Sky's the limit for virtual balloon race fundraiser

Sky's the limit for virtual balloon race fundraiser

UP IN THE AIR: Weymouth lifeboat crew member Phil Hansford with the balloon race poster

GET INVOLVED: Tony Beeson

First published in News Dorset Echo: Photograph of the Author by , Senior Reporter

A CHARITY balloon race is back on - but no balloons will actually be released.

Weymouth RNLI fundraisers will be holding a virtual balloon race on the original date on May 5 at 2pm.

There will be entertainments and AIR 107.2FM will be entertaining people for the ‘launch’ at Weymouth lifeboat station.

The original balloon race was called off after concerns were raised about the environmental impact and campaigners said it would cause littering and could harm marine wildlife.

For the new event, the tags that would have been attached to the balloons will now be placed into a drum. Once every five days for the duration of the six week ‘race’, a number of balloon tags will be drawn, at random from the drum.

The average direction of the actual wind, along with the recorded strength of the wind, will be used to identify the balloon’s final position.

The virtual race will run for six weeks and the first four tickets drawn on June 16 will be the winners. Only 30per cent of the tickets will be drawn over the six weeks as only about that percentage have their tags returned in a proper balloon race, the organisers have said.

Technical wizards will be plotting the balloons final locations on a map so people can see how far theirs travelled on the Weymouth lifeboat website.

A planned litter pick will still go ahead at some point after June 16 - more details will be released once the virtual race is under way.

Tony Beeson from Weymouth lifeboat station urged everyone to get involved.

He said: “We are very pleased. We are still going to do the litter pick, we said we’d do it from the very beginning. “We wanted to keep it as green as possible.”

He said he hoped all those who had been concerned about the previous race would get involved, buy a tag and also come on the litter pick.

Mr Beeson said: “It will be an extra bonus, the more people we get to do it.”

Environmental campaigner and wildlife photographer Steve Trewhella said he pleased and hoped other fundraisers would follow their example. But he said he would still like to see Dorset County Council ban all actual balloon release events.

He said: “I commend them for doing the beach clean as well.”

He added that he would show willing and probably buy a ticket.

Tickets are still just £1 and are once again on sale from the lifeboat station and Bussells Chandlers in Hope Street.

For more information visit weymouthlifeboat.org.uk

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