Thursday, November 29, 2007

Next adventures

So I am back from Japan and have even had some sleep. Pity it probably won't be enough to get me through the next month or two.

This weekend I have got what I am expecting to be a fantastic workshop with Jordan Frisbee & Tatiana Mollmann, two of the best West Coast Swing dancers from the USA.

Check out this video from one of their recent competition wins and you might have an idea of why I am looking forward to it.

Along with a bit of dancing I am also now locked in to do the Rolex Sydney to Hobart on Namadgi.

Over the coming weeks I have some training to do and race preparation. I am a late entry for the team but after doing the Sydney to Gold Coast race a few months back I am sure I can jump back into the team and contribute.

While I am looking forward to the actual race, the party and New Years celebrations in Hobart will be just that bit more fun as one of the race crew.

Monday, November 26, 2007


With the last flights flown, the results published, the balloon cleaned and ready for shipping it was time to party.

The Awards party was fun as always with good food, beer and a lot of worn out but jolly pilots and crews regaling each other with tales of what if, if only and so close...

Results wise, the event was won by Takeo Mizukami from Japan, 2nd was David Bereford from the UK and 3rd was Nick Donner, USA.

I managed to slide into 10th palce and also took my Japan Grand Prix team from 15th to 7th. I was also ranked 5th on grand prix points for the event so I am pretty happy with that.

The real party was back at the Twin ring hotel in room 336, also known as the British Embassy. A combination of embassy rules and public decency prevent me from publishing photos so words will have to suffice.

Picture a small hotel room with anywhere from 20 to 40 people drinking, talking and generally making merry. This is the Embassy. It is an institution that is hosted by an unruly bunch of officials and scoring team members.

Huge amounts of beer, rum, gin and other poisons are consumed. It is an event tradition and at the Motegi event in particular quite messy at times with the party spilling out into the hall. If you are on the third floor anywhere near the embassy, don't expect to sleep.

This year they had a mirror ball wine bottle hanging from the ceiling that had to remain spinning at all times and an alarm clock that chimed the Muslim call to prayer at the push of a button - There was much searching for mecca done during the evening but alas I am not sure if anyone ever found the correct direction.

The high lite for me was loosing Yosh to an observers room where he slept while we drank. At some time he awoke and vanished. At nearly 2am I could not find him or my van and I presumed he had taken off to our house some 30 minutes drive away for his own bed.

While I knew I could just crash on a floor at the hotel, we needed a fast getaway in the morning and it was going to get complicated.

Just after we had commandeered a car and a suitably sober driver Yosh magically appeared having just done an emergency run to the nearest 7 Eleven with a bunch of observers who had the munchies.

We made it home soon after and had a good laugh about the mess we would have been in had I driven off in the other car.

This morning I was not feeling the best and I promise never to mix beer, sake, vodka, rum and some sweet schnapps sort of thing ever again.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Motegi is over.

As always the last day or so of a competition is total chaos combined with sleep deprivation.

Yesterday afternoon had two tasks, PDG and FIN. The PDG had a 200m radius scoring area around any selected goal.

The winds had everyone at altitude looking for speed to get to the goals. I chose a good launch site and good PDG goal but flew like an idiot and messed up both approaches ending up with 160m and about 200m. Nothing like the points I needed.

The final flight was this morning. Three markers were waiting for us at the briefing. The flight was a JDG, FON, FON. All three tasks had limited scoring areas with the final two FIN goals limited to 200m of the selected goal.

Again were were looking for speed and direction at about 3000 feet. On the way into the JDG there was a fair bit of traffic. I was the first to make an approach and ended up drifting past the target about 15m off to the east and at about 50 feet up. A particularly limp wristed throw saw me end up at 5.22m when it should have been much closer.

I then had the pleasure of watching balloon after balloon follow me in and get closer. I think I ended up in 14th place but luckily walked away with about 800 points.

The two fly on goals were the next challenge. I had picked my first one out in the valley further to the east and made the climb back to 2700 feet for a good track to it. Conditions were almost identical to yesterday in the valley with a good northerly breeze on the surface and lighter winds above that for a few hundred feet.

