Two Canowindra locals have admitted they surprised even themselves after finishing fourth at the Australian Hot Air Balloon Championships.
Taking place at Mudgee a fortnight ago, Anton Kerr and Matt Rice set themselves the goal of cracking the top 10, a feat that they thought would be difficult considering most of the top ten fly balloons for a living and half are ranked on the world stage.
They not only surprised themselves, but also the other competitors when they finished in fourth spot.
The competition is a game of precision, flying as close to the targets as possible and dropping a marker.
The other competitors have racers and software worth thousands of dollars.Matt Rice reflects on the underdog journey of the "Team Canowindra" balloon team
"It is a week of flying and the points are progressive. The team with the most points at the end of the week wins," Kerr explained.
Anton is the pilot of the balloon and flew beautifully all week, only really missing one target during the whole comp.
Matt is the chief crewman, who gets the balloon off the ground at speed, tells Anton when it is safe to climb or descend, races to the next target, and relays the wind direction information.
Both men have been working on their strategy since competing in the last Australian titles in Perth two yrs ago, where they finished 14th.
All of the top ten compete with a special racing balloon which is slightly smaller and thinner than the average balloon. This allows for more maneuverability.
Rice said it was a special result given the circumstances.
"Anton did it in a slower, fat commercial balloon, and with software we got off the free app store... the other competitors have racers and software worth thousands of dollars," he explained.
The Flying Lemmings, a large team of young competitors from the Yarra Valley have dubbed the boys "Team Canowindra" and the boys have now made the Australian Team to represent the nation in September next year for the World Championships in Slovenia.
The next step for the team is to build/buy a racing balloon to compete for Australia and to start hitting the sky's and get training for real.
The men are looking to sell 10 advertising panels to go around the bottom of their new balloon, to help fund the operation.
The Racer will be seen in places such as Perth, Canberra, Hunter Valley, Yarra Valley, Slovenia and all over the Central West. Any people or businesses interested in getting their name or logo on the balloon can contact Matt Rice at 0458 787 822.