Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Denied

It has taken a few days to find an internet connection again. Indeed I am now at Vienna airport and waiting to check in for the flight home.

The last flight that I had been hoping for was on then off again.

Unfortunately for a number of us, it was not actually canceled until we were in the air and getting smacked around in turbulence.

The crazy thing was that I was having fun! Sure it was fast and the cut grass fields between all the forest and maize looked awfully small at 30km/h but it slowed down in places and since we were already flying it seemed a shame not to get to throw our markers.

I did have one moment with the balloon bent in half in a wind shear and was wondering if I was going to get smacked into the trees below. Andrew and Camilla said it looked like I was hung on a powerline because it was all lent over so bad.

After passing the launch site and getting the message via SMS that the flight was now canceled, my first landing opportunity was actually at one of the HWZ goals so I landed there and the target officials helped me pack up.

It was a stand up landing on the road and ended any chance of improving on my position of 49th - the median rank, right in the middle of the pack. Not happy Jan!

It was an interesting week, from not being interested in going at all to all pumped up and ready to go. Intrigued and annoyed at not having observers and using loggers only to convinced that logger only competitions are very bland (despite my inability to fly it well).

I have to admit that not having to stuff about finding and measuring markers was nice and made for much easier days BUT it felt like it was somehow lacking. The lack of fly on tasks and the pressure they bring and also the opportunity to correct for your own mistakes with a good fly on selection have me convinced that observers are a good thing.

It will be interesting to see what time and evolution of the new rules brings or if observers will be bought back into the mix as more and more pilots complain about their absence.

I have to thank Andrew, Yosh and Camilla for all their hard work during the week. They got me in the air and back for breakfast, lunch or dinner every day. Kept me smiling when the results were not what I wanted and focused the moment my mind wanted to wander to warmer, sunnier places. Thanks guys, you are legends.

So what is next? I have a few days once I get home to prepare for the Ceroc Australia Championships in Sydney where Charlie and I are in three events including a showase that we have yet to finish rehearsing. Panicing much???

Having won intermediate/advanced at the Ceroc and Modern Jive Champs a few months back, the pressure is on the back it up with another win before we have to move onto advanced for next years round of competitions.

Go, go, go!

PS: photo was stolen from the 2008 Worlds picasa album - not sure who's it is but it pretty well shows what we were doing all week if we flew!

Friday, September 19, 2008

Wish come true

It looks like the weather may have just opened a small window for one last flight.

I am sitting in the briefing tent having just planned my flight and am waiting for the official briefing and roll call to start.

The tasks are a fly in and hesitation waltz. The fly in is to the launch field and the HWZ has five goals .

We are expecting fast winds to arrive on the surface early so we need to get the flight over and done with as quick as we can.

I am expecting the typical close results on the targets so need to fly this really well to move back up the list.

We need another flight

Friday afternoons flight has been canceled due to high winds.

Results are up from the morning flight and it looks like it was as bad as I expected.

From four tasks I managed to get under 1000 points, putting me back to 47th place. If we don't get another flight in the morning that is where it will end.

Not much else to say really.

Going, going.....gone

Well the lack of blog posts are due to the fact that we have been flying and sleeping and not much else.

After all the canceled flights and a single flight back on Wednesday, Thursday finally turned it on with a full day of flights.

The AM flight on Thursday was a full five tasks. Our results for those were slightly better than they felt from the basket and in the end we had a healthy 3800 points from the possible 5000 including a task win for me with a 1.35m result.

The PM flight saw another three markers on the table at briefing. Again, conditions were challenging and the field was split with half attempting the two hesitation waltz tasks first while the others opted to try the fly-in part of the flight first.

I picked up two great hesitation waltz results, both around the 7m mark for 989 and 988 points for each. The fly-in part of the task did not work for me but the 418 points was still better than nothing.

At the end of the day we were in 13th place, up from 65th after day 1.

Friday morning and we had another four tasks to fly.

