Flag City Balloon Fest
Findlay, OH USA
Aug 8-10, 2014
Reported by Joe Zvada
The 15th addition of the Flag City Balloon Fest brought over 40 competitors to the northwest Ohio town of Findlay. The event has had a competitive focus from it's beginning and much effort has been put into educating the spectators on balloon competition. The result being that after 15 years, the community is genuinely interested in the contest and come out to cheer for their favorite pilots.
For once this summer, rain was absent from the weather forecast. There would be challenges with wind for the evening fun flights, but the morning competition flights offered up conditions that were both fun and challenging.
Race Director Phil Clinger called a three part task Saturday morning: CRAT, JDG, FON. Winds were generally from east to west with a left on the surface and a right turn higher. However, the right turn proved to be less than forecast, catching many pilots too far south of the targets.
The CRAT was set at the main event grounds and consisted of two X's placed about 100 meters apart. The scoring areas alternated every 15 mins, challenging pilots to time their approach to score on the correct X. The lack of the expected higher right stranded most of the pilots south of the target. Those that made it launched on a line to ride the low winds into the target. Steve King timed his approach perfectly and won the task with a 0.39m drop.
The JDG was set roughly 3 km from the CRAT on a 273 degree line. Which proved impossible to find except for Joe Zvada who found a thin layer around 500ft that got him close enough to sneak a baggie into the field. The only other score on the JDG and winner of the task was Denny Helmuth who missed the CRAT to the north, placing him in perfect position to approach the JDG.
For the FON, pilots had the choice of three set targets to be declared prior to take off to an official, or on the tail of the marker on Task 2 (JDG). Only eight pilots scored on this task, all but one of these pilots chose the center of the three targets. Paul Petrehn chose the northern target and worked the winds at 7500ft to make his approach, a very impressive effort to get his baggie in the field for a score.
After three flights Joe Zvada was the only pilot to score on all three targets and led Jim Birk and Steve King, but pool points were high and scores were very tight.
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Sunday morning dawned on very similar conditions to Saturday with winds from east to west, but with a much stronger right hand turn with altitude. Clinger called a two part flight: FIN and HWZ.
The event also added a $1500 pole to the mix Sunday morning at the FIN. A crowd favorite event saw several pilots get very close, but not close enough to snag the cash.
The FIN was set at the main launch field and was peppered by pilots with the top 20 achieving a result of less than 10 meters. Of the top two in the standings, Joe Zvada was first through the FIN, missing it right and throwing to a 7m score. Jim Birk followed a few balloons later, took it directly over the target and dropped a 2m result stealing the lead from Zvada.
The HWZ gave pilots a choice of two targets set about 3km away from the HWZ. Either target was achievable, but most chose the south target. Set just south of a school in a big soccer field, pilots could easily identify and approach low to deliver their markers.
Zvada knew he needed to regain ground on Birk at this task if there was any chance of a victory. Approaching from higher this time to rely less on the low left that left him right of first task, he threw to a 0.08m result - winning the task. Birk came through just minutes later a little high and right, but with a fantastic throw to 0.8m and second place on the task, solidifying his come from behind victory. Larry Coan had 1m drops on both targets Sunday morning and moved himself into 3rd position overall. Congrats to all!