The Long Jump seemingly took a low profile this year. Not sure why but for those six gallant entrants it might just have heralded the start of a resurgence in this oldest of old, boldest of bold and now freshest of fresh ballooning competitions. The reason? Well a new generation of balloonists, up for the craic and full of spirit have now taken up the mantle and they clearly have a sense of adventure and one of fair play and fun. If you’ve never done it either in the air or on the ground I can assure you it is the best bit of fun you can have outside of the Cannonball Run. Don’t take the word of old and crusty rusty balloonists though. Have a read of organiser Robin Batchelor’s report that follows, enjoy pictures that really will get you motivated and start thinking about entering next year. No one worries if you only do three miles in three hours (has happened) it is the taking part that matters. So especially for the new pilots out there set yourself and your crew a challenge this year and enter. There is no lengthy form to fill in or minimum hours to make you eligible, in fact you don’t even need a licence provided you have someone with you that has as this years’ competition proved! To see the proper reports from the competitors go to Robin’s great site (address somewhere!) and they are all there with more wow, cor! type pictures and prose that will make you chuckle. Take it away Rusty Rob.
In true Anthony Smith style, let’s look at a few statistics. Total straight line distances flown this year amount to 1081 miles, combined time aloft added up to 45 hours 30 minutes, and propane used on these 6 ambitious flights came to 2,732 litres. We dare not calculate how much fuel the trusty crews used on their long retrieves, or how many miles they drove!
If we add up the distances dragged on landing we would be disappointed – 4 stand-up landings, one of 10 yards and Rob Bayly/Andy Gregory upholding tradition with a drag of 110 yards heading for the sea with bruises to show for it. Their report is a literary triumph beautifully illustrated with the inevitable theme of ‘The Great British Seaside Long Jump’ having flown coast to coast – Skegness to Weymouth. AND they made a video.
Most of the reports share photographs of the wonderful views enjoyed from above, in fact Dan Wade and Trevor Read’s report is mostly photographs, culminating in a gem taken through the retrieve’s windscreen of the M6 motorway on the way home! Dan had passed all his exams and solo flight, but had to wait for his 17th birthday in November before he could be P1. Why did he choose Trevor as P1? Read his report to find out!
Most flights explored high altitudes and Debbie Day writes about feeling a little strange at 15,000 feet until gentleman Mike Scholes corrects the kink in her oxygen tube. Dom and Abi discussed the effects of altitude, having reached 13,500 feet and Abi writes, “ The highest I have ever flown is 13,500ft, and that was on this Long Jump. Dom and I were joking at
12,000ft that the books say you can get symptoms of hyperventilation at that level; we reckoned that it’s probably just because, when people get that high and realise there’s only a wicker basket, some hot air and a whole lot of flammable gas that is keeping you from falling to your imminent death. “
Oh, the joys of youth!
I remember 1980 because I came 2nd by just 6 points in the British National Balloon Championships. I would have won had I not forgotten my marker on one flight, and after scoring 900 points with a marker made from nomex with my shoe tied to the end, Nigel Tasker disqualified me for ‘throwing the wrong marker’. Ian Bridge came 7th to Dave Bareford’s 6th . Subsequent years saw Ian and Dave both take the art of competition ballooning to new heights so it was a pleasure to see Ian enter and thoroughly enjoy his solo flight, plotting his route with a pencil on a paper map just like we always did, and achieving the flight he’d always dreamed of across the length of Wales. Ian also thanked the younger generation for injecting new enthusiasm into ballooning so he and Dave can be proud of their offspring who flew the two longest flights this year. Their reports bubble over with enthusiasm, personal bests, talk of BBAC gold badges, digital maps, Hysplits and Facebook leaks – all of which we did without back in 1980 ( except enthusiasm!)
Will Wade has inherited all of his late Father’s passion for ballooning and he joined forces with Stephanie Bareford for a flight of 208 miles from Norfolk to Wales in 10 hours – a fantastic achievement, easpecially for their first attempt. Will posted a photo of his Dad’s Long Jump mug from 1998 where he managed 187 miles in 7 hours 30 minutes, also coming second on his first attempt. Such was Stephanie’s excitement that she posted a video online before the prize giving lunch! She wrote, “ We set ourselves three goals : Fly to Wales. Fly 200 miles. Fly for 10 hours. We achieved all of them ! “
It was Dominic Bareford and Abi Bridge who flew furthest this year – they flew 225 miles from Norfolk to Powys in 8 hours 20 minutes and can enjoy squabbling over who has the magnificent new silver Long Jump trophy on their mantelpiece for the next 12 months. Having finished an oh-so-close second in the Queen’s Cup in 2013, Dom can now add this long distance success to his impressive competition ballooning success.
The new trophy has been donated by an anonymous pilot who has enjoyed Long Jumping in previous years – a BIG thank you, and of course we thank the air traffic controllers for their co-operation, the long suffering crews for their safe driving and hard work, the Mums for the packed lunches and the Dads for lending balloons and tanks and vans.. All the reports share how much fun they had and will surely inspire others to ‘have a go’ themselves. My thanks and congratulations to all who entered and the results and reports can be found on the website www.thelongjump.com where your magnificent efforts can be shared with the rest of the ballooning world – and what a wonderful world it is!
Just a footnote here. The BBAC have applied again to compete for the Queen’s Cup and when it happens, we expect to press pause on The Long Jump and encourage pilots to support that competition. Let me know what you think?
Robin Batchelor- Founder and Judge.