Unfortunately nothing really went to plan today and I am not looking forward to seeing the results.

The first task was pilot declared goal which I missed by about 150m - not good when the first 20 places are generally within 10m of the target.

This had me set up too far to the right for the next hesitation waltz goal which I thne missed by 600m. Again pretty depressing when you can see the pile of markers around the target from the other competitors.

The third task was a fly in to the field for a minimum distance double drop. There was complicated little scoring area and the job was to drop two markers as close together as you can but with each in a separate box marked on the field.

I saw it off in the distance somewhere but never go closer than about 4km. Fortunately I think only about 10 people did.

The final task was an elbow where we had to cross a road, fly for 15 minutes then achieve the greatest change in direction we could after flying for another 15 minutes. Flying right back on yourself or 180 degrees change in direction is best.

We had a cunning plan based on all the winds going the wrong direction I had already found during the morning.

It did not work. We achieved about 56 degrees change in direction and have heard of plenty of others who got the 180 degrees.

Right now it is time to get some sleep and hope that we get the last two flights in this competition before the weather turns to crap again. It is already quite windy outside so we will just have to wait and see if we get any more flying.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Competition has started

Finally we are off and flying.

Despite the high winds I was talking about before the briefing, the event director David Levin sent us out for two tasks with the expectation that surface winds would remain reasonable until about 0830.

As this is an observer less competition there is no scope for pilot declared goals like we would normally have. As such all targets are selected by the director and in the case of this flight we had two hesitation waltz tasks with three goals available for each.

The goals all have a Marker Scoring Area (MSA) set that you can drop your marker in for a measured result. If you are outside the MSA your result is the 3D distance as calculated from your GPS logger.

All balloons launched from the main common launch point. Winds right in the surface were slow but quickly picked up speed as you climbed much more than 100 feet or so.

Approaching the first goal, the MSA was a soccer field (Goal 704). I was located a little to far to the left for a good approach so opted for one of the second two targets (705 & 706) where I could keep the approach nice and low. A small shift in the winds had me fighting to get to either of the targets which were located about 190m apart.

In the end I flew pretty well right down the middle of the two for a GPS scored result. Not really what I wanted while watching markers pile up on the other targets.

The screen capture from my tablet shows it and the photo at the top of this post is it in reality with goal 706 in the foreground and 705 behind it.

Once clear of task one, I climbed into the faster upper winds to set up task two.

The first available target was rushing up and was off to the right of my track. A quick descent to ground level put me into a wind direction that took me right to the goal for an approximately 8m drop.

Was it a good morning? Not really results wise but bloody good to be flying after all this time. The full track log is shown below with goals 721, 722 & 730 making up task 2.

Austria 2008 Flight 1 - 17th August AM

Wednesday Morning

Time for some live bloging.

We have just arrived at the briefing tent on day 4 of the competition. It is 0521 and the briefing starts at 0530.

During the drive down the hill we watched the trees thrash about and wondered if it could really be calm in the valley.

It is calmer but not what I would expect to be flyable right now. It will be interesting to see what happens, if anything in these conditions.

As a team we are having fun. I have never traveled so far or paid so much to play Yahtze but such is ballooning.

Pardon the crappy picture, it is from my web cam but shows the crowd of bored pilots :)

Monday, September 15, 2008

Austria = rain

Right now there is lot of things I could say about Austria and ballooning but none of them are nice so I am going to try and explain what is happening here as politely as I can.

I would love to say that the photo of Edwin to the left was from today's flight but it was actually from the practice week.

We are now at day two of the competition and have yet to make a flight. Two SMS messages from the event director, one at about 4am canceling the morning briefing and another at 9.30am canceling the afternoon briefing have given us the day off to enjoy the area, all be it under a layer of cloud and rain.

Day one of the competition was also washed out by rain. We arrived for the morning briefing at 0530 with light rain falling on the windscreen of out van. Two markers and a task sheet were waiting for us with the flight to be two hesitation waltzes. Due to the rain we were put on hold for 45 minutes but finally the flight was canceled.