I lined up the intersection then flew straight down the road towards the target following Nick Donner. I watched Nick throw about 40cm and the pressure was on. It was going to be one of those mornings where the 200m scoring area was the least of the problems.

I kept a nice tight line into the goal and threw 53cm from 10 feet above ground level.

My last fly on was on the same line and after a short climb back to 1000 feet for some more speed and a kick to the left, I again followed nick down the road into the goal. This drop was 1.31m and Nick beat me again with less than 60cm.

I have heard some very good results for the last two tasks so it will be interesting to see how many points I can get.

I also know at least two people just above me in the top ten did really badly so we are sitting on the edge of our seats waiting for the final results to be posted. Fingers crossed I made it back into the top ten!

We have the awards and farewell party tonight then it is off to the airport to drop the balloon off then fly on home.

UPDATE: Final results are out. I finished in 10th place which means some cash which is always good fun and a slightly less dented ego than I had before.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Another Utsonomia morning

First of all here is the plot from the disaster yesterday afternoon. It looks pretty but it was not at the time.

I have also found another little technical detail in the rules as a result of this flight. It seems I have got zero points for the maximum distance because I did not drop the marker at all.

Because I landed after the scoring period it is a zero rather than group B result. I should have known this and it makes sense now but it is a stupid technicality. I am not game to see how many points it cost me.

Ignore the above rubbish...I do get a group B result and have no idea what I was thinking when I wrote that. I did know what i was doing holding onto the marker and it was some one else who convinced me otherwise after the fact.

Motegi Flight 6 - PM

MXD, HWZ - Flight from nowhere to nowhere..
So, to this mornings flight. Four markers were waiting for us with the tasks being a Fly In, PDG, FON and FON.
The surface winds were from the north with upper winds from the south west and west at height. The surface winds were expected to washout by about 9am.

Most of the pack seemed to head south to do the fly in while I took a launch site to the north with an approach at low level flying down the river. It was exactly the same conditions as the key grab flight before the Worlds here last year.

I think the northern option worked best with good results for most of us who launched in the same area. The guys coming in from the south had more work to do and I don't think anyone got closer than four of us that came in from the north. I dropped about 7m and was right next to Owen Keown with Fujita probably the winner on the flight with about a meter.

For the PDG we could choose two goals. I put one to the south in case I could continue down the river and one off to the east. The southern one was not looking good so I climbed up to 5000 feet and headed off to the east.

The northerly was still flowing down the valley and I lined up on the PDG very easily. Unfortunately I did not fly it all that well and ended up with a 15m drop.

Keeping at low level and on the same track the first fly on was another easy goal flown badly fro 29.8m. The final fly on things were starting to come together and a pathetic throw buggered up a nice approach. The final result was 4.88m

I have heard some very good results for the PDG, FON, FON so we will see how it all works out.

Two more flights to go....

Motegi Flight 7 - AM
FIN, PDG, FON,FON - Flight from NW to SW and everything in between.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Hero to Zero

Some days you just have to be put back in your place.

After a good morning I had a spring in my step, my confidence was high. Life and flying were good.

This afternoon I got hit in the nuts.

The flight had two tasks, a maximum distance within a scoring area and a Hesitation waltz using any of the goals in the scoring area for the maximum distance. The scoring area for the hesitation waltz was the entire competition map and the tasks could be flown in any order.

The winds called for another hight flight - right to the 6000ft ceiling. The would take us to the east enough to drop in and use the north easterly wind on the surface to run down through the scoring area and hopefully pick off one of the hesitation waltz goals too.

After the initial climb, I was not all that happy with my position in the pack and it was time to something heroic or settle for the bottom half of the pack.

I was also concerned because I was expecting the wind on the surface to turn more to the north or even fill in from the west like the upper winds.

I lined up one of the northern most HWZ goals and made a descent to the surface. The surface winds had increased significantly and we were now doing 20km/h form the north east still. I passed my first option about 400 to the west and decided that I could do better on one of the goals further south and increase my maximum distance result too.

I climbed back to 6000 feet only to find that the upper wind had now swung to the south west and I was flying back along my surface track and not getting far enough to the east to do any good.

With time ticking down towards sunset I made a very fast descent which will no doubt have people talking. The surface winds were the same as before but now I was 300m further west and with no hope of even seeing thee scoring area or any of the goals for the hesitation waltz.

