A Full On 36 Hours

It has been a pretty full on 36 hours, hence the lack of blogging that has occurred. The entire team is pretty exhausted but spirits are high.

There have been three flights since the last blog post and my results have been very mixed. Let me give you a brief rundown of the last three flights.

Flight 2 – Monday Morning

David Levin called 4 tasks. The first was a Gordon Bennett Memorial (GBM), where you need to drop a marker in a scoring area as close as possible to the cross (which is outside the scoring area). The second was a Hesitation Waltz where we could select from 2 different targets. This was then followed by two Fly Ons.

My results were all pretty average. Probably one of the interesting things was that with the new rules around the use of MMAs (Maximum Measurement Area). If you are not able to throw your marker into the MMA (which is normally 100m), then you hold onto your marker and they measure your result to the nearest track point on your GPS logger. Where this gets interesting is when you need to declare your Fly On on that marker. I ended up slipping past the MMA at about 130m so I held my marker for as long as I could. This allowed me a lot more time to plan which fly on I was going to fly to. People are questioning this “loop hole” in the rules because it provides an advantage to those who miss the MMA.

The other thing that happened on this flight was that I dropped one of my Fly On markers in the middle of a corn field. Thankfully I put it on a distinctly dirty row in the corn and by using a GPS waypoint and filming the field with my GoPro, we managed to find it pretty easily in the shoulder high corn.

At the time of writing this, the Provisional results up to the end of this flight. I have slipped from 22nd down to 37th. Matt has been having some amazing results and has moved up into 8th place.

Standings: http://www.balloonworlds2012.com/images/results/Task1-Task7%20Standings.pdf

Flight 3 – Monday Afternoon

The afternoon saw us taking off from a common launch area to the north of town. The tasks were a Pilot Declared Goal and a 3D Wedding Cake shape. We were one of the first balloons off the ground and I opted to go high to get some left hand turn that people were struggling to get down low at the PDG that almost everyone were going for. Unfortunately I came down a little late and ended up dropping my marker into the middle of a forest about 230m from the target. I then spent the rest of the flight flying around in the 3D task. I did pretty well in this task, but it ended up that we did not get as many zigzags as some of the other pilots and only ended up getting mid-700 points for that task. Matt, who we always bag out about how he always makes mistakes with 3D tasks, ended up winning this task and picked up another 1000 points.

It was as I finished the task that the action really started. We finished the task at 8.15pm and sunset was 8.30pm. The direction we had flown had taken us over the worst area to try and land. There were just woods, lakes, railways and town. I spotted a school playground that another balloon had landed it. It was ideal, but as I made my approach to what was going to be very tight, I got kicked to the left right at the last minute. I ended up having to slam the balloon down into a tiny spot (the width of the balloon) on the other side of a 8 foot fence. The spot was right on the edge of the woods and there was no way of getting the van into it. Luckily I found a gap in the fence that we could get the fan into, and we inflated the balloon again and towed it over the fence into the school yard.

By the time we were packed up, it was pitch dark and we decided that we should at least try and find the marker in the forest. The observer had seen it thrown and had noted the exact time so if it was lost we could get an estimated result from my logger track, however I had thrown it towards the target so if we found it I could 20 meters or so. So Sean worked out from my GPS track line and the time the observer noted, then we stomped off into the woods with our torches.  It was pretty exciting crashing through the bush, around a big pond, up a couple of hills, through blackberries and spider webs. Once we got to the point of the track that Sean thought it would be at, I did a quick sweep with my torch and there was the marker shining in the torch light. It was great to be out hunting for markers in the dark… it felt like the old days of competition ballooning.

By the time we got back to the hotel it was 11pm and we were completely exhausted. I was too tired to even eat anything. James did so was so tired, but he did so well.

Flight 4 – Tuesday Morning

It was really hard to wake up again at 5am this morning. We staggered into briefing to find 3 markers sitting on the table. David had called a flight down to the South East of town near the town of Marshall.

The first task was a Calculated Rate of Approach task (CRAT), where they have a target with 3 scoring areas around it. Only one of the scoring areas would be open at any one time and based on the time (e.g. 7.40-7.50am) one would close and another would open. I ended up making the perfect approach to this target (only a few feet above the ground) and managed to flight right up to the closest edge of the open scoring area. My marker landed about 20cm inside the scoring area at the closest point to the target. Rumors are that I had the closest marker for the task, so hopefully I have picked up the 1000 points for that one. I hope I have, because one of my goals has been to win a task at a Worlds.

This was then followed by two Hesitation Waltzes where we could choose any intersection to the west of the CRAT. This resulted in a lot of indecision, in that as you approached an intersection you had to decide if you were close enough to throw your marker or if you should hold onto it and go for the next. I did pretty average on these 2 tasks. I got 38 meters on the first and then a No Result on the second because I was outside the scoring area of 100m (despite going to 8500 feet to try and have another go). Matt did really well on these two tasks, dropping less than a meter on both.

So that is all the action in the last 36 hours. In half an hour we have to head off and start again. We are hoping to see some results soon and see if Matt has moved up the rankings in the top 10.

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