Bowness couple soar to success in hot air balloon competition

The Westmorland Gazette: The balloon team celebrate their success in the Austrian competition The balloon team celebrate their success in the Austrian competition

AN ADVENTUROUS couple are on cloud nine after soaring to success in a hot air balloon competition.

Robbie and Alison Mansfield have yet another trophy to add to an already-full cabinet, after beating some of the best in Europe at the contest among the Tyrolean mountains in Austria.

After five days of flying, taking to the skies twice a day in their balloon, Midnight, the couple and four friends steered their way into fourth place, beating 31 others to a podium spot.

Robbie, 67, from Bowness, explained that he trained for the competition among the Lakeland peaks.

He said: “With the quality of competitors we were up against we are so pleased with fourth place.

“It really takes a lot of people to work the balloon and we have two people in a recovery car on the ground following us, so it really is a team effort.”

He explained that the competition consisted of several individual missions and races, as contestants steered their way through treacherous peaks.

In one of the contests they took first place.

Two more days consisted of free flying and balloon shows for tourists, including one that they performed to music.

Friends, Stuart and Gill Tweedale and Terry and Lorna Graham, also took it in turns helping out in the balloon and driving the recovery car.

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“It is hard work,” Mr Mansfield continued.

“I’ve always said it is 75 per cent skill and 25 per cent luck.

“You cannot plan for Mother Nature and the elements so a lot of it is whether you can negotiate the conditions.

“But it is also a holiday for us. We just really enjoy it.”

He explained that he began his hobby, with wife, Alison, after they were taken on a balloon ride above Windermere 25 years ago.

They were immediately hooked and decided to splash out on a second hand balloon for themselves.

The couple enjoyed it so much that they began entering competitions in 1991 and also set up business, Cumbria Balloons, which ran pleasure rides around the Lakes until they sold it shortly before Robbie turned 65.

Mr Mansfield added: “We loved it and Alison said straight away ‘can we get one?’ “There’s nothing like the feeling of being up in the balloon.”

He added: “We’ll have to see where the next competittion takes us!”

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