In the end I flew past my original HWZ goal at about 700m and dropped the marker on a sand bank in the river right on the end of the time limit. The maximum distance is a no result because we never made it into the scoring area to drop a marker.

Bugger eh? Well we are off to do a night glow and drink some beer to commiserate this afternoon and celebrate the memory of Masashi and the win this morning.

Utsonomia is not in Italy

This mornings flight was held out at Utsonomia. We were greeted with five markers on the table and a combination of crazed grins and head scratching from the pilots.

The tasks were to be a MND (Minimum distance), JDG, FON JDG, FON. The Minimum distance was also to be the Masashi Memorial task. I left the briefing wondering if I could get the double having won the memorial flight in Saga a few weeks back.

Conditions were perfect at the riverside launch site and the green flag was raised at 0655. Most balloons were launching by about half way through the 30 minute launch period.

A climb to about 3300ft gave a good track back over the north of the field before descending back to the river for a straight in approach. There was a fair bit of traffic around but I managed to stay clear of the masses and cruised in about 2 feet of the ground for a 44cm drop and a win on the task. Adam has kindly uploaded a video of the drop to Aunty Monkey.

The game this morning was always going to be time and fuel so I got off to the first JDG as fast as i could. I opted for a slightly higher drop to conserve time and fuel and took the 22m result knowing it would score ok. It did and was already on the notice board here as 4th place and 924 points.

I chose the first Fly on well towards the next JDG to keep me moving in that direction. Unfortunately the winds started to ease up and I ran out of time, having to drop at about 2.6km from my goal.

The bonus of this mistake was that it put me well ahead of the field towards the next JDG which I am pretty sure I have also won at 6.5km or so. The next nearest balloon would have been a km or so behind me.

The final fly on also worked out reasonably well with a last minute change of goal selection working out well and an 83m result in the last seconds of the scoring period.

I am a very happy boy and waiting to see where it moves me over all in the results.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Fright crancelled...

The afternoon was shaping up to be a beauty with three markers on the table.

Winds were still strong and from the north/north west but we were hoping they would ease.

The planned flight was a PDG, FON and FIN with the FIN able to be flown out of sequence so you mix the order to your advantage.

Just before the start of the 1500-1600 the launch period the PDG and FON were cancelled by SMS and the launch period was reset to 1545-1600 for just the FIN task.

With all the normal crazy driving and finding launch sites we ended up wedged in a field with one American, three Brits and Mizukami San from Japan. It was going to be very tight in the windy inflation.

Just as we were all about to start the fans another message came through cancelling the flight in total. Time to pack it all up and go find a beer or three.

Results are up from the morning. My 8m on the PDG only paid 693 points, the second task was actually third place and 952 points - two pilots crept over to the other hesitation waltz goal and did well there.

An interesting thing with the scoring kicked in on the Hesitation waltz. Because there were three of us very close to goal(s) but everyone else was out near the median result, the scores jumped from my 952 down to the mid 500's almost instantly. This will really hit people hard because there are three of us that made a 400 point break on the entire field - a rare advantage to get.

The fly on was also only good for 620 points but at least it is above the median.

Motegi murder

This morning was freezing. When it is this cold you have to hug your is in the rules.

A cold and cruel wind was blowing in from the north west, making pilots and crews shiver as we waited for the green flag at the Twin Ring common launch site.

One of the cool things that has been done this year is the distribution of pi-ball data and other messages via email to our phones. It is fantastic. There is an echo of phone going off and then pilots all head down in their phones checking the latest data.

The flight for the morning was a PDG followed by a Hesitation Waltz then Fly on.

The winds were showing 30knots (60km/h) at about 1000 feet but each subsequent wind reading showed it easing to a mere 25knots :)

At about 0710, the phone went of again informing us the launch period would start at 0720.

A last minute check of the winds and we were under way. There really was not much choice to be made with the PDG. Most pilots if not all had chosen the same goal and it was getting busy around it with balloons and markers going everywhere. The approach was a little challenging with the balloon going from about 30km/h into a slow valley wind at 90 degrees to the previous direction.

