Saturday evening a cold front was approaching the area and out ahead of the front were strong winds and rain showers forcing a cancelation of the last competition flight. Pilots awaited the posting of the final scores, at the time tasks 1-11 had been posted and tasks 12 and 13 still to be posted. Rokas was holding a lead on Thomas from France. After about an hour the provisional overall was posted and Thomas had edged out Rokas and claimed the overall victory. The French celebrated, but later the scores would be revised and Thomas was issued a penalty on his ANG task therefore making Rokas the first FAI Junior World Champion.
Most teams then gathered at Ultramagic, Rimas and Rokas restaurant in Marijampole for a party. Later the American teams ventured to the city square where the “City Day’s” celebration was being held and a concert was taking place.
Today (Sunday) the closing ceremony and awards was held and Rokas was officially named the champion.
I am back in Vilnius and will fly out early tomorrow (Monday) and make my journey back home. This has been a fantastic experience. I can’t thank Daiva enough for letting me use her equipment and all her help along with Tomas and Giedrius who were my fantastic crew for the week. They took very good care of me and were very good translators. They are just some awesome people. I also have to thank Kim Wooge and Kathleen for flying out from England mid week. The Lithuanians have been very hospitable and it was much appreciated. This has been a great learning experience and there is no doubt that flying in Lithuania with a balloon I’ve never flown before, crew I’ve never worked with, language barriers, new tasks I’ve never flown, etc, will only help me as I continue to fly in competitions. The Lithuanian people I have met and pilots and crews from other countries are all new friends.
Ačiu (thank you!) its been a great experience that I will have for the rest of my life.
My Lithuanian is not the best so I will do this one in English...
After the cancellation of Thursday nights flight everyone expected many tasks for Friday morning and competitors were not disappointed to see 5 tasks called. Task 1 was a Pilot Declared Goal (PDG) followed by a Fly In (FIN) then Hesitation Waltz (HWZ) then Land Run (LRN) then finally a Fly On (FON). Tasks could be flown in any order but not split. This type of flight planning is new to me, in America a normal flight for a competition is a Judge Declared Goal (JDG) then a Fly In (FIN) then a Hesitation Waltz (HWZ) or in bigger competitions a JDG, FIN, Minimum Distance Double Drop, then HWZ and JDG. So, flying PDG, LRN, and FON is very different for me and challenging as I get used to declaring goals and the objectives of the tasks. It is all very good experience for the National Championships where PDG, FON, LRN, etc. are commonly seen.
My strategy was to do the PDG then FON then FIN then HWZ and finally LRN. This way I had two goals that I picked followed by two goals the competition director picked, then ended with the LRN so I could change direction without restrictions and messing my track for other tasks up. The PDG and FON were points in the sky above approved road intersections at 500 feet MSL. It was strange for me to plan the maneuvering so that I flew over the intersection at 500 feet MSL (or as close to it as possible). I thought I did better on the tasks then I really did because I was using the altitude from the barometric pressure on the competition logger as my altitude for the goals and not MSL, so my 500 feet was not 500 feet.
I did very well on the FIN task, claimed 3rd place then missed the HWZ to the right. I marked point “A” on the LRN after the HWZ then because I am still learning the tasks, I didn’t stretch out my “B” mark as far as I should have to make the biggest triangle. My “C” mark was on the very west most point on the map.
The flight overall had good steerage and was quite fast, but the surface wind slowed at the end and I had a calm road landing.
Friday evening pilots were greeted with 3 tasks a Fly In (FIN), Watership Down (WSD), and Angle (ANG). I have flown a FIN and WSD before but like the LRN the flight before, this was my first ANG task. The wind after the briefing was at about 225 degrees but as the time progressed the wind kept swinging around to 210 degrees. My team waited till the last minute (about 8:10) to decide on a launch point. I launched in a field with many of the other competitors. I took off at 8:28 (2 minutes before the launch period closed). Myself and the other pilots in the field had to cut the time close because the FIN didn’t open until 8:35 and the Hare didn’t take off till 8:30. After take off noticed that there was a right on the surface that went to a left at treetop. I watched those that took off in the same field hug the deck to try to fly the low right all the way to the target. I didn’t think it as enough of a right turn so I climbed up in hopes that there was still the 210 degrees at altitude to get me to the FIN. I ended up finding it and made a nice descent into the soccer field that the X was in. There was a very large crowd cheering as I flew in and it was a cool experience to hear the crowd cheering and yelling in Lithuanian as I flew tree level over the goal and had a 4 meter drop. One other pilot was able to get a baggie in the FIN all others missed and were scored off the logger. I dropped my marker at 8:37, two minutes after the target opened. Next, I followed the Hare balloon. I was doing well staying in line behind him until the end. I knew I should have stayed left of the Hare and come in on the right with the changing winds I knew the left would be the first to go away….but I didn’t. I missed the Hare to the right fighting for the left and had a loggermark score. The loggermark on the WSD started the ANG task. The ANG was 225 degrees so the best line was to stay low and track the low wind.
