This year was the 30th Joure Balloon Festival held, appropriately, in the town of Joure in the Netherlands. Joure is to the north east of Amsterdam and not very far from the remains of the Zuyder Zee, now just two large expanses of water, The Ijsselmeer and The Markermeer with plenty of other smaller lakes and waterways around it. Southerly flights take you quite quickly to the North Sea so flying here is not for the faint hearted but when conditions are right it is brilliant. The British Balloon Museum & Library chaps have been going there for a few years now and as this is a meet known for special shapes they always obligingly take one or two along. Turnout is good with around 20,000 visitors and around 35 balloons. The UK were again well represented with Neil Iveson leading the charge for the BBM&L. He very kindly sent us this report along with some nice piccies.
Once again an invitation was received to attend the Balloon Festival in Joure, Netherlands from 23-27th July. The invite was duly accepted and the BBM&L’s Special Shape Maxwell House Coffee Jar was entered into the event. As well as the Maxwell House balloon the Swatch Watch Special Shape (G-BMJJ) of Damian Busby was also attending, thus pilots Neil Ivison and Andy Austin would be sharing the flying of the two shapes and the teams would work together as much as they could to get the balloons in the air.
There were 35 entries for the event including Andrew Kaye with Aston Martin (G-OAML), The Nissan Car from Holland (PH-HOS), the Van Gogh head (PH-GOG) and a passenger carrier from Belgium which has some add-ons to make it into a Pirates face (G-CILZ). These were just a few of the 13 shapes present. Other UK entries in more conventional balloons were Jeff Lawton (G-CHMI), Bruce Harris (G-CIJL) and Steve Farrant (G-CGPD).
The first flight on Wednesday evening was forecast to be 8 knots and a little gusty but would be dropping so the decision was to go flying as it was a good direction and it generally looked to be a safe flying slot. We set off Swatch first with Andy Austin at the helm picking a good moment between the gusts to pull the quick release. Next we set to with Maxwell House and had a lot of swaying from the taller shape (as you would expect). After a short while a calmer spell allowed it to settle down for a safe launch and we were off. Leaving the field we decided to climb to about 1700ft and leveled off for a check on the map and look at surroundings. Joure is about 15 miles from the sea and every time you take off on the first flight of the event it always looks much closer! Happily we were heading inland so it wasn’t a factor. Upon climbing a little more we discovered a funny wind layer giving a change in the wind speed and direction which in a normal balloon doesn’t really do much more than push in some fabric and make the balloon a funny shape for a few moments. In taller and thinner shapes you end up with the top of the balloon in one wind speed and direction and the lower part in a completely different wind leading to the balloon leaning over which can be a little unnerving when you don’t know quite when it’s going to happen. Both balloons flew for around an hour and landed safely, Maxwell House landing in a field next to a campsite and delighting the campers as they all came out to watch.
Thursday’s flight was a very similar direction with only 5kts on the surface dropping down to 2kts before sunset. This time I ended up being first out of the arena in the Swatch Watch balloon and was happy to find the air was very stable, instantly knowing it was going to be a good flight. After an hour we crossed a small lake and landed in the first grass field as it was next to a road. We were met at the gate by lady who knew the farmer and gave him a call. Whilst we awaited the farmers arrival the lady and her children helped us pack away Swatch. They will learn to run the other way one day!! Andy Austin flying Maxwell House also had a nice hours flight landing not too far away.
One of the shapes at Joure was a white glove that is based in Sweden. An interesting feature of the glove is each of the five fingers has a string which can be pulled to flatten the finger. I don’t know if it was aimed at anyone in particular or for just a bit of fun, but I can confirm that the fingers can be manipulated in flight to show certain international gestures! Yes, the gesture you are thinking of is correct!
The weather started to take a turn for the worse on Friday with the threat of rain looming. Both Swatch and Maxwell House (last balloon to take off) had short flights of ten to fifteen minutes duration landing in the first sensible field that each balloon came to. Literally after getting the Maxwell House envelope packed away and back in the trailer it started to rain. A very close call.
Saturday saw the worst storm in the Netherlands for 30 years with the launchsite being evacuated for fears of the VIP/Balloonist marquee being blown away. We all took the opportunity to head off with Team Khaos to a fantastic American themed 'all you can eat' restaurant and enjoy a sociable evening. Andy had discovered the restaurant the evening before as he landed near to it. In his words, and with a couple notches taken out of his belt, he explained, “Its amazing where ballooning takes you and the places you find because of it.” On Sunday the winds had calmed down a lot and on paper at least it was looking flyable however the rainfall radar showed two periods of heavy rain in the area with a possible flyable period in between. Very sensibly the Organisers decided not to take the risk and cancelled the flight. It was a shame but at least we had dry envelopes to come home with.
Although Joure 2015 ended on bit of an anti climax, the flying that had taken place and company had been most enjoyable and once again it brought some publicity to the BBM&L in an area where it wouldn’t be expected.