Watching the balloons ahead, most were mucking up the approach so I decided to make a higher drop and just fly straight at the target. It paid off with an 8.4m drop. This looked like about 7th place when we went back to measure but we are all very close and the median will be down the road a fair way.

On the way into the PDG I had found a narrow layer of wind that would take me to the western most goal of the Hezitation Waltz. The eastern most goal did not look achievable at all and even the western one was going to be hard to get to.

As soon as I dropped the PDG marker I climbed to the exact altitude I had recorded before and then stayed in the narrow band all the way to the goal. It paid off. Many pilots looked like they were hunting for it and were slowly slipping off to the east of the goal.

Another high drop at about 40km/h had the marker slide into the base ball field where the target was. As far as I can tell it was the only marker to get in the field and be checked by the measuring team. The distance looked like about 40m but I was not really checking as I was getting buffeted by mechanical turbulence from the high winds over the mountains.

There were a few special shapes going on out there as people got whacked dropping into valleys or hitting the wind shear.

I had chosen a fly on goal well down the track and had plenty of time to line up for it. Things keept changing and in the end I had real problems getting down to the surface for the approach. Every time I descended I was in very bad turbulence and when only 200 feet of the ground over houses and power lines I was unable to drive the balloon as low as I needed. There was a lot of burning and venting going on to get through the shear but it was too late. I slipped off to the side and dropped about 160m from the FON goal.

Even the landing had more shenanigans with turbulence. I flew out into a nice open area in the hope of getting it a bit easier and still got a huge shear only 100 feet of the surface and accelerated wildly during the last part of the approach. I lined up a dirt road and did a huge drag landing in the rice paddy beside the track and ended up dragging the basket up on to the track for a very easy pack up and retrieve.

So today was pretty good. It will be interesting to see the scores because most people took much earlier fly on goals but I don't think they would have been all that easy to get to.

Fingers crossed the winds settle down for the afternoon flight.

Motegi Flight 3 - AM
PGD, HWZ, FON - Flight from NW to SE

Flight 1 & 2 tracks

Motegi Flight 1 - AM
JDG, JDG, PDG, FON - Flight from NW to SW

Detail of the two JDG goals in flight one. You can see where I went around in circles for half an hour trying to get down to the second JDG....

Motegi Flight 2 - PM
FIN, WDN - Flight from West to East.

Here you can see how I missed everything :) The kick to the north you can see at the end of my flight is what we were expecting for the entire flight but only people taking off 5 minutes later than me got :(

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Haga hell

Flight two is done and dusted.

For the afternoon we were out in Haga where the winds are fickle and the frustration can be high. For the task we had a fly in followed by a watership down.

The game today was to time your approach to the fly in so that you did not arrive before the hare balloon that was going to launch for the watership down. Once you dropped the first marker for the fly in you then had to chase the hare balloon and drop a marker at the target laid out where they landed.

It is a fun sequence of tasks and one I have not seen for some time.

As happens in Haga the winds were shifting the whole time as we looked for a launch site. It was predicted to swing around to the west and indeed did about 15 minutes into the launch period. A quick relocation and some more pi-balls had us in a position I was happy with for the fly in.

While we were still sorting out land owner permission the hare balloon launched from the fly in goal and we briefly saw it from just over 2 km away before it dropped down onto the surface again. The race was on. We had to get airborne early enough to see where the hare landed and be able to get to his landing spot before the winds all changed again near sunset.

In 15 minutes we had everything out of the truck and were airborne. Unfortunately we were also flying south of where I wanted to be.

We passed by the Fly In goal 800m to the south then a further 400m to the south of the Hare balloon.

Looking back we could see the other balloons that took off a bit further back and only 5 minutes later got a better shift back to the left and had a clean run at both goals. I will be in the bottom few results for both of the tasks this afternoon.


So, that is day one. We have a welcome party with the Mayor tonight and a chance to dull the pain with quality Japanese beer so we are relaxed and ready for the morning!

A picture says so much more and as such I have also prepared some screen captures from the map showing my flights. They are on my other Tablet PC so will upload them later on when I get more time.

Motegi madness Day 1

Woohoo, we have been ankle deep in mud, sliding up and down hills - getting pushed around the sky with 40km/h wind shears in the mountains.

This is Motegi and why I love it.

