The Irish Hot Air Ballooning Championships is usually referred to as 'The Irish Meet'. It is the longest running National ballooning event in the world. The first event was held in 1971 at Newcastle House in Ballymahon, Co Longford and was attended by a handful of balloons. The event now attracts up 40 balloons and has been held in Boyle, Co. Roscommon; Kilkenny; Waterford; Athlone; Trim, Co. Meath; Kells, Co. Meath; Killenkere, Co. Cavan; Drumshambo, Co. Leitrim and Birr, Co. Offaly.
Balloonists from UK, USA, France, Holland, Belgium, Chile, Germany and Ireland are regular attendees to the event (which is by invitation only). The event, the biggest of its kind in Ireland, is a huge spectacle with these huge ancient aircraft flying totally dependent on the wind for direction.
During the week, a number of light-hearted competitions will take place to challenge the skill of the participating pilots. Here is a sample of those that could take place:
Hare and Hounds
This involves a single balloon flying away first (the 'hare') and the remaining balloons follow the hare balloon, who will be doing their best to find winds to make the task more difficult for the chasing pack. The winner will be the balloon that either lands nearest or drops their 'marker' nearest the landed hare balloon.
This will involve the nomination and placement of a target area. The balloon teams will then be sent off to find their own launch site locations a pre-specified distance (Usually 5 miles!) away from the target area. The pilots will then use their skill to fly towards the target area using the minimal steerage offered by winds at different heights.
Long Distance Competition
Throughout the week, a competition will be run where a prize is awarded to the balloon team that manages to fly the furthest throughout the week's event.
The Irish Hot Air Ballooning Championships 2020 -
It is with a heavy heart that the Irish Ballooning Association have made the decision to postpone the 50th Irish Hot Air Ballooning Championships due to take place in Birr, September 2020 due to COVID-19. We look forward to hosting our big 5-0 in 2021 - details to be confirmed early next year.
We have held off making this decision for as long as we could but, as I am sure you can all appreciate (among other considerations) planning an event which involves large crowds of people and balloon teams travelling from all over Europe/ the US, just isn’t the right thing to do, at this point, in these uncertain times.
We would like to thank everyone who has been involved in the planning for this year, among others, Birr Castle, Offaly Tourism, Grant Engineering, the County Arms Hotel and of course, all of our balloonists, as always your support and understanding is much appreciated.
To coincide with and co-celebrate Birr Castles’ 400th Birthday, The Irish Hot Air Ballooning Championships will be celebrating it’s own 50th Birthday in the wonderful town of Birr, Co. Offaly in September 2020. The main launch HQ for the event will once again be Birr Castle Gardens with flights taking place over the beautiful town of Birr throughout the week - weather permitting. Due to the ever increasing popularity of the event, we are extending the 50th meet by a day to take in Saturday 19th September running then until Friday 25th of September 2020 inclusive.
Planned Flights (all flights are weather permitting) -
Saturday 19th September: PM only
Sunday 20th to Friday 25th inclusive: AM and PM
AM Flights - We aim to be in the air at approx. 07:30 however, this time may vary by an hour or so either side depending on the weather each morning, preparation for launch will commence approx. 45 minutes before takeoff. The castle grounds are not open to the public for AM flights, balloons can be viewed roadside once in the air.
PM Flights - We aim to be in the air at approx. 17:30 however, this time may vary by an hour or so either side depending on the weather each evening, preparation for launch will commence approx. 45 minutes before takeoff. Castle grounds are open to the public to view PM launches, please see FAQ’s.
Pilots participate in a briefing with the Championships Director prior to each planned flight (at approx. 6:30am & 4:30pm) where a fly/ no fly decision will be made. As soon as this decision is made, a post will be put on the official Irish Hot Air Ballooning Championships Facebook page only - the website and this Event will NOT be updated during the meet - with the information you need. We will endeavour to give as much notice as possible of all our plans but please be aware, a lot of the time, decisions and the time scale in which we can make them, are out of our control however, we will usually be able to give approx. an hours notice of a planned launch. Flights are normally around an hour in duration and we hope to have as many as 25 balloons in the air per flight.
