Friday, September 19, 2008

Not a good day

After another 2 great tasks and 1 OK task yesterday afternoon, we ended the day in 13th position. It was a fantastic end to the day.

Unfortunately this morning was the complete opposite. There were 4 tasks called: PDG, HWZ, MDDD and an Elbow. We had to choice our own launch site and unfortunately we were just too far to the right for the whole flight. So the results will not be very good.

With all of the tasks going on, it is getting a bit hard to find time or energy to update the blogs, so the best thing to do is keep an eye on the scores here...

The competition finishes tomorrow morning, however they are predicting the weather to be going sour so we are just hoping for another flight to redeem this morning.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Another 5 tasks down

This morning’s flight was spectacular. It was the flight that everyone had been waiting for all week. Five tasks were declared:

Task 3 – Fly In
Task 4 – Calculated Rate of Approach Task (CRAT)
Task 5 – Hesitation Waltz
Task 6 – Hesitation Waltz
Task 7 – Land Run

For the fly in, we ended driving around on our own in the hills surrounding the main valley trying to find the best position to launch. We ended up driving down a tiny bush track to the bottom of the hill, to the place we thought would be ideal. When we arrived at the spot we found about 30 other balloons queuing up to launch from this small track. Since we had approached this tiny spot from the opposite direction, we were able to squeeze in the top of the paddock and get off the ground quickly.

The first 2 tasks relied on using the drainage down the valley to get to the goals. The CRAT consisted of a circle on the CLP that had 4 segments that opened and closed every 15 minutes. Sean managed to get to results around 23 metres for the first 2 tasks.

There was 2 ways to approach the tasks with the only right hand turns being in the bottom 300 feet (which was very slow) or at 6000 feet. So as you can imagine, there was a lot of climbing and descending going on. Sean opted to sit in the bottom winds which certainly paid off, getting about a 6 metre result on the first HWZ and then about 1 metre on the second.

It was then a case of flying down to a large power line that was the start of the Land Run, which had two 20 minute legs. It is hard to tell how he went on this task in relation to the other teams. We will need to wait until the results come out for that one.

Overall we were pretty happy with the morning. The two HWZ tasks were definitely the highlight.

It is looking like a stunner this afternoon, so hopefully we will get another couple of tasks.

Last night’s tasks, which were a Hare and Hounds and a Hesitation Waltz were canceled due to the very strong winds that did not die down in time. So we sat in the party tent, drank beer and eat a bit more schnitzel.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Finally Flying

As the weather team promised, we finally got a flight in this morning. The winds above 500 feet were up around the 15 knot mark, but there was a small inversion that was expected to stick around until about 9am. David Levin set 2 HWZ tasks with a planned launch period at sunrise (6.30am).

Sean took of a few minutes after the green flag went up. It was pretty quick flight, with both markers being dropped within 20 minutes of each other. It is too early to say how we went overall, but the second drop of about 8 metres should get some good points.

As much as I prefer events with Observers, the plus side of the GPS events is that you don’t need to go and hunt for and measure markers. So after we packed up the balloon, we headed back to our favorite café to fill out the flight report sheet and drink coffee.

We are now sitting in an almighty refueling queue. Unfortunately we have to take tanks out of the basket to fill, so it slows everything down. Considering today most people would have only flown for about 40 minutes and not used much fuel, it is pretty slow. I dread the day when we fly for a couple of hours.

You might notice I did not post anything yesterday. We did not end up doing much, other than playing Yatzee and hanging out. I did manage to sweet talk my way out of the parking ticket, so that was the highlight of the day.

Weather is looking good for the next couple of days, so we should get a few more flights in. So no more complaining from us :-)

Monday, September 15, 2008


At 4 am we were woken up by an SMS from David Levin saying that the morning flight had been canceled. The SMS also said that it was likely the afternoon would be canceled as well. Sure enough, at 9.30am we got another text to say the afternoon was canceled as well.

