Well not really. Nobody got shot down. Nobody got burnt. The champion successfully defended his title. Everybody flew but us.
As you may remember, we were supernumeraries as an extra addition to the U.S. team, planning to fly a radical experimental balloon for the fun of it, the Pleiades Seven. We didn't fly, but we had a great time. Launch conditions just didn't work out.
It was a very difficult decision to pass up the first event. We had clearance to fly directly over the center of Berlin at 500 ft. altitude - a once in a lifetime chance, passed up because we would have been late. The Pleiades Seven took up too much room and would have had to wait until after the others were airborne to complete the inflation process and launch. Then we could have been late for the Berlin crossing and would certainly have had a "quick" landing as close to the North Sea coast as we might dare, in increasing winds, with a perhaps cumbersome multi-balloon.
Maybe the "Body Helmet" plastic basket would have given my brittle old bones enough protection, but when word came back of the most experienced competitors having a broken leg among them from landing, sage onlookers nodded their heads and reminded me of the date on my driver's license.
Technical difficulties included the prohibition of my built-in inflation diffuser sleeves because of potential static conflict with the metalized Mylar envelopes. Our gracious hosts offered to furnish us with an orthodox balloon with no obligation - a magnificent offer, but we declined and worked out an inflation technique without the sleeves that was, albeit tedious and cumbersome, satisfactory.
One fear of the multi-balloon design is based on potential tangling in turbulence with the result of not being able to vent or deflate them properly.
So I bought a crossbow with bolts that carried a fine cord. In an on-field test of one cell inflated with hydrogen and suspended seventy five feet above us the bolt went right through the balloon with only a small hole - not good enough to bring it down. Pulling on the cord was sure to totally destroy the half mil Mylar, fragile as it is, but it only made a neat slash from seam to seam and the darn balloon just stood up there smiling down on us with a garish black slit. So, back to the drawing board.
We could always deflate any cell by pulling down on its top cord, just if the cords were tangled we wouldn't be able to release the top cord to stop the venting. We would take into account when deciding how many balloons to vent, but in a high wind landing it would take more time and effort. That is an unpleasant scenario, but one for an unlikely situation and, in any case, not disastrous. We could go ahead.
Even with test venting now and then, eight of the cells still lifted the basket, myself and eight bags of sand for a short tether demonstration or test of lift, venting and final deflation techniques. Think what twenty-eight of them would do. The basket would be darn near full of sand.
We really will make that long desired "Multi-person, multi-celled, plain Mylar gas balloon flight" soon. It will be a first on all three counts. But I think we'll just use nineteen of them and probably helium. That will still be enough to give us plenty of lift for a great flight. So the final report is still due.