After a long morning of drinking coffee and hanging out we had a group photo with all of the teams and officials, probably about 500 people in total and taken by the most bizarre photographer I have ever met. His large format camera was poised on top of a massive tripod that required a ladder and much fiddling to set up.

To his credit he kept the whole crowd in place and entertained with his balancing act on the ladder and repeated calls for the crowd to "looooook to meeeeeeee!"

The afternoon flight was also put on hold multiple times as we waited for showers to pass the area. Eventually with many balloons half set up on the field the black flag was raised as more rain arrived. Interestingly two fiesta balloons were wandering into sight further up the valley and heading in the wrong direction for the goals that had been set.

The reasons for cancelling were pretty obvious. Despite some light rain, the low cloud base and massive change in direction would have put the field of 100 balloons into a dangerous situation, looking for the right direction in cloud. Not fun at all.

To entertain ourselves we got an invite to the team USA dinner and had lots of fun chatting to them all while Al Nells chatted on about taking 1st, 2nd and 3rd place in the competition. I have to admit I like their enthusiasm but intend on only letting them have places 2 and 3 at the end of the week.

So here we are back to this morning and more wind and rain. As I type this Andrew is Googling for a go kart track or paint ball so we can go and do something energetic before we go nuts.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Keeping busy

Ok, as I seem to be having problems finding time to blog right now, I am going to point you to Andrews blog for more words and photos....

I will lift my game, but for now Andrew is doing better while I get ready for the competition.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Practice Friday

We did another practice flight today. The organisers put ran a briefing and set two goal this morning. It was a great lesson in how the valley flows and changes as the morning develops.

We flew in from about 3.5km north west of the launch site and from the moment I was in the air it was obvious we were in the wrong side of the valley flow. I had set up near the center of the valley and as such had good speed and direction to a any other place than the actual goal I was trying to get to.

With that lesson learnt, I kept working at it despite being over time. Interestingly, the second goal proved to have the same issue for pretty well all of the other balloons. As the morning wore on everything in the valley stopped and went to waffle leaving only the gradient wind at altitude of any real use.

Weather wise it seems like we are in for another wonderful event in Austria with an amazing week of practice followed by a week of rain and wind during the actual competition. We are expecting it to turn bad on Saturday at this time but hoping to be proven wrong.

I am taking photos but so far the access to internet has been below average and with all the running around getting ready I have not downloaded any yet.

Also the link to the Worlds site for results etc. is now on the right or use this link.

Practice Time

After a few days cruising around Austria in a 3 series BMW it is now down to serious work for the World Championship.

We arrived in Hofkirchen on Wednesday afternoon and had a wonderful afternoon watching about 50 or so balloons fly out of the Schillieten Castle, the location of the Worlds back in 1987.

A quick trip Hartburg train station had our team swell to three with the arrival of Yosh.

Thursday morning was my first practice flight, launching from the Schillieten and flying down into the valley and lake at Stubenburg. Winds here have been very light and variable. There is great options for steering but you need to be patient and I think more importantly, into the sky early and working with what ever looks to be the fastest winds.

Camilla arrived on Thursday morning and it was off for another flight that evening.

This time I launched from the common launch point for the Worlds to have a look at that valley. I picked two goals and with a lot of work managed to score well on both.

An interesting thing is that I am flying this even solo for the duration. As such all of these practice flights are solo so I can get used to the performance of the balloon and my own company. I am loving the space in the basket and having the freedom to talk to myself with out anyone having to know that I do....

Sunday, September 07, 2008

2008 World Championship - Austria

Well folks, it is that ime of the year again when I pack my bags and balloon and head to the other side of the world for the Ballooning world Championship.

2008 has us in Austria, about half way between Vienna and Graz.  You can find it on google maps right here....


View Larger Map

The team this year is Andrew Roberston, Yosh Shigyo and Camilla Sorensen.  I am keeping it compact and simple.  With all crew as pilots (or nearly in the case of Yosh) it shoukd be a nice effecient team with everyone knowing what is going on.

