Whilst everybody was busying themselves taking down their Christmas Lights and retrieving the fairy from the top of the tree the rather super little town of Mondovi was doing things slightly differently and holding their Epiphany Meet. If you’ve never flown there or thought Epiphany was ET’s mate you have missed a rare treat. If you have heard that it is easy flying, well, you could be in for a surprise there too. Certainly the winds can be light and variable which would suggest that it is all relaxed, laid back and plain sailing but the tricky winds mean you have to keep on your tippy toes and when you get a steady breeze you need to watch for air space, rising ground, woods and, in the distance, mountains with all the side-effects they chuck at you. Mondovi can be as exciting as you want it to be. One thing is certain, the views are stunning and the people very friendly. On top of all that it has a funicular railway so it is well cool.
The Epiphany Meet this year (2014 just in case you are reading this in 2045) was organised by Paolo Oggioni (now in 2045 the Chairman of the World Games) and officially held over the weekend of the 5-6 January but pilots are invited to turn up early if they wish so the first proper social is held on the Friday evening. The organisation and briefings are centred around the Aero Club of Mondovi facilities which also offers a fine café facility managed by Paolo’s missus Monica. Amongst those that trekked out this year were the intrepid Irish contingent featuring Aidan Murphy and his Clown Balloon. They are regulars to Mondovi and keep a balloon there these days to save lugging it across the Irish Sea and the Channel. There is plenty of secure storage available at the Aero Club and many UK pilots now avail themselves of the facility.
We asked them for a brief report, which is exactly what we got. The winds, they said, were mainly light and variable so they applied their Golden Mondovi Rule and loaded up with more gas than daylight and set off, after much discussion, and had a fine old time. The ground conditions were however very wet to say the least so the Clown kept its clodhoppers dry and stayed in the bag. Generally though the conditions were good with only one slot being missed courtesy of rain. The wine and food were as always spot on. Aidan reported that they counted about 25 balloons in the air and there were all sorts of tasks and things going on but as they never do competition flying they didn’t have a clue about what the competitions actually were all about or who won what or even what the tasks were. They did say that there were a lot of markers chucked at targets with many in about the right place and some people won some nice prizes and that was their take on things. Fair enough. They did try and get the Clown out for the Night Glow but the ground was so muddy that they opted to try and use the road but once the winds shifted and the Clown’s ear attempted to smack a lamp standard they decided that it was probably not going to happen so sadly he was put back in his bag and parked up for another day.
The entry fee covered the propane which is rather expensive in Italy and also a place at the table for a magnificent meal on all three evenings. Local accommodation is varied and reasonable and the beer and wine quite acceptable. Sitting in the Square in the late evening is a must providing you don’t miss the last funicular or stay around the corner! They spotted that there is clearly a lot of organisation that goes into the meet and Team Eire reckoned the organising committee had it down to a fine art. Aidan went on to say that, “The organising is magic and can be seen by the sheer team-work here and it's seen and noticed, hence its a lovely meet to attend.”
Paolo was equally delighted with the success of the weekend. This year it was a fantastic success with 33 balloons in the air and at least 10,000 spectators turning out to see the balloons. They had two National TV stations which gave them full coverage of throughout event along with a lot of stuff in newspapers both regional and national as well. The pilots and balloons that turned up came from UK, Ireland, France, Belgium, Monaco, Switzerland, USA, Croatia and of course Italy. Support is clearly growing big time.
Following the closing ceremony Irish team member Leo Forde hurried back to the UK non-stop in his Landrover to collect his new balloon and take it back to Ireland arriving in Wendover at quarter past silly o’clock, consumed a bowl of gruel and fell asleep. Very impressive but it was commented that he only managed to stay awake thanks to the Landrover’s seat! It does show that you can get there in a day even with a SWB Landrover. The rest of the Team opted to take the plane!
The Epiphany Meet will be running again next year and Paolo and his Crew are already working on it. The dates haven’t been confirmed yet but it could be 4-6 January 2015, but, as ever, if anyone wants to come earlier they will be made more than welcome. Then again if they just want to turn up and fly in the area any time of the year then give Paolo a call and it will be sorted. You can’t say fairer than that.
Contact Paolo via the Aero Club Website http://www.aeroclubmondovi.it or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Piccies courtesy Paolo, Aidan and Fulvio Silestri