Up, Up, and Away! Dirigible Racing at the Symposium

Lasers! Gas! Whirling propellers! Action and adventure has never been so colorful, shiny, and reluctant to fly in the right direction. It is the 2016 Dirigible Races. Who won? Who lost? Who made the most snarky comments?

ISS2016 Airship Race Haremski 1

Photo by Catherine Haremski

This year’s race saw a change in the course direction. Instead of running North to South, the course went East to West, taking the racing ships across the atrium pond. Two ships could then race against each other, speeding up the time it takes to complete the race, and adding to the suspense and excitement. Both ships had to proceed from balloon #1 to balloon marker #2, circle #2, pass #3, turn around and fly straight back past their starting point at balloon #1. Of the many airships to enter the race, few would manage to actually complete this deceptively simple course.

Photo by Catherine Haremski

Photo by Catherine Haremski

Airships have often been known to develop their own personality and opinions. For this reason, balloon dirigibles may behave in strange and unpredictable ways when confronted with a straight racing course. Some balloons wander off in the opposite direction. Some float up towards the ceiling and refuse to come down. Still others turn murderous, attempting to take out as many civilians bystanders as they can in their own pursuit for escape. This is one of the reasons that steampunks wear goggles. If you find yourself in the path of an escaped airship, helmets are also advised.

The highlight of the evening was a heart-stopping moment when Airship Centroid suddenly plummeted over the interior pond. Anxious crowds dropped everything and rushed forward to witness the terrible struggle as the ship hovered just above the water, but refused to rise. Once it almost seemed to recover, only to sink again towards the murky four-inch depths below. Hearts stopped and some fainted as the ship dipped into the water, and died. The courageous captain leaped over the railing to wade through the pond to retrieve his sullen and sinking airship. During the final judging he was declared “The most damp.”

ISS2016 Airship Race Haremski 3

Photo by Catherine Haremski

The moment was repeated in the last round of the race when the majestic Eleanor Page veered suddenly of course, heading for the same pond where her sister ship had so recently died. But this time the pilot was more fortunate. After some heart-stopping moments at the controls, the great silver ship pulled out of the well and soared on towards the finish line. Eventually. After taking a few stops to admire the scenery on the way.

At last the race was completed, without further damages to dirigibles, pilots, or bystanders. The ships were then judged for both their racing time, and their design. Corsair came in first for speed at 2:19, Oscar Lee was second at 2:30, and Apocalypse was 3rd. In designed Circle City took first, Apocalypse took second, and Omnipotent took third.


 

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