I am not sure how I will go for updates during the event but will see what we can do to keep the information flowing.

Right now I have about 28 hours of movies and back cramps to deal with so see you on the other side of these flights.

Monday, August 04, 2008

The landing

Well the story has gone to air on 60 minutes and here for those who missed it is the final part of the story showing the balloon landing.

I will have to try and get the full scene from Glenn and Heather and cut that together some time because there should be more to it than was used on the show.

Anyhow, it shows most of the action including the tree that I was using to slow us down a little (well that is what I am saying after the fact...) and some of the final drag once we made it into the clay pan, then back out the other side.

The interesting thing was that a few hundred meters past that tree, the ground dropped about 60 feet into the clay pan I was aiming for. At the time we were doing somewhere between 15 and 30 knots. 32knots was the number I last saw on the GPS at about 100 feet.

Truth be told I wanted to just clear the tree and the little cliff and touch down on the near side of the clay pan. With the balloon so lightly loaded (you can see how empty it is in the shots) if I had started a climb to get over the tree we would have been off into the sticks again before I got it on the deck.

Once it became apparent that we were going to skim the ridge and had lined up the tree, there was little choice but to hang on and just go through it and make sure that we flew over the cliff rather than drag down it.

The rebound threw us up a bit higher than I hoped and while venting the whole way we overshot the first half of the clay pan before touch down with the Lite Vent fully open.

The final drag was about 200m with sticks, bushes and rocks going everywhere.

Great fun.

I expect the full story will be available on the 60 minutes website in a day or two and I have a copy here that I will probably put on line in the near future with fingers crossed that Channel nines lawyers don't come after me :)


video

Thursday, July 24, 2008

It's a long way down...


With the clock running down we finally got the break we had been looking for.

As always happens, last week we thought that Thursday would be the day and guess what? It was.

Truth be told, tomorrow would have been better but the flight is in the bag and there was no option to wait another day.

Assessment of the met on Tuesday night had us decide that the 25,000 foot flight was going to end in tears with a fast landing in a potentially remote area. Not being able to retrieve the balloon or damaging it would put paid to the main flight to 39,000 feet so a Cessna 207 was booked for Wednesday so Glen, Heather and Greg could jump their buns off all day.

I had a great day flying around them in the R44 chopper shooting video and even got to have a play on the controls. At the end of the day I hitched a ride in the 207 jump plane from Curtain Springs to Ayers Rock and with in minutes of take off had the controls and flew all the way in to the circuit.

The guys got some amazing shots over Mount Connor but unfortunately Australian Geographic have first bid on them so we can't publish anything until it is all released.

All in all a great day of aviation.

After a late group get together Wednesday night, it was into bed before the alarms started going off at 0250 when the alarms started going off.

While not totally calm on the surface, it was enough to give us a shot. The upper winds were still not strong enough and the direction also was not great but again, it was within our minimums for a flight attempt. A chilly -53 deg. C and 80 knots was on order for the top end of the flight.

Glenn, Heather, John and myself sat in chairs pre-breathing O2 for an hour while the crew inflated the balloon. It was soon obvious that the ground wind was picking up at the nearly empty 400 bounced around on the launch rope.

Once our hour was up it was into the basket and soon away for the flight. It was a good hour before sunrise as we slipped into the dark sky with hardly a line of light on the horizon.

I was flying the balloon while John chatted to ATC for out clearances. I kept the climb rate at a pretty solid 800 to 1000 feet per minute and in no time the temperature was dropping as we cruised past 24,000 feet.

Around this time the only normally aspirated pilot light failed but the two on O2 feed burned quite nicely.

At just under 31,000 feet we had a total flame out and some quick and practiced hits with the striker had the main burner re-light and the pilot lights running again and we were on our way.

By 34,000 feet I was tweaking everything on the burners to keep the happy and one tweak too much had another total flame out. Again, re-light was not too much of a problem.