The first flight of the competition was from the Twin Ring race track. Four tasks were set, JDG, JDG, PDG and FON.

The two Judge declared goals were to the south east of the common launch point. After launch we had to climb to 4500ft to get far enough over to the east to make an approach to the first goal.

There was a very fast layer of wind at about 2000ft from the east making for an interesting change in direction while in the climb or descent.

My first drop was about 230m and right on the edge of an out of bounds area.

The second JDG had people drifting around in circles in the valley. With only 1800m to cover between the goals it was too close to climb high and drop form height - the combination of speeds involved made it very difficult to achieve. I think some people did but others also lost their markers in the forest trying to do it. I took about 850m in the end as a safe result.

The PDG was again chosen prior to launch and we were given the option of choosing two goals. I got to within 400m of my first option but was at 4500ft and doing 40km/h. It was all too close to descend or drop safely. I flew onto option two but again was on the edge of the window and ended up with a high drop into a swamp area where we could not recover the marker.

The result should be estimated as it was seen by the observer. I think it is about 600m.

The final fly on task was again messed up by me with another big climb required to get over to the goal. Another muffed approach saw a drop of about 420m.

All in all not a good start but I have heard lots of other horror stories along with the rare good result.

As always in Motegi, just sit back and wait for the is going to be a great week.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

From Saga to Motegi

Saga finished all to soon. The final resultwas 8th place which was sort ofok but not really. Then it was back to Australia for a week of work before jumping back on a plane and off to the north of Japan for the Tochigi Balloon Fiesta.

I was lucky enough on the flight home to get the leg from Singapore to Sydney on the new Airbus A380. At first it was a real novelty. It felt bigger, the isles were a little wider, the seats were too. There even seemed to be a little more leg room and the in seat video screens were about twice the size you normally see in cattle class.

By half way in to the flight the entertainment had crashed twice and the seat was no more comfortable than any other.

At the Sydney end of the flight I wanted to run screaming from the airport and into the warm embrace of my bed but it seems that while the runways and aero-bridges have been upgraded, the baggage handling has not.

In moments the singe carousel was jammed with all of the priority baggage which was no doubt owned by all people held up in customs. Eventually things started to clear up but it was a full 40 minutes before I got my bag and out the door.

Anyhow, that was a week ago! Since then I have been working like crazy, kite surfing, been invited (and accepted) to do the Syney to Hobart race, dancing etc....

Now I am in Motegi, or more correctly Tochigi Prefecture and the town of Haga. The weather is decidedly cold although it should be good for flying for most of the week to come.

We had a practice flight this morning and have just had the master briefing.

The competition starts in the morning. With some luck results will be published on the website:

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Saga '07 competition flight 6

The last competition flight has been flown. Today we had another mass launch for the crowd with only two tasks set.

A PDG then JDG with a 200m limited scoring area.

We had to use the upper winds to get to the JDG and speeds were in the range of 40km/h above 1000 feet. As such everything came rushing up pretty quick and the whole flight was over in 26 minutes. For some reason I did not have time to take any photos today...

I was not able to correct enough for my PDG and ended up with a 300m result after releasing the marker at 2000ft.

The approach into the JDG was from the same height and while I was trying to descend, balloons below me prevented a safe fast descent into the goal. In the end I had to release the marker from over 1000 feet and hope I had my calculations right to keep it in the limited scoring area of 200m.

I think the result was about 90 to 100m and looked like it was only one of about 25 markers close enough to get a score.

All in all it will be interesting to see if I can hang onto a top 10 spot for a little bit of prize money. If not it does not matter.

The high light for me has been winning the Masashi Kakuda Memorial Cup yesterday morning. I considered Masashi a great friend and even mentor in some ways so it is a great honour to win that flight and be the first to have my name on his trophy.

It also looks like I might be invited to join a team for the final round of the Japanese Grand Prix in Motegi in a few weeks time so that will be fun to see if I can get them some more points along the way.

This afternoon will be the key grab but already the winds are picking up so I am not hopeful for another flight. It will be time to go drinking and enjoy the company of some fellow balloon nuts from around the world!

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Saga '07, Saturday Arvo

Well, surprise, surprise. Another cancellation due to high winds.

