Almost thirty members of the European Coaster Club were already hanging around the departure area in Stansted Airport by the time I checked in for the 7:00am flight to Göteborg. It seemed like a large number of people for a single day trip to another country. Imagine my surprise, therefore, when this group ballooned all the way up to eighty people travelling to Sweden just for the opening of Kanonen, including one person who was mad enough to have made the trip there from the United States!
Göteborg City airport is unique among Ryanair destinations in that it is actually marginally closer to the city than the main international airport. It is, however, predominantly a general aviation facility, with Ryanair being the only commercial airline to use it. The terminal building is a testament to modern technology, with two check in desks and printed signs indicating the destinations of London-Stansted and Frankfurt-Hahn. There was a coach waiting for us when we landed, thanks to the generosity of Liseberg, and in due course we were outside the park. We had arrived some two hours before the park wanted us, and most of us spent that time in the local McDonalds getting breakfast. In the last five years I have eaten in McDonalds only twice, and oddly enough, both occasions were in this one in Göteborg. Go figure.
On entering the park, we were provided with free beer for half an hour or so before being led over to Kanonen (#401). This is the second launched coaster from Intamin to open this year, the first being Rita at Alton Towers. Unlike Rita, which has an unusual design due to planning restrictions, Kanonen does feature the signature top-hat element. However, it is the smallest such element I have ever seen, topping out at around eighty feet, which looks a little odd. We watched a number of test launches in which the train appeared to only just make it over the top. With more than a little curiosity, I boarded the train.
The first thing you hear is an announcement, in Swedish but repeated in English, telling you to keep your head against the headrest. This is followed by the standard slight roll of the train, as seen on all the similar Intamin rides, accompanied in this case by a recording of a thumping heart beat. I feel very sorry for the ride operators working this ride; I was only there for an afternoon but even now, as I write this three days later, I still cannot get that announcement out of my head.
After seven heart beats, the launch system fires accompanied by the sound of a cannon exploding. Maybe it was an incorrect impression, but the launch here felt like the strongest of any of the Intamin launched rides I've tried (the others are Top Thrill Dragster, Xcelerator). The top speed, obviously, is much lower, but the actual acceleration feels extremely powerful, even if it only lasts for a second or so. On the other hand, if the launch was any longer, the train would go far too fast through the rest of the ride, so it's probably for the best.
The train does coast over the top of the ride at no more than three or four miles per hour. That is the last respite riders get until the brake run, though. Some very sharp directional changes are taken at high speed, several of which produce a metallic screech as the train traverses them. The overhead restraints are effective but unforgiving as the rider gets thrown about, and on my first ride I did get a fairly heavy knock to the head.
For this reason, another immediate ride on Kanonen didn't seem wise. The park was also running Balder for us, so I made my way over there instead and clocked up five consecutive rides. One of the helpful operators used tape to secure my camera to my hand, allowing me to film on-ride, which I always enjoy doing. Balder was running, if anything, even better than I remembered; it is without question one of the best wooden coasters in the world.
Having recovered from my earlier experience, I went back over to Kanonen and logged another nine rides in various parts of the train, my camera still secured to my hand. Never before have I been permitted to photograph on board a launched coaster, so I took full advantage of this. Glasses with straps were, of course, permitted (Knott's Berry Farm take note!) allowing me to see to the full. A little practice and I was able to lean sideways at all the right times to avoid headbanging, making me enjoy the ride much more. Once you figure out how to deal with the restraints, Kanonen is the perfect addition to what is probably the best line-up of coasters in any European park. It is relatively short, but it has an intensity that arguably beats anything else its size, and many larger rides too. I would like to pay another visit once the ride has had a chance to break in properly, and as soon as direct flights from Dublin are available I think I'll do just that!
The park was operating a maintenance crane for those wishing to photograph the ride from the best possible angles, and as most of the media had left at this point they made it available to us. People were soon joking that this was the third operational ride today. Travelling up in one of these cranes is certainly an interesting experience, though obviously not one for those scared of heights. This isn't a problem for me, and I managed some good pictures, though better weather wouldn't have hurt.
After this, I made my way back over to Balder and clocked up another eight consecutive rides. I had been timing the ride at various stages of the day and was somewhat taken aback to note that the ride was a full fifteen seconds quicker in the evening relative to how it had been running in the morning. Many of those present commented that it was running the best they'd ever seen it, and it really was running amazingly well.
A delicious buffet dinner rounded out a wonderful day at a wonderful park. The park's generosity in providing a coach for us on their media day was recognised; those present all donated their spare krona for the park to give to a charity of their choice.