The flight was very quick, I landed at about 14mph. Fellow American Andy Richardson also landed in the same field as I did. A field we would both find again in the morning.
Saturday morning the competition director called 5 tasks. A Judge Declared Goal (JDG), Hesitation Waltz (HWZ), Pilot Declared Race To An Area (RTA), Elbow (ELB) and Fly On (FON). Again, these were some new tasks for me to fly and plan for. I have never done an RTA or and ELB before. This flight also used a Common Launch Point (CLP) so all competitors took off from the same field. There was a lot of steerage this morning and I never felt comfortable trusting the big left turn on the surface so my approaches didn’t swing out as much as the other competitors so my baggie drops weren’t as good. I just didn’t feel comfortable using the left and swinging out way to the right and flying low across a field back to the left. The JDG was a gravity and HWZ a thrown marker. There were very good scores on both targets. Next was the RTA. Which for 99.9% of the people in America reading this, you are wondering “what the hell is that?” North of gridline 4100 we had to declare in loggergoal number 1 the estimated time we intended to cross the scoring area which was the area south of a river. I had estimated that I would cross the river (ok not really a river more like a creek) at 6:55. I hung low (and slow) and found the southern most point of the river to cross but crossed the river at 6:51, 4 minutes early. I have no idea if this is a good result…From there we used a logger mark for the ELB. I marked, held the windline, marked again then climbed into the right hand turn and marked my “C” point. I had about 71 degrees. Before marking point ‘C’ you had to declare in loggergoal 2 your FON task. This time the FON could be any coordinate and didn’t have to be an approved road intersection. Again the landing was quick and Andy Richardson and I both landed in the same field and almost the exact same spot as the night before!
We have one more flight tonight and then the competition is over. We have flown 13 tasks and I have done well on some and bad on others, but these tasks are very new to me and not something most American pilots get to practice a lot. Daiva and my crew have been great helping me with the tasks and of course great in the preparations of the balloon. These tasks have been a great learning experience for when I compete in my first US Nationals in July. Europeans love their logger tasks and Americans love flying to targets, so this is very new
You can find the results here: http://worldjunior2012hab.orobalionai.lt/library/fls1/Results/JWHABCIndex.html
And pictures here: http://worldjunior2012hab.orobalionai.lt/?id=photos
Antza vakaza is eiles varizybinis skrydis burs atsauktas. Visl trys suplanuoti varzybiniai skryolziai buvo atsaukti old per stiraus vejo. Taciau Likusiems keturiems skzyolzlams numatomas geras oras in mes tikimes daug uiduociu.
(I apologize for any mistakes in my typing, thank you Daiva and my team for the translation!)
For the second night in a row the evening competition flight has been cancelled. All three scheduled competitive flights have been cancelled due to high winds, but the weather looks good for the remaining four flights and we are expecting many tasks.
This evening the competition director called two tasks a Hesitation Waltz (HWZ) and a Fly On (FON) from a common launch point in the city of Marijampole. Like I said above in two languages the flight was ultimately canceled due to high winds. Competition director Zoltan Palhegyi from Hungary has a very difficult job to make the go/ no go decision because all of the pilots are “junior” so we don’t have the most experience, but we have a strong desire to fly. The winds have been very fast and very gusty and given the circumstances, Zoltan has made good decisions. Also, the weather looks very good for the remaining four flights so we are expecting many tasks. It should get very busy and I am sure that I won’t have much time to update this blog.
Today after the 8am briefing to discuss propane, my team was invited to join the team from the UK and Japan at Rimas and Rokas Kostiuskevicius summer home in the countryside of Marijampole. Rimas cooked many Lithuanian dishes for us all to try and we spent the afternoon talking, fishing, and playing games. Rimas cooked for three hours to prepare Plovas, or a dish with rice and lamb meat along with garlic, pepper and other spices. The dish was created in Uzbekestan and later became very popular in former Soviet Union countries. There was also elk, wild pig liver, pig fat and Lithuanian cake for desert that is named after “branches” in English because the cake looks like it has a lot of branches.