Tonight we have the Sanyamanchi party which is basically a bit of drinking, some food stalls and chance to watch the local dance groups jump around and have fun.

I have always thought that the night was more about trying to dull the foreign pilots with plum sake one the night before the last competition flight - you never see the Japanese pilots there, they are always tucked up in bed resting.

Still no results up from this morning so the tension is did I go??? What do I have to pull out of the hat tomorrow?

I got lots of great photos during the flight this morning so they should be uploaded to flickr in a little while.

Saga '07 competition flight 5

This morning dawned calm with blue skys. Saga has turned on it's best weather for the weekend when the big crowds come to the banks of the Kase river.

Results from yesterday show that it was a missed opportunity with most people near the top messing things up. Going into today's flight I am in 11th place, 800 points from the leader and only 500 points from second place. It is very tight at the top and things will change again soon.

There was a brief moment of excitement when I saw four markers on the table - we have not flown a quad task in Saga for years. If there is one disappointment here it is the lack of tasks that are often set, when the location and weather would allow many more.

The excitement was short lived. It was still three tasks. Pilot Declared Goal, Judge Declared Goal and a Maximum Distance Double Drop. The XDD requiring the extra marker.

Sadly the opportunity for another task or two was missed - why the first marker of the XDD was not a FON I do not know, even the last one for that matter to make it five tasks from four markers. Oh well.

The PDG was also set as a memorial to Masashi Kakuda. I would love to win this task and good goal selection may have made it a reality.

The flight into the PDG got very congested with three of us fighting for position. In the end I won out and dropped closest on that goal with 2.2m. I have not heard better yet so fingers crossed for the winning result.

The JDG presented some challenge and in the end I took the safe option of dropping from height rather than trying to bomb all the way onto the surface. The winds were starting their change and I did not want to risk drifting off. The drop was 18.9m but on this task it was not good enough - scores are already up and it looks like 665 points..

The XDD was to be flown inside a box 2km wide by 1km deep. I approached the north east corner of the box and entered about 100m further south than the ideal location. It was then an almost straight flight to the diagonally opposite corner. Again, the exit point was not ideal but with the available winds it was not to bad. The best result would have been 2225m and my result will be 1770m. I think there will be a few people with no results.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Saga '07, Friday Arvo

The flight was cancelled again this afternoon due to high winds.

It is bit of a bummer because we now only have three competition flights left and with the afternoons looking like this, it probably means only 2 flights in reality.

It seems like this morning will be interesting in the results with some very mixed bags out there by the sounds of it. The "No Result" for the fly in looks to have paid 383 points as less than half the field made it in, so while still not good, it is not the end of the world.

Onto the lighter side of life...

One of the fun things about coming to Japan is the difference in culture. Saga has had a mega shopping centre open on the out skirts of town since I was here last year.

Now I have seen these before near Narita and Motegi so in it's self it is nothing new but is quite the novelty none the less. Yesterday while exploring I found a barber shop like none I have ever seen before.

For 1000 yen (about $9.30 Australian) you could get a hair cut in ten minutes. Obviously the price is very good but that was not what drew me in, it was the actual shop that was the interesting part.

This place was lit up like an operating theatre with six individually sealed glass booths with a very funky chair in the middle of the open space. On one wall was a series of shelves with a TV screen and what appeared to be a vacuum hose on a flexible arm.

At the entrance to the shop was a vending machine where you put in your 1000 yen note and get a ticket. The barber takes you to your booth and sits you down. After a few hand signals common to all hairdressers around the world we were under way.

Now the thing about this is that as a guy who mostly gets his hair cut with clippers, no matter how good the bib and how little circulation you have left from the paper towel wrapped around your neck, hair gets into everything. Enter the vacuum cleaner!

As this dude is clipping away at my locks, he is hoovering at the same time. When we are finished he gives my head a good ruffle and vacuum at the same time and hey presto, not a single sliver of hair out of place, down my neck or on my shirt.

Brilliant stuff. No need for a shower straight after, no need to change the sheets if you forget to shower before bed that night. I am sure it will never catch on back in OZ but it is a bloody great idea in my books.

Saga '07 competition flight 4

The good news first. After the first 7 tasks I am in 5th place and only 200 points from 2nd place and 600 from first. This is a good place to be.

