European globetrotter Neil Iveson reports on the popular Warstein Balloon Meet.
Whilst most teams attended for the full week Team Swatch arrived on the Wednesday for the second half of the week. A number of British teams made the trip to Warstein for 2016. Having been there since Saturday they reported it had so far been mixed weather but overall very good with a number of flights done. Andy Kaye was there with his newly purchased football, Aston Martin, Granador Orange and a couple of round balloons, Martin Cowling was present with his lovely little pirate balloon. A few foreign shapes were in attendance with the Warstein’s Express Train, Fire Engine & sunflower, a Bratwurst sausage, a newly built Kubicek mechanic figure and from Switzerland the recently revived Colt built Shuttlecock balloon dating from 1991. As gas would not be available until after the evening fight and as we only had a limited amount as per ferry restrictions, we planned only to do a short tether to at least get Swatch seen by the public attending the event. Over a number of months Damian Busby who owns the Blue/White swatch had been in discussion with the Swiss owners of the other two identical swatches. They had decided that it would be nice to finally get together and have the three watches inflated together. On Wednesday night the conditions were perfect and it was decided to go for the triple inflation. After all the other balloons had flown we were asked to inflate the 3 Swatches for 19:00 when there would be a TV crew present. It seems that Warstein had been made aware of the uniqueness of this and were using it for some publicity.
Next morning we arrived hoping to fly, but much to our disappointment the flight was cancelled as deemed to windy. After a short discussion “Team Khaos, Team Buddy, Gary Davies’ Team and Team Swatch” decided to head to Winterberg for a few hours of fun. Winterburg is a Ski resort complete with bobsleigh run and ski jumps. In the summer it boasts a summer toboggan run, mountain biking and a few other attractions. We all went tobogganing and made the most of a warm day. Come the evening and another good flying slot with the wind taking us to the east at about 8 kts. Damian decided to fly his Sky 90 and enjoyed a good 20 minute flight into the next valley. Landing on a grass field open to the road made for an easy retrieve. Shortly after landing the farmer drove into the field, nodded at us and without a word carried on past to bail his silage. Guess he was happy.
Next morning surprised us all as the flight was cancelled for lack of wind! The light wind had allowed fog to build up and there was a concern that balloons would land in foggy valleys and be at risk of power line strikes. The light winds were forecast to continue through the rest of the weekend with daytime temperatures being in the region of 30 degrees meanwhile we heard that back in the UK it was nearer 15 degrees and Grass Roots had been cancelled due to a high wind forecast. So, on the Friday evening we opted to stay on the ground and tether Swatch, then later on we were going to glow the three Swatches together. Those that did fly reported they had to go to 3000ft before they saw any wind at all and nearer 5000 before any real speed which gives an idea of how still it was. Seeing a hundred plus balloons up at those heights was an unusual sight.
One of the other teams took the opportunity to inflate what must be one of the taller shapes that has been built, the Russian built Kremlin Tower balloon which stands some 190ft tall. The velcro rip has been sewn shut, presumably as the Velcro wouldn’t stay closed, resulting in the only deflation device being a small vent at the top. It clearly wasn’t that effective as it too a good 5 minutes to get the balloon laying on its side, then a good 20 minutes more to get all the air out.
Next morning we finally got the opportunity to take Swatch on its first ever flight of the event. We were blessed with a nice slow breeze taking us to the north and we were able to enjoy a good 40 minute flight. Flying amongst 100 other balloons in close quarters made for an enjoyable experience. Onto the evening and once again very little wind, almost a repeat of the night before with balloons needing to go to 3000 ft to find a wind away from the forest and into a good landing area. As it was still hot and with the extremely light winds both Team Swatch and Team Buddy decided to do a short stand up and, as this was to be the last flight, to burn off a bit of gas to comply with the ferry regulations for the journey home. This great event finished off with a 20 minute night glow with around 30 balloons taking part and as usual a spectacular firework display and a glass or two of Warsteiner Beer.