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Competitors in the National Ballooning Championships held in Northam had their skills tested in perfect conditions. Picture: TONY McDONOUGH

Key grab ends balloon championships

NORTHAM balloon pilots Andrew Clements and Sven Tetlow finished 11th and 14th respectively in the National Ballooning Championships, which have ended after a key grab competition.

In the key grab competition the balloon pilots had to fly into the Northam airfield and try to get hold of a big foam key sitting on top of a very tall pole.

Clements was second in the key grab competition wonby pilot Nicola Scaife from NSW, who took out second place at the championships.

Her husband Matt Scaife from NSW was the championship winner.

The Scaifes and Sean Kavanagh also from NSW, who was third in the championships retained the same positions for the international event, the Geoff Green International Memorial Cup.

The highest placed international pilot in the Geoff Green Cup was Andrei Kulkov from Russia while Zenya Taguchi from Japan finished third in the key grab competition.

Matt Scaife said Northam was a great place to fly and conditions during the championships had been perfect.

“We have had fast conditions which is what we want for ballooning, we don’t want to be wafting around too much and that means we can go from target to target quite quickly and nice steerable winds so when we’re going up and down through the altitudes the conditions are changing a lot,’’ he said.

“The competition was good with a few internationals over from Russia and Japan and we also had the world junior champion here – Dom from the UK – so that’s strong competition.

“The Australians do have a big advantage having been here before and knowing the area.

“It’s a bit like playing a golf course before – once you can get the lay of the land you do have a bit of an advantage.’’

The Scaifes will now head to Austria for the world championships.

“Nicola and I very much worked together, we do have our little ideas of how we want to run things when we’re in the air which is obviously normal, but we do as much as we can together as a team.

“Nicola had already qualified for the worlds – being women’s world champion she gets an invite and the next top two  in the nationals got in – myself and Sean Kavanagh.

“We just came back from the pre-worlds in Austria so we’ve seen the area and seen what it’s all about so we’re definitely excited to get back there next year.

“I’m pretty sure this won’t be the last ballooning event we’ve had in Northam for a while. It will get all the support it needs from a lot of people.’’

Preparing a balloon at the National Ballooning Championships Picture: ANNALIESE FRANK

National Ballooning Championships committee member Donna Tasker said there had been a fabulous turn out for the night glow with estimates between 8000 to 12,000 people attended.

“I have had feedback from shire officers, the shire president as well as business owners that they have never seen Northam so busy and buzzing,’’ she said.

“Apparently, it’s the biggest crowd they have ever had at the night glow.

“Northam has a variety of flying conditions that range from calm surface conditions for safe inflations and landings.

“Generally there are several different levels of speed and different direction that can create challenging conditions for serious competition pilots.

“The event director and his team put together a fantastic and challenging competition to test the skills of all pilots competing.

“I heard mentioned several times by competitors how friendly and accommodating the farmers were when pilots were landing and packing up and also how welcoming, friendly and supportive the locals Northam were in town.’’

About Anita

Anita Mcinnes received a highly commended in the 2009 WA Media Awards suburban section for her reporting. Two of her sons were born at Swan District Hospital and for many years she was a partner in a small business, which operated in the Gingin-Muchea-Bullsbrook area. As a mature age student Anita studied journalism at Curtin University before working in Busselton, Dunsborough and Rockingham with West Regionals. She says the best part of her job is meeting eastern suburb residents and visiting the many attractions in the area.

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