Ballooning - final day and the excitement builds

We are in the last day of the ballooning competition of the World Air Games 2009. It has been a very exciting week with another exciting day today to finish the Championship.

After a long difficult flight yesterday morning flying west to east, we had strong winds from the east in the afternoon with strength of up to 20 kts. Before the launch period, the forecast was for the winds to drop below 10kts. We planned a Fly-In and Watership Down but the winds stayed strong up until 8pm. With the winds not dropping, we changed the task to a two part Hare and Hound so we could control the launches from the Common Launch Area and cancel the flight if necessary. Fortunately the winds cooperated.

The Hare Balloon launched precisely at 8pm, piloted by Event Director David Levin and accompanied by measuring team captains Nathalie Dantan and Sylvia Meinl. We flew west for twenty minutes before landing and dropping off one target and a measuring team captain. We then continued northwest but had to stay up 2,000 feet and fly for forty minutes to avoid a large Bird Sanctuary which was a Red Prohibited Zone (PZ). After crossing the PZ we landed in the next available good field and the competitors were able to make good drops before sunset which was the end of the scoring period. Almost all competitors scored on both targets. At the end of the day, Sven Goehler of Germany was in first place, followed by Igor Charbonnier of Italy and Uwe Schneider of Germany in third.

This morning's task started with measuring the winds at the usual 3am. The surface winds were light and the high winds were moderate from the west. We planned a flight where the competitors could use the high winds; in the event the low winds died or changed directions dramatically. The task sheet called for a Fly-In, Judge Declared Goal, Hesitation Waltz and ending with a Judge Declared (Star) Goal over the Clock Tower in Mondovi. The low winds co-operated perfectly and competitors were able to score in the MSA in the first three tasks. Then they manoeuvered over town to fly over the Clock Tower approximately 50 metres above the tower. The Jury and Event Director were able to observe the fly over from a beautiful park at the base of the tower. There could not have been a more scenic location in all the world. The Medieval Mountain Top City is truly spectacular. We now anxiously await the scores to see who is in the lead. Unfortunately, Igor Charbonniers’ balloon developed a tear and he had to land after the first target. This was very disappointing as he had been in second place and scored very well on the first goal.

We have now completed twenty-two tasks and the weather forecast for the last flight tonight looks good. It has been a fantastic week of flying so far and we look forward to a great finish tonight.