Please make sure you "like" and “follow” the official Irish Hot Air Ballooning Championships Facebook page in order to get the update notifications however, we are aware that sometimes, Facebook won’t advise you of a notification at all/ in time for you to read prior to a launch so, we always advise you check yourself around 6:45am and 4:45pm. If you can’t see an update on the Facebook page, it may be that we haven’t yet been able to make a decision so please do check back again in a few minutes. We will always keep you updated with information as soon as we have it.
The public are actively encouraged to come out and see the balloons as they launch. The balloons will make a spectacular display in the skies over Birr so bring your camera. The attraction of so many balloons flying can be mesmerizing, so we issue a note of caution to be mindful of traffic and road users while enjoying the spectacle!
It is not possible to provide flights to the public during the week however it is a fun, social event for everyone’s enjoyment so get your cameras ready and record your favourite shots for the album.
Ballooning is 100% weather dependant and subject to quite strict weather conditions; it’s not always possible to tell if the weather is suitable without a full meteorological forecast which we obtain just prior to planning any flight. If it’s flyable, we will fly, if a no fly decision is made, it is done so for very good reasons and with the safety of everyone involved at the forefront of the decision making. Until the flight briefing, we will be unable to confirm if a flight will go ahead or not.
For more information on how and why ballooning is so weather dependant, please see our “About Ballooning” page on our website - www.irishballooningassociation.com. Each pilot attending the Championships wants to be in the air as much as you want to see us in the air however, safety must come first and, if the weather isn’t suitable, unfortunately we have to stay on the ground. The main no-no’s for Ballooning are wind and rain, we cannot fly in rain at all (nor if any is forecast in the vicinity) and, not in wind speeds greater than 10knots. If you want to follow the weather with us, a good weather app is XCWeather, if you see winds above 10knots or rain forecast, there is a good chance we, unfortunately, won’t be flying.
It may be necessary to postpone a flight at any time if the conditions are not suitable, it may also be necessary to cancel a flight at any time up to the moment of launch – even if we are all in the field looking like we are ready to go – the weather can be unpredictable and each Pilot must make a final call on whether he/ she thinks it is safe to fly immediately prior to the launch (no matter the decision that is made during the earlier pilots briefing). We appreciate each and every one of you that come out to support us and apologise if you make a trip and we do not end up flying but, the safety of all our Pilots and Crew has to be a priority. Any costs incurred by you, for the purpose of viewing a launch, are done so at your own risk.
Please be mindful of road safety, it is very tempting to have your eyes skyward when the balloons are in the air but, consideration must be given to other road users at all times - this does include being mindful of where you may stop or park your car to view the balloons, please do not block public highways or private property entrances. Please give way to balloon retrieve vehicles where possible, we may have to stop or turn around at short notice to be able to “chase” the balloons and be ready to retrieve them once they have landed. Once a balloon has landed, its retrieve crew will always endeavor to obtain permission to enter the land upon which it has landed, if they can obtain this permission, it is for the retrieve crew ONLY. Please do not follow any vehicles into/ onto any fields/ private land unless you also have express permission.
If you send us a message, we do try be as responsive as possible but during busy times (especially the week of the Championships itself) it may be a while before we can respond, we will get back to you as soon as we can. However, any/ all information you need for this event will either already be on our website, this page in a previous post, in this Event or to follow post each Pilots Briefing. We will be unable to respond to any queries which relate to previously advised information, respond to messages requesting the fly/ no fly decision information prior to our posts, nor advise or recommend, in advance of the outcome of the Pilots Briefing, whether any travel should be undertaken in order to view a launch. If your query is regarding launch locations/ times/ balloon locations/ weather updates etc. (all the info you need during the event), this information will be posted on the main Irish Hot Air Ballooning Championships page for everyone to see. We hope you will understand but, we will NOT respond to individual questions regarding these aspects.
For more information about the Championships, the Irish Ballooning Association and Ballooning, please visit www.irishballooningassociation.com
Frequently asked questions -
1. About us and the event - first and foremost, the Irish Championships is a fun, sociable event for the balloonists involved. It is run by the Irish Ballooning Association as a private venture for hobby balloonists. The IBA do not ticket the event, charge for the spectacle nor provide any other entertainment/ facilities - however a fee may be payable to Birr Castle if you wish to access the Demesne to watch a launch from there, see point 2. The Irish Ballooning Association does not provide any further entertainment etc. other than the balloon launches/ flights. We fly purely for pleasure and as a spectator sport for the general public - no tickets are needed just to come along and watch from the roadside.
