When the ERS was over, RCCGB members and Thorpe Park staff gathered for a group photo. This was followed by a group hug. However there was no hokey cokey on this occasion.

Summary of my day at Thorpe Park in order of activity

Swarm 1
Quantum 1
Colossus 2
SAW: The Ride 2
Stealth 1
Nemesis Inferno 1
X:\No Way Out 2
Flying Fish 1


Flying Fish 1
Tidal Wave 1
Storm Surge 1
Rumba Rapids 1
Loggers Leap 1
Samurai 1
Zodiac 1
Vortex 1
Slammer 1
Mr. Monkey's Banana Ride 1
Detonator 1
Stealth 3
Nemesis Inferno 3

ERS: Swarm 3

Cumulative summary of rides all day

Flying Fish
Loggers Leap
Mr. Monkey's Banana Ride
Nemesis Inferno
Rumba Rapids
SAW: The Ride
Storm Surge
Tidal Wave
X:\No Way Out

Returning To Staines
Having finally left Thorpe Park, Andy T gave me a lift back to Staines town centre. This gave us time for further conversation. Back in Staines town centre around 18:22, we said our last goodbyes.

Evening Meal
My next task was getting dinner somewhere: Wetherspoons or Pizza Hut. After some thought, I decided to go to Pizza Hut. For main course, I decided to have a Regular Italian Farmhouse pizza. A fill-it-yourself salad bowl was included in the price of the pizza, so I filled my bowl with a variety of salad, couscous and pasta. For dessert, I chose Adult Ice Cream Factory. A glass of Pepsi accompanied my drink.

Journey Home
I left Pizza Hut around 19:30. After spending a few minutes wandering around the retail park, I walked back to the railway station. Once there I caught the 20:23 train to Reading. Having reached Reading at 21:11, I had about an hour to kill before catching the 22:11 train to Bath Spa, which I was booked to travel on. To fill in time at Reading station, I had a cappuccino coffee at Subway in the station concourse. I finally reached Bath Spa at 23:23 and home about ten minutes later.

Beautiful warm, sunny day for the event.
Meeting members I'd met on previous Club trips again.
High overall ride count (ERS and normal time combined); my highest for a single visit to Thorpe Park to-date.
Adding Swarm and Stealth (at last) to my coaster count.
Re-riding Colossus, SAW - The Ride, Nemesis Inferno, X:\No Way Out and Flying Fish which I'd ridden on previous visits.
Evening ERS on Swarm, during which I amassed three goes.
Evening meal at Pizza Hut in Staines town centre in the evening.

Rush out of action all day; still you can't win 'em all I suppose.
Losing my trip badge whilst I was on Colossus in the morning (at least someone from the RCCGB found it and returned it to me soon after lunch).

Summing Up
Another excellent trip, and a great turnout too. The weather was perfect, dry with bright sunshine all day. It was great meeting other members again, including Andy Hine, Alan Chilvers, Andy T, Barry, Big Stevie B, the two Gareths, Lucy Cosnett, Mark Blundell, Mary (Regatta), Planenut and Smiler. Also it was great to add two more coasters Swarm and Stealth to my coaster count, and to re-ride the other five coasters (Colossus, SAW - The Ride, Nemesis Inferno, X:\No Way Out, Flying Fish) which I have ridden on previous trips. I was particularly overjoyed to ride Stealth at last, on this my third visit to Thorpe Park since it opened in March 2006; a case of third time lucky. Just one point about the seven coasters, they're all steel. Come on Thorpe Park, get some wood! All in all, a perfect start to the 2012 coaster season.

Many thanks to Andy Hine for organising this trip, and to Andy T for kindly giving me a lift to Staines town centre in the evening. Thanks also to the member who found my lost trip badge by Colossus and returned it to me early afternoon.

See you at the Blackpool Bash.

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