So we were faced with a day to find something to do. We headed down to the briefing tent to get onto Google to see if we could find any go karting or paintball in the area, so that we could vent some frustration. Unfortunately there was nothing close and those things that were around were closed because it was a Monday in the low season.
With absolutely no idea what we should do Yosh, Camilla and I decided we would drive to Hartberg to buy a game of some sort, so we could sit around drinking beer and entertain ourselves. Sean decided to stay back and work on some of his OziExplorer plugins, as this was the best way for him to stay focused on the competition when there was no flying to be done.

So we, somewhat aimlessly, wandered around Hartberg looking at shops and having a late long lunch. Having opted to buy Yatzee, we then went on a mission to find a shop that would sell five dice for less that 8 Euro (16 dollars). We eventually did, but on returning to the van we found we had a 20 Euro parking ticket.

Even though we were parked in a 120 minute spot, we eventually worked out that you need to put a clock on your dashboard showing what time you arrived so the parking police could work out if they should fine you or not. This was obviously something we did not know we had to do, so the fine was for not having the clock displayed. We were then faced with working out where we had to go in this town to pay (or argue) the ticket. The guy parked next to us said that we had to go to the police station. So we headed to the other side of town where we knew the police station was. Of course when we got there, they said that we had to go to the council building to pay the fine. So we tramped back across town to the council building, which was almost next door where we had parked originally. On arriving at this building, we asked someone where we had to go and he pointed at a door and said the 1 guy we could pay had gone home at 4pm. What a pain in the ass.

So tomorrow’s (Tuesday) mission is to go back to Hartberg and play the idiot foreigner card and try and get off paying the parking ticket.

We got back to the house at about 5pm and Camilla and I started up a heated Yatzee battle. It took a couple of games for us to agree on the rules, because apparently they play slightly different rules in Denmark. After Camilla, smashed me 4 games to 2, we headed up the hill to another local pub for another meal of random deep fried stuff and retreated back to our house.

At 9.30pm we got the SMS saying…

"Tuesday morning briefing is canceled. Party On! David Levin, Event Director"

So it looks like Tuesday is going to be another day of finding things to do. At least I have the Council of Hartberg to take on… that will fill some time.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

First day of competition

When we got up on Sunday morning the same weather faced us. Regardless we headed down to the launch site for the 5.30am briefing. When we walked in, there were 2 markers on the tables and a task sheet with 2 HWZ tasks. During the briefing, the competition director, David Levin, decided to put the briefing on hold for 45 minutes while they watched the weather to see if the rain would ease. However when we returned at 6.45, they decided to cancel the flight. After a nice relaxing breakfast at our favorite café, when chilled out at the briefing tent and waited for the official All Teams photo on the field and the welcoming lunch.

The all team photo is always a lot of fun, trying to get all of the balloonists onto a single podium. There is always a lot of heckling and shenanigans.

The welcome lunch in the main tent involved a lot of speeches and a presentation of a flag, created by the local school children, to each pilot. After all 102 pilots had got up to receive their flag, they announced the buffet was open. As the 400 or so balloonists charged the buffet, we decided to go home and grab some lunch and have a snooze.
When we arrived back at the field for the 4.00pm briefing, we found a note saying the briefing would be delayed until 4.30pm. When we entered the tent we found that there was just a single HWZ task. The Met guy was convinced that the rain was going to clear by 6pm. I have never seen a Met person be as certain about something as he was. So David Levin told us to go and park on our launch sites and return at 5.30pm for a supplementary briefing. While other teams took out their baskets and started rigging their burners, we opted to keep the gear in the van knowing we could be set up and inflated in 10 minutes if we needed to. As we entered the tent at 5.30pm the rain had started to get quite heavy. The Met guy was still convinced that the rain was going to stop at 6pm on the dot, so the plan was for the yellow flag to go up around 5.55pm and the green flag to go up at 6pm. So we stood on the field in the rain and waited. As we waited for the flag a couple of fiesta balloons flew over the horizon and we could see that there was absolutely no speed and more importantly the direction was no good. David had set 5 goals for the HWZ in different directions, which was very wise with these unpredictable conditions, however there was none in the direction that the winds (below the clouds were going). So it was starting to look pretty obvious that the task would be canned. The last thing they would want is 102 balloons disappearing into the cloud trying to find the required left turn.

