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Lake District couple see their holiday plans all up in the air
TWO Cumbrian couples floated across Italy to scoop an international prize – while on their summer holiday.
Hot air balloon fanatics Robbie Mansfield and his wife Alison, of Bowness, and Peter and Val Graveson, of Kendal, packed their suitcases and took a trailer complete with hot air balloon ‘Midnight’ to Umbria in Italy.
Instead of a conventional cultural or beach getaway, the foursome took to the skies for their two-week holiday and competed against 28 other balloonists from across the globe in the Italian hot air balloon grand prix.
They came second – the highest the group has achieved in a competition – and narrowly missed getting their hands on the Franco-Todini cup.
Robbie, who has been flying for 25 years and has entered many competitions – including the Austrian championships for the past 20 years – said it was ‘fabulous’.
“We love the freedom and the peace and quiet you get from ballooning. It is also very exciting and it is such a fantastic experience.
“After we retired we still had the skills and the passion and so we decided to enter competitions. The mountain experience and skills we have from flying in Cumbria has helped us in other terrains.”
Robbie and Alison got the hot-air balloon bug after going on a pleasure ride 25 years ago.
“Alison was really taken by it and said: ‘We have to have one of these’, so she went and bought one and we have been ballooning since then,” added Robbie.
The second-hand balloon ignited a passion for ballooning and within five years the couple had launched Cumbria Balloons, which they ran up until their retirement last year.
The pair held down full-time jobs as well as running their venture and Robbie says: “It was a seven-day-a-week job, because if the weather conditions were right we had to get the balloon up for rides and so there was not time for holidays.
“So being able to do it now is brilliant and we really enjoy it.”
The group flew every day for two weeks but took part in competitions on three days – including the hare and hounds race, which they won.
Robbie and his team had to try to follow the exact same course as the ‘hare’ balloon which set-off 20 minutes before and also drop a marker in the hare’s landing cross.
“We dropped the marker 4.6 metres from the cross, which is really good.”
The group will take their balloon to Austria next, later this month.