Day 6 at the 22nd FAI World Hot Air Balloon Championship in Saga, Japan!

pic1The 22nd FAI World Hot Air Balloon Championship is entering Day 6 of competition to determine the 2016 World Hot Air Balloon Champion. With three competition flights remaining, the top 10 competitors are:







R. Name Points
1 Rhett Heartsill (USA) 16 755

Rimas Kostiuskevicius (LTU)

15 348


Nicolas Schwartz (FRA)

14 738


Roman Hugi (SUI)

14 437


Stefan Zeberli (SUI)

14 430


Rokas Kostiuskevicius (LTU)

14 425


Sergey Latypov (RUS)

14 288


Uwe Schneider (GER)

14 213


Chase Donner (USA)

14 077


Paul Petrehn (USA)

13 825





2014 Junior World Champion is in 11th place with 13 821 points. Defending Champion Yudai Fujita (JPN) is in 15th place with 13 401 points. 2014 and 2016 Women’s World Champion Nicola Scaife is in 43rd place with 11 369 points.

pic2Rhett Heartsill (USA) has been holding the lead since Task 12 despite pressure from father Rimas and son Rokas Kostiuskevicius (LTU) and Sergey Latypov (RUS).

Following the four-task flight flown on Monday AM and the five-part flight flown on Tuesday AM, Flight 3 (Thursday AM) was a four-task flight: Task 10 Pilot Declared Goal (PDG), Task 11 Fly In (FIN), Task 12 Hesitation Waltz (HWZ) and Task 13 Fly On (FON).

The winners of the Flight 3 Tasks are:

Task 10: Paul Petrehn (USA)
Task 11: Rhett Heartsill (USA)
Task 12: Nicola Scaife (AUS)
Task 13: Shira Katahira (JPN)

Flight 4 (Thursday PM) was a single-task flight: Task 14 PDG, won by Chase Donner (USA).

The Friday AM flight was a very challenging five-part flight: Task 15: PDG, Task 16: PDG, Task 17: Judge Declared Goal (JDG), Task 18: HWZ and Task 19: FON. The top finishers in each of the Flight 5 Tasks are:

Task 15: Odin Aragon (MEX)
Task 16: Yongjun Li (CHN)
Task 17: Shira Katahira (JPN)
Task 18: Rhett Heartsill (USA)
Task 19: Sergey Latypov (RUS)

Friday PM’s flight was a single-task flight: Task 20 FIN, won by Johann Almer (AUT).

Complete results for each task and overall standings can be found at here.

This morning (Saturday, November 5), Event Director Les Purfield set a four-part flight: Task 21: JDG, Task 22: Minimum Distance Task (MDT), Task 23: HWZ, Task 24: FON. This flight is still in progress so official results are not yet available – they should be available at about 14:00 JST (at sagaballoonworld2016.jp). The flight plan required competitors to fly southerly from the Common Launch Area (CLA) to a target about 3.5 km away for Task 21 JDG. They then had to fly northerly to complete Task 23 MDT. They had the option of completing Task 22 HWZ before or after Task 23 MDT. They then completed the flight by selecting their own goal for Task 24 FON.

This flight was very challenging for the competitors as they had many options and changing wind conditions to consider when planning their flight. It was also very entertaining for the tens-of-thousands of spectators at the Kase River launch site – they got to see the launching of 105 balloons and then about 30 minutes later, watch the return of the balloons on approach to targets for Task 23 MDT. Over half of the competitors made it back to the CLA and many achieved results of less than 1 m!

This is the fourth time the World Hot Air Balloon Championship has been held in Japan and the third time in Saga. Previous events in Saga were in 1989 and 1997 and at Motegi in 2006.

Additional information about the Saga International Balloon Fiesta can be found here.

Photo on top: Competitor 33 Laure De Coligny on approach to a target for Task 11 and being welcomed to Saga!
Photo middle: Competitor 97 Rhett Heartsill (USA)
Photo Credits: Jean-Claude Weber