As I write this, probably my last lengthy blog till the competition is over; my great teams of Lithuanians are driving to Kaunas to pick up Kim Wooge and her friend Kathleen who are flying in from London to crew for the rest of the competition. Kaunas is about an hour away and since it is late and we are going to fly in the morning (sunrise is 5am!!) my team has left me at the hotel to write this and get to bed. (Sunset is 9:40pm here and it is already 11PM) My team was joking before they left (in Lithuanian) to each other and were laughing about what if they bring me some other girls from the airport and not Kim! NO! haha My team of Lithuanians have been absolutely fantastic and have helped me tremendously during my stay in Lithuania.
So with that, I will get to bed to prepare for the morning and the tasks that will come. I’m ready to get flying!
Today was a very busy day in Marijampole. My team started the morning at the gas station refueling the propane bottles then we went to the master briefing. Two hours were scheduled for the master briefing but it really only took one hour. No major issues were brought up. Following the master briefing there was opening ceremonies in the center square of Marijampole complete with a marching band, dancers and speeches by the mayor, event organizer and competition director. Each country and their pilot representatives were introduced to the crowd. I will have to get the pictures from my crew later. Following the ceremonies was the first competitive flight briefing. The competition director called a two part task, a minimum distance (MDT) and a fly on (FON). The minimum distance was measured from loggermark #1 with a set time of 15 min. The Fly on was measured by loggermark #2 at 500ft using any valid goals. The goal must be declared before completing the MDT and minimum 1 km away from loggermark #1, the taks must also be flown in order. A list of valid goals has been promised to us, but hasn’t happened yet so "any valid goals" was rather ambiguous, leaving teams to search the map of road intersections (that are allowed to be used as goals under the rules) and guess the correct coordinates of the intersections to declare correctly in the logger in order to receive a result on the road intersection. All in all the flight was ultimately canceled due to very strong winds (the piballs didn’t go up, they just went straight out). The competition director held everyone at the common launch point until the last minute in hopes that it would calm down. I thought for a moment that we would fly, but no such luck. It was good to have the tasks called and at least plan the flight since I have never flown a MDT and its not very often that I get the chance to fly a FON so it was good practice to map out my strategy on the map and get my first, second, third, etc. options down just in case I needed them. With even higher winds forecasted overnight the morning flight has already been cancelled although a new briefing at 8am has been called to discuss propane, so we will have to see what that is all about. The weather following tomorrow morning looks good. We should fly the last five flights so it will be very busy and I won’t have much time to blog.
Its about to get busy in Marijampole.
Today everyone arrived in Marijampole for registration. It was a rather long process checking all the paper work and sporting license of each pilot. The weather was great and allowed for a practice flight. There was no set task; teams were left on their own to decide what they wanted to do. A good number of teams (myself included) decided to launch from the center of Marijampole in a park for the crowd of spectators. Other teams flew in over the park and continued to the countryside. Rokas was first off the ground at the park in a brand new Ultramagic racer with Marijampole logo on the balloon so naturally I made the flight a hare and hound. I ended up flying right over Rokas’s basket and landed right next to him. Good news is all my equipment worked. My GPS/computer/map worked perfectly and I’m starting to get all my equipment situated in the new basket. After the flight there was a welcome party for all the teams to get together and socialize. There was beer and Lithuanian food to sample. I am told that there is no part of the pig that Lithuanians don’t eat….I ate pigs ear, tongue, chicken stomach, I can’t even remember what else. I hate to say it, but it was actually good. It might have been the beer talking though.
Tomorrow morning is refueling (at a gas station since some cars here run on propane) then the master briefing, opening ceremonies and first competitive briefing and flight. It will be a very busy day. The weather forecast has been improving, not really sure what to expect. Marijampole is very flat, but has a lot of crops and very few fields to land in. It is a lot like flying in Chillicothe, Illinois.
Today I walked around Vilnius and explored new parts of the Old Town. I met up with Tadas Gegevicius who is a local pilot and president of the balloon club. Tadas owns microbrewery in Lithuania and various bars and restaurants in Vilnius. Tadas gave me a tour of Old Town and then took me to one of his restaurants where we ate some traditional Lithuanian food and sampled some beer. Here are some pictures from today, lunch was potatoes with meat inside and around it as well as a cold soup…I’m not sure what was in the cold soup. The meat and potatoes is a popular dish originating because of the cold temperatures of Lithuania during the winter months, it’s a fatty dish. The cold soup originates because of the warm temperatures in the summer and the desire not to eat warm soup when its hot. The beer is beer, enough said.
