Freedom Weekend Aloft Monday Morning Cancelled - Joe Heartsill Wins!
The final competition flight Monday morning was cancelled and Joe Heartsill was declared the champion. Nick Donner was the Southeast Regional Champ. It was also a sweep by Team USA, as all five competing team members finished in the top five of the event.
New videos from Drew Egerton below.
Saturday morning video
Sunday morning video
Sunday Morning Competition Flight 2
Sunday morning pilots were greeted with three tasks and brisk winds above 100 feet. The winds stayed pretty consistent from briefing time all the way through the flight up to the last target where balloons were flying over the X from all different directions and altitudes.
The tasks were a FIN, GBM and HWZ. The Fly-in was the same as the day before and pilots had to go out more than a mile and find a launch site to fly in and throw their baggies at the yellow X at the field. Then they had the choice of four boxes to put their baggie in for the Gordon Bennet Memorial task which is simply a minimum distance to the X so long as the proper color baggie is in the box. The FIN was won by Nick Donner and followed closely by Steve Davis and Rhett Heartsill. The GBM was won by Richard Parr who really had a close call on the ground but was able to get enough heat in the balloon to keep it off the ground. Chase Donner and John Petrehn were next in the order on this task. It was most important again this morning to focus on getting a score on each task.
Immediately after flying through the field pilots had to climb up to about 500 feet and get the right turn to head to the Hesitation Waltz task. This is a task where the director gives pilots the choice of two or more targets to head to and today there were three Xs to choose from. Most if not all flew to the southern most target as it was going to require the least amount of maneuvering. As the balloons approached this field the winds were variably windy and pilots came in to the X from all sides of the field. Roy Smith bested the field on this X and was followed by Robert Gonzales and Mark MacSkimming.
The subtropical storm off the southeast coast of the United States is beginning to influence the weather here in Simpsonville, SC. Forecasts show that the winds should not be a problem but clouds less than 2000 feet are beginning to be predicted for tomorrow morning. The flight tonight should get off without a problem and as long as the clouds stay above 1500 feet there should be a flight on Monday morning.
The field is chasing five time US National Champion and World Champion Joe Heartsill in his first trip to Simpsonville, SC and Freedom Weekend Aloft but what is really telling so far is that the top five positions are taken up but the five competitors on Team USA in August for the World Championship. After Joe is Nick Donner followed by Chase Donner, Rhett Heartsill and John Petrehn.
Saturday's Sponsor Flight
Saturday afternoon the pilots were able to treat the sponsors of the event to a flight under extremely hot conditions. The winds were a little strong at the 6pm briefing time but they calmed down plenty to get a nice flight in from Heritage Park to the West.
After the flight pilots and crew were treated to a great concert by Jake Owen and some good headliners. Beer and good times were had and now everyone is going to try to get some rest before the next flight.
Scores went up from this morning and Nick Donner, Joe Heartsill and Gary Heavin are pacing the field. Tomorrow morning looks like it might be very steerable and a shape task of some sort has already been marked out on the field. Three or more tasks are most likely awaiting the pilots.
Saturday morning was nearly perfect for competition here in Simpsonville, SC. Steerable winds from the surface up to several thousand feet were used to help navigate the skies to three tasks called by Southeast Regional Championship Director Sam Parks. Pilots would go out and find a launch site more than a mile from Heritage Park for a fly-in to the field in conjunction with a maximum distance double drop. Three baggies needed to be dropped at the field in a matter of about 10-15 seconds which definitely adds to the skill involved!
Pilots would then fly out of the field and attempt to follow Ken Draughn as the Hare balloon again. The hopes today were that Ken wanted to be caught by the balloons so that there would be lots of scores!
Early reports are that some pilots went greedy on the max-distance and it cost them a score all together and there were lots of close scores on both X's. If you achieved three scores this morning you are doing well for yourself. Nick and Chase Donner accomplished this and should be in the top five or so along with Joe Heartsill and Drew Egerton. We will get scores up as they become available. It definitely was a nice morning for competition and a morning worth taking a few risks on that you might not have later on in the summer. Pictures to follow soon but the video is posted. PONG on!
Competition Flight 1
Tonight after two brief holds to let the winds figure out which direction they were going to flow a one part Hare N Hound task was called. No BFA point were on the line because of the relatively light winds combined with an evening flight. However the points for this task would have gone toward an overall winner for the event.
After about 30 minutes of flying it became apparent that Hare balloon pilot Ken Draughn was not going to find a place to land with the X and allow pilots the opportunity to get to him before the sunset. He cancelled the task at about 750.
Not much to write about tonight but we should fly tomorrow morning with the winds increasing tomorrow afternoon as the Low off the coast of South Carolina strengthens. The winds shouldn't be over 10 knots but that is certainly a possibility.
We are hoping for an many as four tasks tomorrow morning!
Friday Media/Practice Flight
Friday morning's media flight here in Simpsonville, SC was a great kickoff to the weekend. Wind speeds were a little slow but generally very steerable. Media was out starting at 5am with the Curves and Remax balloons. All the pilots were told they were allowed to either fly-in to the field or out of the field depending on how they wanted to practice.
There were over 20 balloons that showed up and about half flew in and half flew out. Everyone got a late start on the morning and the first balloon to take off wasn't until 45+ minutes after sunrise. Chase Donner and Matt McClinton were the first two balloons to fly into the field and then land. Chase was able to make two passes on the X with the help of Henry and Rob pushing him back across the field so he could practice his throwing. Matt however only needed one pass to get a drop well under a meter at about 12 inches. The TX clan of Curves and Heartsill racers flew off the field to a couple of targets not to far away. They had already flown into the field on Thursday morning to practice and wanted to try something else. Seems like everyone was trying to work a few bugs out and this weekend will definitely been competitive.
The rest of the morning was spent securing the BalloonPong banners on Nick and Chase's balloons for the weekend and getting registration knocked out. The weather still looks to be stable for the weekend and flying during every possible launch window is looking promising. Look for lots of tasks and lots of close scores and a VERY tired Sam Parks and crew come Monday evening!
2012 Freedom Weekend Aloft and Southeast Regional Championship
Memorial Day weekend marks the beginning of the competitive season for most pilots around the country and that is certainly no exception for Southeast competitors. Pilots will be diving head first into tough competition as they vie for as many as three guaranteed spots at the 2013 U.S. National Championship.
Sam Parks and his staff return to Freedom Weekend Aloft this year as Event Director and they'll have the added challenge of conducting the first Southeast Regional since 2008 in Baton Rouge, LA. New to Freedom Weekend will be the use of the BFA's Dakota 10 scoring devices, which will allow Parks to call tasks using logger only scoring, an enhancement from prior FWA events.
Pilots will begin arriving as early as Friday for the extended weekend of competition and the field looks to be stout. The field will feature several prominent National competitors and five members of the 2014 U.S. World Team all looking to dethrone current Champion and local heartthrob, Drew Egerton. Pong will be on-site throughout the weekend bringing you live coverage and recounts of all the action as it happens. Also, for additional information be sure to check out aeroscores.com. Check out the recap video from 2011 below.