In the end we aborted the climb at over 37,000 feet indicated. A really rough adjustment from the logged data indicates that it might have been as high as 38,800 feet but none of that can be confirmed until the record is actually ratified.

The landing was as wild as expected with around 32knots down to about 500 feet before easing off to 16-17 knots on the surface. Not a lot of fun in a lightly loaded 400 I can tell you.

The good news is that it was filmed from two helicopters and from what I have seen it looked every bit as exciting from outside as it looked from my end on the burner and vent. Expect some Youtube video as soon as we are allowed to play with it.

As for the Jumpers, well that is their part of the story and is owned by 60 minutes so I can't really say much else at this time. Look out for it and some spectacular vision of the whole project on Sunday night in a weeks time (3rd of August I think).

The total flight time was 2 hours, 18 minutes, for a distance of 76.9Nm. Peak speed was about 92 Knots. Altitude is still to be confirmed but is probably in excess of 38,000 feet. Maximum climb rate was 1161 ft/min and a the fastest descent rate was 1575 ft/min. All in all great stuff.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Groundhog day...

The weather is still kicking out butt out here at Uluru/Curtian Springs.

Every morning we get up at 3am, kick around in the freezing cold for a bit then go back to bed because it is either too windy, too cloudy or both. It is getting a little depressing to say the least.

Thursday is our cut off day as we loose our chopper pilot that afternoon and other members of the team all have commitments to get back to civilisation for as well.

Despite bad surface conditions, the jetstream has also prevented a successful flight from Glenn and Heathers perspective so it is not all the balloons fault.

The good news is that despite being down to the last two days, conditions are improving and Thursday is looking the best from all angles. Depending on what we get in the morning we may just go straight for the high flight.

Yesterday we had a run in with the park rangers while trying to scam our way into Uluru National Park with a pass donated by a departing tourist. They want $25 per head to look at a bit of rock!!! The passes are not transferable but you have to buy a three day pass despite most people only going for the one day.

At the gate we got the third degree over where the pass was purchased, which car we were in a few days back, how many people were in the car, where was our receipt, was it sold by a man or a woman etc, etc.

As a group of six likely looking suspects we failed the lie detector test by fumbling and pointing at each other while making up the worst possible story that made no sense what so ever and had us ejected on our ear.

We could have paid the money but with two professional photographers in the truck, poor light and only an hour to do a walk we decided that $150 was a bit over the top.

In no time at all we were back at the resort with our tails between our legs to buy some beer. We then headed out to the closest sand dune look out we could find and took in the view for free while laughing about the gate keeper and her little inquisition.

Right now we are trying to organise a plane or chopper for the guys to jump out of so they can get more vision over the desert.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Fist flight - 12,000 feet.


After last nights excitement, it was all too early at 0345 when the alarm went off.

John, myself and the crew started weather checks at 0430 and had the team assembled and vehicles rolling out of the shed at 0530. Once on the launch site there was all the useual preparations for a balloon flight with the added fun of layers of gear, wires, parachutes, bail out bottles and oxygen masks.

With the ski goggles on and radio ear piece in place, the world faded into the background a little with every noise, breath and even vision filtered more than normal.

After a few awkward moments clambering into the basket, the five of us were on board. Two pilots and three wing suit jumpers.

ATC at Alice were working John hard on the radios and I was playing burner monkey and got the fun of flying a lightly loaded and massive balloon.

The initial climb was pretty easy although it did not feel as light as I thought it would. In no time at all we were sitting on 800 to 1000 feet per minute so it was actually performing very well.

Passing through 5500 feet we started the exit procedure for the jumpers and by 8000 feet all three were outside on the jump platform. Still climbing at around 1000 feet per minute we had four minutes to the jump altitude of 12,000 feet.

Practice runs in the shed had shown we needed just over a minute for switch over to the bail out O2 bottles for the jumpers then they would be ready to go.

