01 Nov 2016

22nd FAI World Hot Air Balloon Championship in full swing!

After a busy Sunday, competition to become the 2016 World Hot Air Balloon Champion got underway Monday morning.

Good weather on Sunday morning allowed all competitors to complete their final practice flights and preparations for the 22nd FAI World Hot Air Balloon Championship. Official Opening Ceremonies were held on Sunday afternoon. Balloonists were entertained by a traditional Japanese three-piece band and welcomed to Saga and the 22nd FAI Wold Hot Air Balloon Championship by Toshiyuki Hideshima (Mayor of Saga City), Kichisaburo Nomura (President of the Japan Aeronautical Association), Yoshinori Yamaguchi (Governor of Saga Prefecture), Mark Sullivan (President of the International Balloon Commission) and Dr. John Grubbstrom (FAI President of Honour). Les Purfield (Event Director) and Yudai Fujita read the FAI Oaths on behalf of all officials and competitors.

The championship was officially declared open by Junji Ozasa (President of the Japan Balloon Federation).

The official ceremonies were followed by the ‘Welcome Reception for the 22nd FAI World Hot Air Balloon Championship’ hosted by the Mayor of Saga. The opening festivities were elegant and enthusiastic, proving once again that Saga is very much the home of international competition ballooning.

The first competition flight was on Monday morning. Les Purfield set a four-task flight: Task 1: Judge Declared Goal (JDG), Task 2: JDG, Task 3: JDG and Task 4: Fly On (FON). Competitors were required to launch from the Common Launch Area (beside the Kase River) and then fly to three targets set by the Event Director and one goal selected by each competitor. The distances between the targets/goals ranged from 1 km to 5 km.

The winning results for each task was less than 2 metres! Task 1 was won by Dan Suo (CHN) with a 0.03 m result, Task 2 by Masafumi Sato (JPN) at 0.28 m, Task 3 by Sven Goehler (GER) at 1.57 m and Task 4 by Satoshi Ueda (JPN) at 0.00 m.

After the first four tasks, Satoshi Ueda (JPN) is leading with 3 924 points, followed by Uwe Schneider (GER) with 3 680 points and defending champion Yudai Fujita (JPN) at 3 439 points.

Flights scheduled for Monday afternoon and Tuesday were cancelled due to weather.

This morning, the Event Director set a five-task flight: Task 5: Pilot Declared Goal (PDG), Task 6: Fly In (FIN), Task 7: JDG, Task 8: FON, Task 9: FON. Results for this morning’s flight should be available at about 13:00 JST at sagaballoonworld2016.jp.

This is the fourth time the World Hot Air Balloon Championship has been held in Japan and the third time in Saga. Previous events in Saga were in 1989 and 1997 and at Motegi in 2006.

Additional information about the Saga International Balloon Fiesta can be found at here.

The championship can be followed on

Photo Credit: Debbie Spaeth
Second photo on the left: Yudai Fujita performing the Competitor’s Oath