Imagine that you are getting ready to fly the last flight of the World Championships and you're within a stone's throw (~250 points) of first place. Wouldn't it be nice to have three former World Champions (and friends) offer to fly pibal for you?
That's what happened this morning in Austria. With a two-task flight called and Paul within 250 points of first place, Al Nels (1987 & 1991 champion), Joe Heartsill (1995 champion), and John Petrehn (2006 champion) all offered to assist. With winds forecasted to be brisker than we've seen all week, teams were sent out for a fly-in and hesitation waltz. At the briefing we were reminded not only of the recall procedures, but that the decision to fly is completely and exclusively that of the pilot. After selecting a launch location, we proceeded to lay out and begin inflation. Joe Heartsill and John Petrehn inflated within 100' and took off (along with about 20 others). Although their ascents were completely under control, others around us proceeded with much less caution.
However, with our balloon stood up and ready, we suddenly heard shouting in various foreign languages. We couldn't understand the words, but the universal sign of crossed-forearms was unmistakable. Immediately we checked the text messages on our cell phone and confirmed the bad news. The flight (and both tasks) had been canceled. Everyone got down okay, but there would be no scoring.
Currently there are a number of outstanding issues with the scores, including one task that's being recalculated completely. Paul has moved from 5th to 4th then back to 5th and now back to 4th in the last 12 hours without a flight being flown. The event has done an outstanding job of keeping the website current, so check there for the latest updates. Joe Zvada, in his rookie year, is locked solidly into the top-10, currently being shown in 6th place.
Funny story of the day: This morning Mike Howard, our friend and fellow competitor from Great Britain who was also battling for the lead, was standing in a field next to us looking at pibals. Suddenly he grabbed the BFA radio from Nick Donner's pocket and, in his "unmistakable" voice, said "Andy Baird, what are the winds at the field doing?" Andy's response: "Sorry, that last transmission broke up."
Right now we're sitting in the event debriefing meeting. It's an open forum where those involved with the event can comment on the competition to those involved in organizing it. Lots of compliments, suggestions, and criticisms are being voiced. However, I'm not going to report on the specifics here.
The awards ceremony will be held tomorrow afternoon, I'll almost certainly have some photos to post from that.
Although a few have left for home already, tonight the approximately 50 members of Team USA are planning on having dinner together at a local restaurant. We've already "disassembled" our retreive vehicles, and tomorrow we'll being readying the balloon equipment for shipping. It will be dropped at air cargo in Vienna on Monday. We plan to spend Monday afternoon and evening seeing the city, then fly ourselves out on Tuesday morning.