Jump clearance was obtained by John and the disconnection process started. We rounded out at 12,500 feet and initiated the descent. Disconnection was completed and at 800 feet/min decent speed I gave Glenn, Heather and Greg the thumbs up while hanging on the vent line.

The guys disappeared from view in moments and after directing the crew in the general direction we focused on our next challenge - flying this beast back down with only two people on board.

The good news was that it did it easily and was actually a real pleasure to fly. We maintained a solid 800 feet per minute for most of the descent with one burn at about 5000 feet to fill out the very soft envelope. A slightly longer burn at about 1000 feet slowed us up to 200 feet/minute and had me back on the vent again.

We rounded out 50 feet of the ground and flew into a nice open piece of dirt for a text book landing, dragging about 10 meters.

All in all the flight was successful with lots learned and tested by both the Jumpers and the balloon crew. Unfortunately the weather is messing with us a little bit and we have put all flights on hold for a few days as surface conditions are a little too windy for safe balloon flights.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

A day of preparations


After arrival in Alice on Wednesday lunchtime, it was straight into checking gear, assembling the balloon basket and a team meeting to cover the plan for the following days.

Despite original plans to do the first 10,000ft flight the following morning, it became apparent that more work was needed to ensure that the first dress rehearsal had every bit of gear in place and all flight crew were rested. As such the flight was postponed until Friday morning giving us all of today to go over every last, nut bolt and connection.

Just to get everyone in the mood, Glenn, Heather and Greg went for a ride in Cessna 210 to 11,000 feet for a quick wing suit jump into a small airstrip just north of Alice Springs called Bond Springs.

For the jumpers this was a full gear jump while the rest of us watched from the ground.

A full twelve hours latter and we left the balloon gear at the shed and headed home for dinner.

One of the funniest parts in all this so far is that Glenn's repeated patter with the media is that some people are genetically pre-disposed to adventure or risk taking activities. In short, it has become a team joke that we all have a medical excuse for being trouble makers.

There was no better example of this than tonight. On arrival back at the apartments we were chastised by the complex manager because one of the team drove the landcruiser out the in diveway at some point during the day - seriously reckless behavior. It was not helped by the fact that he could probably hear us all snickering as he walked off after breaking this seriously important bit of news.

Not more that 40 minutes later, upon opening the oven to extract some tasty garlic bread, a cloud of smoke set off the fire alarm in our room. As you do, we stood on chairs, waved tea towels and generally laughed at the noise and interruption to the team dinner.

After a few moments it became apparent that the alarm was not going to turn off. While opening the front door to the apartment to let the smoke out, I noticed that the alarm was also sounding in the hallway. A quick look left and right revealed a number of confused faces peering down the corridor looking to see who was causing all the commotion.

In a flash, the commandant of the complex appeared and instantly demanded "What have you done now?" Again he was met with grinning faces, most of which were still sitting at the table eating dinner to relaxing sound of the fire klaxon.

He was not impressed and informed us that the fire brigade were on their way and that there was no way of shutting it off until they responded to the call. Bugger. He then asked us to evacuate the building!!! We opted to retire to the balcony and giggled like kids while eating dinner and listening to the approaching sirens.

On arrival the axe wielding fireman paused briefly for a photo before realising that we had not followed proper evacuation procedure and then scolded us for not assembling at the proper fire point.

The poor guy was not more than two steps out the door before someone suggested that it was all the result of genetics resulting in peels of laugher.

Anyhow, it is time for bed. Everything looks good for the morning so with some luck we will have achieved the first jump and be on our way towards Ayers Rock tomorrow afternoon for the 25,000 foot flight.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Furthest Flight


Well, finally something worthy of a blog post.

As of tomorrow morning (Wednesday 16th July) I am on my way to Alice Springs to participate in a record attempt.

The project is part of the Base Climb series of records for Glenn Singleman and Heather Swan. The goal is to set a distance record using wing suites. For my part, I will be one of the two pilots flying them to 39,000 feet so they can start their flight in the jet stream.