So sure enough, at 6pm the yellow flag went up and 5 minutes later it was followed by the black flag… time to go to the pub. We headed up to the Hofkirchen Balloon Hotel, to find some drinking company, where Joe Hertsill from the US team invited us to come and be honorary Americans and join the entire US team for their traditional team dinner. It is always good to hang out with the US team as they are great fun and also very interesting to chat to. As most people in ballooning know about 25% of ballooning experience and learning happens when sitting around chatting to balloonists. So sitting next to people like Joe, Pat Canon (another experienced US pilot) and David Levin at dinner was great.

A few Puntigamers (the local beer) and a schnitzel later and it was time to retreat back to the house.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Master Briefing

Saturday’s weather was no improvement. In the morning there was plenty of drizzly low cloud that made flying not an option. So we filled the morning with the usual breakfast eating and hanging out at the launch site checking emails etc.

At 4pm we gathered in the Briefing tent for the master briefing. This was your typical master briefing where they go through specific rules and discuss the program for the week. It was a great chance to finally catch up with people that we had not seen since the last Worlds in 2006.

After the briefing it was time opening ceremony and parade of Nations. We decided that we would not go in the parade, not because we are not patriotic, but because our van is completely covered with the hire company’s artwork, with little room for a single Australian flag. Instead we grabbed a couple of beers and watched the spectacle. The weather had finally become kind and there were a number of sponsor balloons tethered on the field. Plus there was a hot airship doing laps around the crowd. It has been many years since I have seen a hot airship up close and they are certainly very cool. My memories of hot airships really come from the old Sultan airship that used to fly in Australia in the late 70s and early 80s. The technology has certainly come a long way since then.

Once the parade was over, everyone gathered in the tent for dinner and a lot of drinking. You could tell that many people were trying to work out if they should take the gamble that the weather would be bad on Sunday morning for the first competition flight and keep drinking. After a few beers we opted to head home and get some sleep.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Here comes the weather

After the regular evening thunderstorm, the morning dawned to be another perfect flying morning. As we drove down to the CLP we looked down onto valleys of mist. On arriving we found that they had organized a couple of practice tasks; a Fly In (FIN) to the CLP and a Judge Declared Goal (JDG).

We still had not received our helium, however the CLP was in a deep creek valley and there was definitely some drainage down the valley. So we headed up the valley past the minimum distance and inflated the balloon on the side of the road.

Camilla, Yosh and I headed back to the CLP to watch the 40 or so balloons make their way down the valley towards the target. The morning was incredibly waffley, with the ground wind changing direction by up to 180 degrees every 5 minutes. We spent about 45 minutes at the target waiting for Sean and watching the various pilots play round in the fickle winds. Having chosen a launch site without any helium was a bit of a gamble and didn’t really pay off for us… but allowed us to learn a lot about how the valley works.

Sean headed down towards the JDG, however aborted the attempt because there was only a few landing spots within the valley due to the excessive amount of corn.

After packing up, we started the usually process of finding some breakfast, sitting in the McDonalds car park where there is wireless internet, buying various bits and pieces in the supermarkets and then heading back to the house for food and a sleep.

The weather forecast had been looking a bit grim and the rain showed its face mid afternoon. We had already decided we were not going to fly, so we headed to the local pub. Over a couple of beers and some dinner (I actually had some fish, which was a nice change from pork), we went through all of the task sheets from the pre-worlds and walked through how we would fly them. David Levin, the competition director, used the full list of task last year… including many combinations of 3D shapes, land runs and CRATs. So if he does the same this year, there should be a lot of interesting tasks to think about.

We have not seen a weather forecast for a couple of days, but the last we saw it was going to be raining until Tuesday… with the temperature dropping from 26 degrees to around 7 degrees. At the moment the rain is not heavy, but the whole area is in cloud so definitely not flyable.