The weather was fine again this morning. Unfortunately my flying was not. No Photos today either - it was all too busy.

The mornings flight was to be a Pilot Declared Goal, Fly In and another Pilot Declared Goal.

While only three tasks, the trick was always going to be the selection of the first and third goals as they had to be chosen before take off with the final goal being between 6 and 9 kilometers from the launch point.

The winds were generally from the north with some westerly component near the surface and even some southerly at times. It was very fluky and there was a lot of head scratching going on.

After choosing a launch site I got off to an early start with the intention being to use the higher and in theory more reliable winds to get into all the goals before it all changed. I was near the front of the pack and happy with that position.

At only 1.6km to a suitable PDG I had little time to correct and ended up at nearly 2000ft and still to far left of the goal. A quick calculation and I dropped the marker in to a rice field about 320m from the goal. Not a good result but as close as I could get from where I was.

The Fly In to the field was another limited scoring area and again I was approaching from high, sitting on about 3000ft to get a good run in. The surface winds were picking up from the south so I had to fly past the goal before descending into the lower winds and flying back to the north for the drop.

As can happen I got a little greedy and hung onto the marker in an attempt to make a correction as I was looking like being a few hundred meters from the goal again. I was also skirting the edge of the scoring area so a drop would have been risky as I was still around 1000feet up and had just watched a marker slide out of the scoring area right near me. It did not pay off as I did a big arc around the northern end of the scoring area and never made it back in. No result for that task.

It was then back up to 3000 feet again to see if I could get to the last goal that was chosen at the start of the flight. Sticking with the upper wind plan seem to pay off and I flew due south to the final PDG. Again, with a high approach and winds nearly 180 different on the surface it was hard to position the balloon exactly but eventually I got it down in more or less the right spot. As I flew towards the goal just above ground height, what little westerly had been there evaporated and I ended up 133m off to the west.

So, the last task may get some points but I don't expect much. There were lots of balloons hanging around fighting to get to something but you never know how they did until the results hit the wall. The same can be said for the first PDG. There will be some good ones but it was so fluky that you just never know.

The Fly In was may disaster for the day. I had the joy of watching balloon after balloon correct their approach after my mistake. Now I just have to hope that more than a hand full missed so I get some points.

I am off to find a decent coffee and some lunch...

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Saga '07, Thursday Arvo

Strong winds caused the cancellation of this afternoons flight. Currently it is still overcast and blowing a good 15knots at ground level.

Rumour is that the morning will be fine though.

Some more results are up from the flight this morning. Task 5 (2.25m) was good for second place and 999 points while Task 6 (3.85m) was good for 6th place and 988 points.

A few quick calculations puts me in 6th place overall and about 600 points behind the leader and only 250 points from second place.

It is looking very tight at the top as always.

Saga 2007, Competition flight 3

An overcast morning here in Saga but no threat of rain. Light winds were blowing from the west, north west taking balloons in the direction of the Saga Airport and Metabaru ATC area. As such only two tasks were called, Pilot Declared Goal and Fly On.

It took me a while to decide how I wanted to fly these tasks and ended up waiting towards the end of the launch period to watch the first balloons launch and see what they did. It paid off with a good PDG selection that was towards the maximum distance, making it easy to fly to with lots of time to work the various winds. I had a few problems identifying the intersection with so many white Hi-ace vans and people waving at balloons but got a visual fix early enough and cruised in for a 2.23m gravity drop from about 70 feet up.

Yosh can be seen here relaxing next to the marker as I am obviously making life too easy for him.

On the way in the the PDG I had selected a fly on a little further south of track based on the directions I had seen on the way into the first goal. I climbed to 600 feet expecting to be right on track but needed more right. Fortunately by 1200 ft I had found what I needed and hung in until quite close to the goal before a fast descent into the lower winds. I again had to make a slightly higher approach than I wanted but was able to steer directly over the goal for another 3.85m drop.

All in all it was a very good morning that will score at the top of the pack.

Some results were up from yesterday. Task 1 was 972 points, Task 2 was 1000 points and task 3 as expected was only 264 points. No one scored on the afternoon flight so I think we all get 500 points for that.

The good weather is set to continue. lets hope I keep nailing targets like today!