Tomorrow morning I will head to Marijampole (about a 2 hour drive) to register for the event and get settled into the hotel and do a practice flight. All the competitors should be arriving tomorrow and doing a practice flight as well. After the flight there is a welcome party.
I was asked to provide more detail on the competitor field and event. The FAI Junior World Hot Air Balloon Championship is a category 1 event. Since the event is a “junior” championship all pilots and those on board the aircraft must be less than 27 years old. Other than that, the rules are similar to the world championship or any other event. You can check out the rule book here: http://worldjunior2012hab.orobalionai.lt/library/fls1/1334500003.pdf
The early favorite to win the event is Rokas KOSTIUSKEVICIUS who is flying on his home turf. Rokas is flying well and coming off of an impressive win earlier this month. Rokas and his father Rimas will be traveling to Battle Creek in August for the World Championship. Everyone here in Lithuania keeps saying it will be a competitive field with many young pilots who aspire to be the best. I hope the weather cooperates and allows for many high quality tasks.
If you want to look up weather for the event you can check out this website:http://www.meteo.lt/skaitmenine_prog_lt_miest.php
One last thing, I was asked if there are differences in ballooning ln Lithuania v ballooning in the US: Ballooning in Lithuania is much like ballooning in the USA…except for the dang metric system. Everything is in km, km/hr, meters, m/s, etc. Those conversions are hard to get used to when you’ve been looking at miles, mi/hr, ft, ft/min, etc. your whole life. Other than that balloonists are all the same, even have the same personalities.
My next post will come from Marijampole (pronounced mary-am-po-lay in a very smooth Lithuanian accent) the location of the 1st FAI Junior World Hot Air Balloon Championships!
My first day in Lithuania is now in the books. I began my day sightseeing, my hotel is located adjacent to Vilnius Old Town, so it was a short walk to big old buildings and churches. The architecture is amazing! I strolled around and took some pictures:
It was a gorgeous day with lots of sun and warm temperatures (about 78 degrees). I sat out on the river for a while and ventured to my first restaurant where I had to order food. Not being able to speak Lithuanian isn’t much of a problem because many people do speak very good English. At 4pm Daiva picked me up from my Hotel and we had a nice meal (thanks Daiva!). Then it was time to get ready for our flight. We went to the place the balloon club stores all the balloons and met with my Team for the night. We then went out to the country side and found a place to take off. My passenger was a friend of my crew for the night that had never seen balloons before, so both my passenger and I were taking our first flights in Lithuania! She took these pictures during the flight:
I flew for about 45 minutes and practiced some maneuvering in the Ultramagic racer. It flies similar to my Lindstrand 60X back home so that was reassuring. I traveled 9 km, my gps shows an average speed of 9mph and with a max speed of 23 mph. It was a rather sporty landing, but I was able to keep the balloon inflated. No track to upload though, I don’t have a Vilnius map on my computer so I was flying old school tonight with just a paper map.
Tomorrow they are forecasting rain and high winds so like any balloon event that means time to drink some beer. I am going to visit a bar in Old Town that is owned by a balloon pilot and then wander around Old Town and see what I can find…or see what I can re-find, Daiva pointed out some local attractions as we were driving around. I am also going to try some Lithuanian food, so I’ll have to post what I can find.
So far the weather isn’t looking promising for the event in Marijampole. Hopefully that changes within the next couple of days. Tomorrow is my last full day in Vilnius before I head to Marijampole and the competition.
What a day, or day and a half of travel. What started with an early morning flight out of St. Louis turned into a day of sitting and waiting (sounds a lot like ballooning). As I sat at the airport in Washington DC waiting for the international legs of my itinerary, I was asked to blog about the prep work that is involved for flying at the Jr. Worlds. I began wiring this in Washington DC and finished it in Frankfurt Germany while waiting for flights. I wish I could say the prep work was as easy as signing up and paying an entry fee, but there is much more than that.
The prep work began with the invitation to attend the competition. Knowing nothing about international competition, I called a friend that knows a thing or two, two time and the defending World Champion John Petrehn and asked him what I needed to do. John worked with me and we came up with an estimated budget of $15,000….yes $15,000 in order to bring over one crew, ship the balloon, rent vehicles, fans, get insurance, plane tickets, hotels etc., etc. After the freak out (I am a college student after all) our discussion quickly turned to renting equipment. I contacted the race organizer and got in contact with Daiva who was willing to let me use her equipment while I’m in Lithuania in exchange for letting her use my equipment while she is at the World Championships in Battle Creek this August. The exchange significantly decreased my expenses and made it possible for a college student like myself to travel across the pond and compete. Daiva and I have probably exchanged hundreds of lengthy emails (with the time difference we would cover a lot in one email, often emailing once a day). She has been a tremendous help to me and come this August I’m sure she will feel the same about me.