2. Tickets/ Entrance Fees - the IBA do not (cannot!) charge for you to come and watch from the roadside (as apart form launches, some of the best views are roadside) however, a fee may be payable to Birr Castle Gardens for entrance/ parking if you want to watch us launch from there, which is a wonderful sight and a great way to get up close to the balloons - the IBA does not provide any parking or transportation facilities. All the information you need on tickets including prices and how to purchase, can be found on www.birrcastle.com- we will NOT respond to any questions about tickets to access the Castle as this is outside of the IBA’s control.
3. When to come - balloons are scheduled to launch twice each day, weather permitting, at approximately 7:30am and 6:00pm but castle grounds are only open to the public for PM flights. The status, location and time of these flights will be updated on the Irish Hot Air Ballooning Championships Facebook page, NOT the Event, throughout the event, as soon as we have the information available - because of the weather dependant nature of Ballooning, this may be an hour or so before we plan to be in the air or, at much shorter notice. We are completely beholden to Mother Nature and the weather forecasts, sometimes we have great weather and have plenty of time to plan and notify you of our intentions but, some forecasts mean either a quick launch (which unfortunately may not leave time for some of you to be able to travel to us) or no flight at all. We will endeavour to give as much notice as possible of all our plans but please be aware, a lot of the time, decisions are out of our control. It may even be the case that we call a flight on but by the time we are all ready at our launch site, the weather has deteriorated and the Pilots make the decision then for a no fly - we understand this is disappointing and can mean a wasted trip for you but, safety of the Balloons, Pilots and Crew has to come first. There is no way of being able to advise of a best day to come, we sincerely hope every day will be a best day as we want to fly as much as you want to see us fly but, the Irish weather tends to bring more rain and wind than us balloonists would like! Therefore, if any of you are planning to travel a distance to see us or even book local accommodation during the event, we are unable to advise any “best days”.
4. Events Schedule - The event runs from the 19/09/2020 to the 25/09/2020, we aim to fly twice each day (apart from the 19/09 where it is PM flight only) but cannot tell any more than an hour or so in advance whether a scheduled flight will actually go ahead.
5. Weather permitting - Ballooning is 100% weather dependant and subject to quite strict weather conditions; for more information on the weather we need for Ballooning please see https://irishballooningassociation.com/about-ballooning
6. Can we provide flights - the Irish Championships is a private event, unfortunately this means we CANNOT provide any flights to members of the public during the week. If you wish to enquire about purchasing a Hot Air Balloon flight, please visit https://www.balloons.ie
7. Concession stands - the IBA does not provide any entertainment/ facilities and as our main launch site is within the grounds of Birr Castle, they provide all of the facilities available to the public. Please do not contact us regarding offering concessions.
Please note, the Facebook Event will NOT be updated with event specific information. We will update the main Championships page will all the relevant information as we have it. The event is created just to put a date in your online diary, updates and specific flight information is put on the main page.
Finally, we just want to say how much we are all looking forward to this years event and want to thank you all in advance for your support.
THIS SITE ONLY CONTAINS GENERAL INFORMATION REGARDING THE CHAMPIONSHIPS, ANY/ ALL UPDATES AND SPECIFIC INFORMATION YOU NEED CLOSER TO THE EVENT, ABOUT THE EVENT, WILL BE PUT ON OUR FACEBOOK PAGE - IRISH HOT AIR BALLOONING CHAMPIONSHIPS.
PLEASE LIKE/ FOLLOW THE PAGE TO MAKE SURE YOU GET ALL OF OUR UPDATES. ONLY THE PAGE ITSELF (NOT THE EVENT, THIS IS CREATED JUST FOR DATE AND GENERAL INFORMATION PURPOSES) WILL BE UPDATED WITH INFORMATION SUCH AS LAUNCH LOCATIONS AND FLY/ NO FLY DECISIONS, THE MAIN IBA PAGE AND EVENT WITHIN THE PAGE WILL NOT BE UPDATED.