The weather will once again have an important effect on the final standings. In 2013, only two competitors were able to launch for the final flight due to winds that rose quite quickly. The next year, tasks were changed quite due to ever-changing wind speed, direction and rain that came in spurts.With the return of the Nationals and two new competitors seeking a trip to the World’s in Japan in 2016, as well as the retirement of a true veteran and legend of Canadian competitive ballooning, it means that more is at stake this year. As it is also the only real competition in Canada, it is difficult to assess the competitors based on their performances this year. Still, there are a few favourites heading into the competition.
The two most recent champions, Dave Gleed and Jason Adams must be considered favourites not simply because of that success, but because of excellent careers. Adams, who has been living in High River this summer, has been particularly dedicated to competition and did well at Field of Flight in Battle Creek earlier this year. He’ll also represent Canada the World Air Games later this year and was the only pilot to fly the maple leaf in Brazil last year. Dale Ritchie is also a perennial favourite based on a career of excellence. Meg Skelton, who finished 20th at the Women’s Worlds last year, is coming up to fly a Garry Lockyer event before next year’s Women’s Worlds.Younger pilots will have something to say about the order of finish. Rookies Eduardo Martinez and Hal Cooper are rookies in name only. They both bring with them international experience with Cooper flying for Canada at the World’s in Austria and Martinez doing well in Mexico. With his permanent residency, he is very happy to be eligible to win the championship. Brant Leatherdale has the backup of Del Michaud who has decided to stop flying competitively and Cliff Skocdopole would have been in Brazil with Adams if he wasn’t such a good businessman.
Three other former champions, Dan Balisky, Dale Lang and Marvin Schultz will also be competing along with Calgary Balloon Club Vice-President Richard Clark who enjoys the spirit of competition without the expectation of winning.Yes, the name of every competitor has been listed. Part of the challenge is what the weather will do. The more tasks that are flown and the more technical they are, the more likely those with more experience in high level competitions will be advantaged. Another question mark is crews. The event is looking for a lot more volunteers on the ground. Without a team known to the pilots, their routines might change. The lesson is to sign up and volunteer!
See you in High River!