The Tochigi Championship is not to be confused with the Saga event. I am informed that Saga is on a different island with a different set of organisers and is a different event all together. That told me then. The Tochigi Hot Air Balloon Championship is a CIA Category1 event making it a far more prestigious competition as far as the pilots are concerned. Some of the best pilots in the world go here and getting placed in this contest is no mean achievement.
This year twelve of the field of 32 were non-Japanese. Four from the UK, Crispin Williams, Richard Parry, Lindsay Muir and Mike Howard along with six from the USA, including the current and two previous World Champions, John Grubbstrom turned up from Sweden and that darling Matt Scaife, a Pom competing for Australia was there in his Kavanagh Racer.
By close of play 27 tasks had been completed and the scores were pretty close. First place went to Japan’s Yudai Fujita, appropriately flying balloon number 1 an Ultramagic Racer, who managed to win four tasks and had only six scores under 900 netting a total of 24474 points. Second place went to America’s Johnny Petrehn who managed to win five tasks but with a couple of disappointing placings which got him low 200 scores he ended up with 23111 points. Third place went to another American, Nick Donner winning three tasks and getting a total of 21964 points. Fourth place also went to the USA courtesy of Rhett Heartspill.
Matthew Scaife once again stole the heart’s of the spectators and stormed in at number seven by winning two tasks but somehow collected penalty points for one task (one of only four negative scores) so all in all pretty good, especially as this is his first year at competitive flying. He must be well on his way to getting dual nationality by now. Does he practise on his passenger flights back in Australia we wonder?
The first Brit place went to Richard Parry who topped out in tenth place with a respectable 17251 points despite not winning any tasks. Right on his heals came Lindsay Muir who, flying a standard Lindstrand with a skirt in the same way you’d treat a Racer and turning it into some spectacular shapes in the process, very nearly won Task 4, a Judge declared goal netting 999 points, and getting a remarkable 16490. Her high scoring in the first four tasks certainly put the wind up the Americans. Our other gallant pilots, Mike Howard came in thirteenth with Crispin Williams bringing up the rear in twentieth place. Last place went to Noboro Yamanaka with a score that would have been higher than mine of 6835 points.
At this level of competition centimetres can separate scores and measurement of the marker drops is vital. Being just outside the cross could mean a very low score indeed. Just have a look at the spread of markers on one of the target pictures taken by Lindsay as she climbed away from the target. Most of us would be chuffed to bits if we got into the same field!
Lindsay reported that she was pretty thrilled as eleventh was the best she’d been placed in Tochigi for a few years and reckoned she did start to worry the Americans. “Well there were comments about me trying to get a round Lindstrand balloon with a skirt to perform like a racer! To demonstrate, in one picture (taken from the ground by an admirer) Lindsay is ‘flying’ the funny shaped orange balloon approaching the target (just behind the Curves balloon). “That’s my best impression of a racer. What I normally produced was a mushroom.” she noted.
During all this frantic flying (possibly the cause of the odd cold descent) she managed to take some piccies. “The one of the cross was from the final flight. The first task was a Fly In (to this cross) and the second task was a Minimum Distance Double drop (at the same cross). The Pink marker (FIN) could be on the cross but the yellow ones couldn’t and had to be in opposite quadrants. My markers are somewhere in the middle of the picture. It all happened very quickly so I don’t know which are mine.’ she explained.
Full results at http://www.exem-balloon.com/tochigi2012hp/