The high altitude winds will give them tailwind in excess of 200km/h and when combined with the forward speed of their suits should give them speeds over the ground in excess of 400 km/h for a good portion of the jump.

For my part in this, it will also be an Australian altitude record for balloons. While not quite up there for world records, it is still an excessively high flight with plenty of technical challenges and risks.

The plan is for three flights. The first to 10,000 feet for media and basic non oxygen exit practice and systems tests. The second flight is to 24,000 feet to avoid class A airspace but allow oxygen system tests and fuel burn calculations with the flight load as well as more vision recording for the media.

The final flight will see us push to 39,000 feet and right into the stratosphere. Temperatures should be around -56 degrees celsius and our speed should be around 130 miles per hour if the jet stream is working as expected for us. Vision from this jump will be limited as the jumpers will be maximising their performance and helmet cameras etc. will mess up their aerodynamics.

Suspended cameras and basket mounted gear should get the exit provided we can keep the working at that altitude and temperature.

After Glenn and Heather exit the basket we will commense our descent and despite the low loading of the 400,000 cubic foot balloon, we should reach vertical speeds in excess of 2000 feet/minute due to the thin air.

As we reach lower altitudes this descent will slow down and we will be fighting solar heating to get the balloon back to the ground. This balloon would normally carry 20-22 people so will be a bit different to fly with only two of us left on board.

Landing such a large balloon while lightly loaded will present it's own set of challenges but where we are flying will have lots of open space.

Glen and Heather have a blog and various websites that you can follow. With some luck I will get photos and things up here as well if time and connections to the net are available.

60 Minutes will be covering the jump so look out for all the action soon after on a TV near you. Here is the lead in story that 60 minutes ran a while back.

Up, up and Away
Up, up and Away


Furthest Flight
Glenn and Heather dot com
Base Climb
Glenn and Heathers Blog

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Um, I'm back.....

Believe it or not we made it around Tasman Island and into some building breeze for a blast up Storm Bay, past the Iron Pot and into the Dewent River.

We managed to pass a number of yachts that got becalmed in Strom bay and then held off some others under a two sail reach to the finish line.

In the end it was a very exciting days sail. That last post was written at about 7am from memory and we finished the race just after 4pm that afternoon.

Our final result was a win in PHS division 2.

This is no mean feat. The whole race is divided up into divisions and to win our category is somewhat of a major thing. We were pretty chuffed and partied accordingly.

Crossing the line and tying up amongst all the colour and people is enough to erase any of the hardship of the race and chase the weariness from your bones. By the time we finished I had been working solidly (we all had really) since about 3am and then partied on in the docks and Customs House until about 3am again.

There was still enough adrenaline to keep me going but with New Years eve around the corner I had to keep some go juice for later.

In all the excitement I forgot all about this blog and failed to tell the rest of the world - except for the 50 or so people I drunk dialled from Constitution Dock.

I have put up some of the various photos from the race onto Picasa web.

So what was next?

Well after the race I had a holiday in Tassie with a good friend then it was back to the grind stone at work and that is where I have been ever since!

The kite surfing is going well right up until a sprained ankle last night. I am so hooked it is not funny. I could easily become a kite surfing bum and just cruise the worlds best kitting spots. Ballooning is fun but this is great fun!

I have been dancing my heart out and doing aerials and all sorts of crazy stuff with my little dance partner Charlie. There is plans to do a routine for the Ceroc ball this year so I will be working on that starting in May. It was demoed the other weekend at the Hunter Valley and looks so nice and smooth.

The Hunter Valley was another dance camp thing with two and a half days of workshops and dance parties at Cypress Lakes resort and Tamburlaine winery. I managed about 28 hours dancing in a 42 hour period which was not a bad effort.

Next weekend I am off to Kenya to do some maintenance on a fleet of our balloons in the Masai Mara. I have not been to Kenya for about five years now so I am really looking forward to getting back over there. Expect some good pictures from that little trip!