The 22nd FAI World Hot Air Balloon Championship came to its conclusion on Monday, November 7, and saw American Rhett Heartsill take the gold medal.
This edition of the championships took place in Saga, Japan and featured over 100 of the best competitors on the planet, who were representing 31 different nations.
In order to win the prestigious title of World Champion, Heartsill had to trump his competitors over a series of 31 tasks and 9 flights during the competition, which lasted for a total of 10 days. He ended up winning the title in style, accruing a total of 26,160 points, which was 2,253 points clear of his nearest rival, Rimas Kostiuskevicius from Lithuania.
The defending champion, Yudai Fujita, from host nation Japan, finished just outside the top 10 in 11th position with 21,638 points. Great Britain’s Dominic Bareford managed to finish in a respectable 6th place with a total of 22,313 points.
Heartsill’s victory represents more than just one man accomplishing his goals; it also signifies the first time a father and son has won the title, after Rhett’s father, Joe, won the championship title in 1995 in his native USA.
The competition was organised by the Saga International Balloon Fiesta Organisation and this was the fourth time that Japan had hosted the event, with the last one being back in 2006. Heartsill will get the chance to defend his newly won title in Austria in August 2018.
For those who wish to experience a hot air balloon in a less competitive environment but with an equally skilled Pilot, balloon rides in Bristol can prove to be a perfect way to see the city from a new perspective.