Other than logistics and equipment, there is of course flight preparation. Over the last 4 years I have flown on average 2 flights a year before Memorial Day Weekend. With the early timing of the event I knew I had to get out and practice in order to feel comfortable flying not only overseas but also comfortable enough to fly someone else’s balloon in a foreign country. This spring I have put in 7 flights and 10 hours of flight time practicing flying to targets and some of the GPS logger tasks. I didn’t just go out and fly because the weather was good. I didn’t want to just fly to fly, I wanted to pick those day that would allow me to maximize my practicing. There were many nights that had good weather but I chose not to fly because I did not feel like the winds were consistent enough to practice tasks. Here are a few of my practice flights:
The prep work doesn’t stop there. I also had to learn many of the tasks and the Compe GPS software on my computer. I have never flown a GPS logger task (Land Run, Angle, Elbow, 3-D shape, etc.) so I again asked John Petrehn for help. I enrolled in Jayhawk balloon school and sat down with John and went over all the tasks. I wish I had more time to talk with John and get as much knowledge as possible, but with the timing of the event and the end of the school semester I didn’t have as much time as I would have liked. I’ve also emailed, text, called Nick Donner, Benji Clemons and John Jensen and got their advice on the logger tasks. Even with all the help, I will still freak out the first time I actually have to fly one of the logger tasks! I just hope I remember everything that everyone has told me. Either way I will be learning for the future.
I also had to learn how to use the logger. The loggers used in Europe are different than the ones used in the US. With the European loggers, the pilot picks his track point. It’s like the pilot throws a virtual baggie instead of the chief scorer taking the best point like it is in the US, in Europe the pilot picks the best point and marks it with the logger. You can check out the logger simulation here: http://www.debruijn.de/FAIlogger/lgrindex.php
The prep work still hasn’t ended, I have print outs (thanks Johnny!) of the task sheets from the last European championships where they flew some very complicated logger tasks that I analyzed and diagramed on notebook paper on the 8 hr flight to Germany. I also have the rule book printed out and have read that on my flights. The piece of advice that I keep hearing over and over is don’t make stupid mistakes. The best of the best know the tasks, rules, and their balloon like the back of their hand. I am nowhere near that level of comprehension, but I am a quick learner and can soak up a lot of it in order to use in the future.
With that, it’s time to go to bed!
The first FAI Junior World Hot Air Balloon Championship is being held in Marijampole, Lithuania which is about a two hour drive to the southwest of Vilnius the capital city of Lithuania. Marijampole is a small, rural town with lots of farm land and animals. Don't know where Lithuania is? You can check out this website for more information on Lithuania http://www.state.gov/r/pa/ei/bgn/5379.htm
The event begins on Tuesday May 22 with registration and the first competition flight on Wednesday night May 23. I will be leaving from St. Louis early on Friday the 18th arriving in Vilnius on Saturday the 19th. I will stay in Vilnius to adjust, sight see and do some practice flights till the 22nd. From there my crew and I will travel to Marijampole. Competition runs morning and evening with the last competitive flight Saturday night, May 26th with a possible make up flight should we need an additional flight under the rules, on Sunday morning May 27th. The event has 29 pilots competing from 14 different countries. AUT, DEN, FIN, FRA, GER, GBR, JPN, LTU, POL, RUS, SUI, SWE, UKR, and USA will all be represented by at least one pilot. You can find the list of pilots here: http://worldjunior2012hab.orobalionai.lt/?id=show&nr=2
Many of the pilots competing have flown in their Country’s National Championships, have favorable rankings in their National rankings, have flown at the European Championships, and a handful are also competing at the World Championships in Battle Creek in August.
I will be flying this balloon:
Yup, that’s not the balloon I normally fly….Luckily, I have met quite possibly the nicest pilot in the world, Daiva Rakauskaite, who is letting me use her balloon, vehicle, and I even get her and her crew as my crew for the week. Daiva has been a huge help, making it possible for me to go over and compete and I look forward to meeting the person I’ve been emailing daily since February! The balloon is an Ultramagic 65 racing balloon with a Thunder and Colt bottom end.
Check back throughout the week for updates on the FAI Junior World Hot Air Balloon Championships.