In October, Richard and Nigel took the Fly to Win campaign to Japan by entering the Cathay Pacific balloon in the Sendai International Balloon Championship. This competition was designated as the third and final leg of the Honda World Grand Prix, the first leg having been flown in Monroe, Wisconsin and the second in Luxembourg. Richard had teamed up with an ex-World Champion, Alan Blount, in the USA and Jan Balkedal, runner up in the Worlds last year., who flew the Luxembourg leg, and they formed the team United Nations. After the first 2 legs team United Nations were lying 6th out of 22 teams with 71 Grand Prix points.

     It was the first time a big international balloon event had been held at Sendai and the director, Masashi Kakuda, had a major setback when typhoon Zeb (Typhoon number 10 in Japan) blew through the area a few days before the event was due to start, turning the already muddy rice paddies into quagmires and the launch site resembling CLK last July! However, the weather Gods were appeased and the winds abated and remained more or less perfect for the whole event allowing some very interesting tasks to be set, 18 in total and not a single slot missed.

     The intrepid duo performed well in the first task, finding the goal and dropping their marker within 12m of the target. Unfortunately the competition was keen and 26 other competitors threw their markers closer than 12m resulting a mere 292/1000 points for the first task – not so good after all! The team reviewed their SOP’s, tactics and had a major CRM briefing and the following task was rewarded with a Bull’s Eye and 12 Grand Prix points for team United Nations moving the team up a place to 5th. A double task in the afternoon with a drop 1.9m from the goal, (third) earned another 9 GP points plus a 5th place meant a few more points. Things were looking good.

     On day 2 the Cathay Pacific balloon had a bad day so we won’t tell you about that, though the consoling factor was that the World Champion also had a bad day! Never trust the met winds!

     By Saturday the Cathay balloon had found its mark with 2 drops 2.8m from the goals although one of the markers was immediately collected as a souvenir by a Japanese housewife as it fell on the road junction outside her house. In these instances the mark is measured to the least advantageous position as decided by an observer. A mere 10cms closer would have meant another win and 12 pts instead of the 9 awarded for second place, ce la vie!

     The last day loomed clear and bright, with winds forecast to pick up and a single task was set allowing crews to fly down a lovely valley to the Judge Declared goal. A late takeoff due to balloon congestion in the takeoff field meant poor OTP for Cathay Pacific at the goal and as it arrived on the scene, perfectly placed to follow the pack over the goal, the winds shifted! Aaaaargh …….. the team struggled to get within 100m and the competition was over, with all the following balloons missing by considerable margins as any marker thrown by them near the goal would have been lost in some woods.

     Overall the Team produced consistent results and with 14,194 Championship points were awarded 4th place out of 38, in the Sendai Competition, being beaten by 2 World Champions, Uwe Schneider from Germany and David Bareford, the current Champion from the UK and the Japanese National Champion, Masahiko Fujita, who all managed to get over 15,000 points. Uwe took both the Sendai Championship with 15,598 competition points and the Honda World Grand Prix title with 217 GP points, leaving Team united Nations lying in 5th place out of 22 teams, having won 69 of the teams total of 140 points.

     Excellent Team support was provided by a volunteer, Miho, from Tokyo, an ex-ANA Flight Attendant who provided great liason with the locals and by the end of the event knew all about ballooning.

     Full details and results at:

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