Nine years ago over eighty members of the European Coaster Club attended the press launch of Kanonen, a truly memorable day thanks to the park pulling out all the stops for us. It was impossible to resist signing up to do the same thing for the new coaster this year, despite the fact that the most efficient way I could find to get to the park involved four separate flights and two nights in an airport hotel.
My day almost ended before it began. Two of the screening lanes at London Stansted Airport were closed, but this wasn't obvious from the back of a fairly disorganised queue, as there were no staff to corral people. My comfortable margin of error was completely wiped out by the time that I realised that the queue I was in wasn't moving, and I spent the next half hour stressing about whether I'd get to my gate before it closed. Those hoping to catch early morning flights at STN should allow an hour to get through security screening.
As with last time, we were collected at the modern triumph that is Gothenburg City Airport and driven the short distance to the park. A large contingent of club members were waiting there to greet us, bringing the total number attending to 110 people, all of whom were promptly fed lunch in one of the park restaurants. The park staff spoke to us at length about the new coaster, and casually mentioned that the entire park would be open from 6:00pm for a staff preview night that we'd be welcome to stay for. Better yet, we were told that queues on everything apart from the new roller coaster would probably be non-existent. We had about an hour of free time before the official launch event. Some of the group chose to spend this time socialising in the restaurant; I decided to make the most of the empty park to take some unobstructed photographs. Several other members had the same idea, and it was fun to catch up with friends old and new.
The formal opening of Helix (#2032) was marked by a number of short speeches in both English and Swedish. The park manager promised to be brief, and compared what he was about to say to a launch event at Kings Island a few weeks ago where the speeches lasted almost 40 minutes. Once the formalities were out of the way, we were invited to head for the ride through the express pass entrance, the main queueing area being still under active construction.
There's no point in writing up a blow-by-blow of Helix, as others will do that in a much more eloquent fashion than I can. What I will say, though, is that the widely circulated POV footage really doesn't do the ride justice; I had a broad grin on my face as the train hit the brake run, and for the first time in quite a while I found myself running from the exit platform back to the entrance for another go. If this ride had been installed on a flat concrete surface it would be a worthy contender for a top ten coaster; its location on a hillside shared with Lisebergbanan constitutes a triumph of engineering that elevates it to another level entirely. It is no exaggeration to say that the ride is well up there with the very best coasters in the world.
As of this visit there were only two minor teething problems, both of which will likely be solved by the time these words are read. First, the ride operators were pushing down hard on the lap bars during boarding, making them too tight for comfort. Second, the trains suffered from some noticeable vibration, particularly in the back cars. These issues combined to limit the number of circuits I could do, though I managed a total of five, including a front and a back; I'm given to understand that some of the younger members managed fifteen laps during the session!
My bonus credit for the day was Stampbanan (#2033), a kiddie ride added to the park last year. The middle of the ride has a piece of track leading underground, and while this isn't part of the ride, it made me wonder just how cool it might be to have a kiddie ride that turns into a high thrill ride for adults at night time. Beyond that, I managed two laps on each of the major coasters. Kanonen has been refitted with softer restraints since my last visit, and they've turned what was a fairly rough ride into something I was happy to repeat twice. Balder was as lively as it always is, and Lisebergbanan is even better now thanks to the near misses with Helix.
My last ride of the night was on Atmosfear, the drop tower built on what was once an observation platform. The thrill of dropping was such that I decided to go for a second round, but the ride broke down, dropping from just above the final brakes. The staff tried to operate it again but the same thing happened, so they decided that maintenance was required. They suggested that we should come back later, and I probably would have done were it not time to head for the airport.