Balloon Aloft Hunter Valley pilot Nicola Scaife has successfully defended her Women’s World Hot Air Ballooning Championship title after a week of competition flying in Birstonas, Lithuania. The event took place from the 5th-10th July and attracted 42 Pilots from 20 countries worldwide.
Nicola, 31, lives in the Hunter Valley, NSW with her husband Matthew and their 3 year-old son Hugo. As well as competing, she fulfils her love of flying in her job as a pilot for the balloon flight company Balloon Aloft Australia.
A hot air balloon competition requires competitors to score points by undertaking a number of set tasks, which are predetermined by an Event Director before a flight. This generally involves the pilot throwing a ‘marker’, a weighted streamer, at a target, usually a cross or road intersection with set coordinates. To get there the pilot needs to manoeuvre the balloon by using wind currents at various altitudes. Flying takes place in the morning and evening and the eventual winner is the pilot who has accumulated the most number of points over the week of flying.
Nicola started the competition strongly by coming 2nd in the first flight and then took over first position after excellent performances in the second and third flights which involved multiple tasks.
The last flight was unusually cancelled mid-flight due to rain. After landing safely, Nicola celebrated with her support team. The closest competitors were Ann Herdewyn (Belgium) coming in 2nd and Cheri White (USA), 3rd.
“To win the 1st women’s world championship was an incredible feeling. It was my first big competition and I didn't really know what to expect.
“Coming into the second world championships I had certainly put more pressure on myself to win. I had more experience and I knew that I was flying well and had a good chance to defend my title. To win the championships, and by such a great margin, was all that I could have hoped for,” said Nicola.
“I’m feeling completely elated and also relieved. While the weather wasn't in our favour I am happy that I had enough opportunities to execute my skills and get to the top of the rankings.
“There has been a lot of planning, hard work, dreaming, expense and energy gone into this, but to be able to say that I am the two-time Women’s World Champion makes it all worth it!
“I had the absolute best team on the ground during the championships and as we change our focus and look to the open world championships in Saga, Japan in November this year, we have some more things to work on together to see if we can get Matthew or I to the top of the leader board there. It’s really exciting!”
The future is certainly looking bright for Nicola who only began her competition ballooning career in 2013. Nicola will now set her sights on competing at the open World Hot Air Balloon Championships in Saga, Japan in late October along with husband Matthew who is the current Australian Ballooning Champion.