lundi 16 septembre 2013

Let's Get High!

Yes, the typically weak balloon puns cannot be avoided especially as the Heritage Inn Hotel’s 2013 Canadian Hot Air Balloon Championships move to High River, AB next week.  It was a great relief to me and surely others closer to the event that it will go ahead after the terrible floods that have marked the summer of 2013 in Southern Alberta and in High River in particular.  But I’ll get back to that in a second.  First, let’s preview the contest!

Fifteen pilots have registered to compete in what is becoming a biannual event.  Aside from reigning champion Jason Adams, all others are from the West, meaning that the large balloon communities in Ontario and Quebec (even though they aren’t competitive) remain poorly represented.  Still, a good number of previous Canadian champions are in the field and the competition for Canada’s two spots at next year’s World Championships in Sao Carlo, Brazil will be intense.

I expect Adams to lead the pack as he did in Camrose in 2011.  Disappointed by his finish at last year’s Worlds in Michigan, he has worked tirelessly to sharpen his competition skills and has been throwing markers out across the Serengeti.   He won’t be alone at the top as I expect Dale Ritchie, David Gleed and Del Michaud will also have very competitive scores.  I’ve heard many people call Dale Ritchie Canada’s best ever flyer and his international experience somehow always have him hovering around the target.  Michaud and Gleed are also serious about competition and have honourably represented Canada on the international scene in the past.  Others, like Richard Clark, are just happy to see the target field. A new generation of pilots, featuring Cliff Skocdopole and Brant Leatherdale, means that the lessons Canada has been learning won’t be lost through time.

The event director is Gary Lockyer whose experience and preference for cutting-edge competition technology mean that competitors will be taking part in a truly world-class event.  Using SMS to transmit information to pilots should help lessen the learning curve for pilots who take part in international competitions.  This author will be reading the theodolite and is looking forward to the early wakeups.

An interesting part of Canada’s national championship – aside from the poor Eastern representation (it would be easier if it wasn’t so far!) – is that it is truly Canadian.  Whereas other national championships around the world occasionally feature pilots from other countries who want to practice, the Committee voted this year to only let Canadians in the competition department.  It appears as though a number of international pilots, from Europe in particular, would have been interested in participating.  Seeing as the timing of the event is favourable to pilots wanting to go to Albuquerque afterwards, letting them enter could be interesting in the future.
As mentioned, though, the real winners are the residents of High River.  Already, they should have their heads up high because of the courage and patience they have displayed since the floods.  For a few days in late September, they will be able to crane their necks even higher as they watch the colourful balloons above them and we get to admire the skill of many of Canada’s best pilots.  See you there!

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