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County News
Japanese Pilot Claims Victory at First Taiwan International Balloon Challenge Cup
Date: 2016-07-06    
After six years of holding the Taiwan International Balloon Festival, the Taitung County Government organized the nation’s first hot air balloon competition this year. 26 contestants from 15 countries participated in the event held at the Luye Plateau. A total of USD 9,500 in prize money was at stake. Although competition was cancelled the final day due to weather, based on points accumulated by each contestant during the first four days, Japanese pilot Masahiko Fujita (who bore the bearing of a champion even before the event started) fulfilled expectations by winning first place and USD 5,000 with a score of 10,554. Moreover, local Taiwanese pilot Chiu Sheng-fu (Dahai) won the top Taiwan Prize of USD 500 with a score of 9,646.

The Taiwan International Balloon Festival, which has continually pushed the limits and broken records over the years, is the venue of the first-ever Taiwan International Balloon Challenge Cup. The competition was held between July 2 and 6 from 5:00 a.m. to 7:30 a.m. each day. Pilots from all over the world, including Taiwan, competed for a total of USD 9,500 in prize money. Angel Aguirre, a Spanish pilot who has competed in and won numerous events over many years, served as competition director. At 5:00 a.m. on July 2 at the Luye Plateau, Taitung County Magistrate Justin Huang raised the green flag while central flight commander Wout Bakker announced the official beginning of the event. The competing balloons took off one after another, and Magistrate Huang enjoyed the perk of riding along with local pilot Chiu.

The competition was a series of accuracy contests, which are the most common form of balloon competition internationally. In such contests, the first balloon places cross-shaped targets of 10 meters in diameter on the ground a certain distance from the take-off point. 10 to 15 seconds later, competitors are signaled to take off toward the targets to drop markers that weigh a mere 77 grams as close to the targets as possible. Markers closer to the targets receive higher scores. This form of competition is not only a test of pilots’ skills regarding navigation, understanding of changes in wind direction, and course angle, but also includes the aspects of weather and wind that can change at any moment.

For each competition, between one and four targets were set based on the weather. After five days of competition, the competitor with the most points (Masahiko Fujita) was declared winner, the prizes being a trophy cup and USD 5,000. Second place and third place won respective prizes of USD 3,000 and USD 1,000. Furthermore, the top Taiwan Prize was USD 500.

After four days of competition (the fifth day was cancelled due to weather), the final results were as follows:
First place: No. 7, Masahiko Fujita (Japan): 10,554 points
Second place: No. 15, Jan Timmers (Belgium): 10,435 points
Third place: No. 13, Steve Campbell (Australia): 10,355 points
Winner of Taiwan Prize: No. 1, Chiu Sheng-fu (Taiwan): 9,646 points
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