The 19th Australian National Balloon Championships and Canowindra International Balloon Challenge finished with the Key Grab demonstration event last Sunday. Pilots from around the world competed in Australia’s largest international ballooning competition since the 2004 World Championships in Mildura, while the best of Australia’s competition pilots battled for the honour to represent Australia in the 2016 World Championships in SAGA Japan.
Congratulations to both Matthew Scaife and Sean Kavanagh who finished 1st and 2nd respectively in both the Australian Championship (16 entries) and Canowindra International Challenge (24 entries), proving once again - if proof was ever required - that Australia has world class balloon pilots.
Canowindra has been the venue for 3 previous National Balloon Championships and is the premier balloon flying area in Australia. With excellent weather for the first 3 days of competition, it was an exciting time for all as the 2014 Nationals and Canowindra International Balloon Challenge showcased the best of Australian ballooning country and weather for the international teams, several of whom flew in last year’s Canowindra International Balloon Challenge and were so impressed they have returned this year.
5 Japanese teams lead by Yudai Fujita (3rd Place), Hiroki Miyata (11th), Minoru Numata (12th), Akari Sue (17th) and Ryohei Tanaka (24th) and 3 US teams lead by Joe Heartsill (7th), Gary Heavin (10th) and Richard Sabin (15th) provided plenty of competition for Australian Pilots. Unfortunately several other overseas teams, from Brazil, Russia and the United Kingdom withdrew at the last minute, somewhat depleting the international contingent.
There was a big turnout of Australian female pilots this year with Nicola Scaife not far behind her husband Matthew at 4th in the Nationals and 5th in the International field. Maaike Bierma flying BAV’s “Vicky” finished 14th and 20th in the two events and Sarah Ellis in her first outing as a competition pilot came 16th and 23rd respectively. Also competing for the first time was Phil O’Donnell in the Air Force Balloon.
All that was needed was Joan Collins in shoulder pads to make a 1980’s soap opera as 3 generations of the Gibbs, Kavanagh, Robertson, Scaife and Turnbull Dynasties participated in either the competition or fiesta flying – or in the prize presentation ceremony with their parents.
Tasks set by International Director Garry Lockyer from Canada and Assistant Director Gary Lacey provided a suitable challenge for the flight planning and flying skills of the entrants. They were interesting, such as using the greens of the golf course as multiple goal scoring areas – a Hesitation Waltz with a difference - and provided flying to many different areas of the map.
For Final Standings click here –
For all the details of the competition including tasks and results please go to the Canowindra Challenge website : http://www.canowindrachallenge.org.au/
The 20th Australian National Balloon Championship is returning to familiar ground with WABAC taking up the gauntlet and hosting the Nationals in their Region for the first time since 1984. While it may have been 31years between hosting National Championships for the folks in Northam, they are keen to show the sites and wonderful flying conditions of their home base in the beautiful Avon valley.
While the organisers know that August 2015 may seem a long way off to potential participants, they want it known that they are “well and truly into the planning of the event”. The website and Facebook page with full details of the event have been launched already, so please keep an eye on:-
The Championships in Northam, held one year before the 2016 World Championship in Saga, Japan will provide an excellent training ground and selection base for the second Australian representative for Japan. The winner in Northam will represent Australia in Saga, along with Matthew Scaife, the winner of the just concluded 2014 National Championship in Canowindra (details below).
The Editor – On behalf of the 2015 National Championship Organising Committee.