Balloon Repair Station

Damp squibs? – Not likely its the Icicle Refrozen 2017

Charged with being on the organising Committee of the now nicely re-established Icicle Refrozen it came as a huge relief to Geoff Lescott and the 3-4-40 Icicle Refrozen organising crew that this year they managed to actually fly, an occurrence missing from the meet for quite a few years. Attendance was great, the atmosphere brilliant and really you couldn’t have had a better start to the years’ meets. Add to that good vibe with Kubicek, Lindstrand, Cameron and Ultramagic all having stands there it was just like olden times. Frost, we understand, has been ordered for next year. Here’s his take on it.

I’m not so certain that asking one of the organisers to write an event account is ever a good idea, but suddenly my fellow committee members have found something urgent to do far away…..

As every fule kno by now, the 3-4-40 Region took over the running of the traditional Icicle Meet as it seemed likely that it would fade away to distant memory when Dante Group’s 43-year tenure came to an end. Although our first attempt in 2016 was judged to be a success, albeit a ground-based one because of the atrocious weather that weekend, we weren’t sure that the second one would be so well attended as the after-dinner speaker (Per) had clearly been a huge draw.

We need not have worried. The flying was better in the sense that we actually did some on the Saturday, the trade stands were well populated throughout both days and the dinner was a 100% sell-out (actually oversubscribed) with Dave Boxall giving a technical run-through of how he led the Camerons design and build of Fedor’s fantastic round-the-world balloon. The after-dinner auction had some interesting items donated to it (the auctioneer being overheard to mutter something about at least not being given a bloody inflatable canoe to try and sell at a balloon meet this year) and everyone toddled off to bed happy. Some very ‘happy’, if a little poorer. The hotel accommodation was fully booked early on with even last year’s hotel voucher winner forgetting where he’d put it and, panicking just a bit, booking his family into a nearby Holiday Inn.

It was a relief to realise our ambition of combining the domestic side and the flying on one site, with the balloon teams being cooperative and parking nicely in the designated area instead of all over the place at odd angles. What we hadn’t realised was that the first Saturday in every month is also the resident golf club’s Tournament Day and a bit of diplomacy and arm-waving by our marshals was required to iron out the Members’ attempts to run our booking-in blockade. 19 balloons launched over the morning following the second briefing at 10:30 into some fairly murky skies, but all had nice-ish flights heading straight towards Greenham Common (part SSSI), with options of Brimpton before the Aldermaston R101 area loomed. In the afternoon several tethers took place and a couple of hopper tethers on the Sunday together with John Baker’s splendid brand-new model replica of Dante’s first balloon O-65 G-AZIP (first registered in November 1971) taking in a lot of admiring glances.

The briefings were very well attended and Lin’s Full English van was running from early morning to mid-day on both days providing bacon-based sustenance for our pilots and crews. Getting this facility within the grounds of a 4-star hotel was a minor diplomatic success and makes the sheltered briefing area with our marquee in the Fishermens’ carpark – also our disabled car park - more homely.
As well as many old friends we welcomed Peter Audenaert and his team and their brand new (November 2016 registered) C-80 G-CJPG from Belgium and also Greg Winker with Molly Stacey who flew in especially from the USA for the event, so we’re attracting an international component. Also we were delighted to host Barbara Morton at dinner (ballooning Royalty if ever there was). As organisers we’re pleased that Icicle Refrozen has succeeded in surviving the change of ownership and venue. We are quite determined that the essential flavour will be maintained with some incremental additions to the infrastructure year on year to improve it for the enjoyment of all balloonists everywhere. We don’t take any parking or other donations from the general public as it is not a public event and is not (intentionally) advertised outside the ballooning community, so we support Donnington Grove’s own favourite charity (actually this years Ladies Golf Captain’s nomination) by donating to the Thames Valley Air Ambulance Charity. There are still a few commemorative IR pins left from a limited edition of 100: it is intended to produce one each year with different colours for those wishing to start a collection. (Good value at £6 inc P&P - Ed).

The 2018 Icicle Refrozen will take place at Donnington Grove on Saturday 6th & Sunday 7th January 2018.

Pins available through Geoff Lescott geoff.lescott@gmail.com
Icicle Refrozen Balloon Meet site at http://www.icicle-refrozen.com/
3-4-40 Balloon Club site at www.3440.org/

Big thanks for piccies via the Icicle Facebook page including Rachel Percival,  Nigel Green and to Sandy Mitchell

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