DOZENS of people lined the harbourside for the start of a virtual balloon race.

No balloons were released into the sky, tickets were instead loaded into a drum at the live ‘lift off’ event on Weymouth harbourside yesterday.

More than 1,120 tickets were sold for the virtual balloon race in aid of Weymouth RNLI.

Supporters lined the harbour to watch the tickets go into the drum and community radio station AIR 107.2 FM were on scene to get the crowds going with music and a live broadcast.

With a light breeze, the balloons would have drifted off over the Nothe Fort if they had been released, but instead the crowds imagined the purple and orange balloons for the virtual release.

Tony Beeson from Weymouth lifeboat station said: “In five days’ time we will work out where the balloons would be based on wind direction, speed and strength and we will then draw some balloons from the drum and place their position on a Google map which can be viewed on the website.”

This will happen every five days and the virtual race will run for six weeks.

The first four tickets drawn on June 16 will be the winners.

Only 30 per 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.

Plans for a traditional balloon release were altered after environmental campaigners raised concerns over the damaging impact on marine life and littering.

A planned litter pick will still go ahead at some point after June 16 – more details will be released soon so keep an eye on the Echo for details.

A total of 1,124 tags were sold and all the money will go towards the Weymouth RNLI.

Mr Beeson said: “I’d like to say a great big thank you to everybody who has taken part, not just the people that have put the race together but those that have brought tickets too.

“All the money will go to the Weymouth RNLI and while we are sleeping in our beds we must remember the crew will be taking out the lifeboat to save lives at sea.”

To see where the balloons end up on the virtual map visit