Swiss team wins gas balloon race, shatters distance records« Back
The Swiss team of Nicolas Tièche and Laurent Sciboz, Head of Institute of Information Systems HES-SO Valais-Wallis, has won the 2017 America’s Challenge Gas Balloon Race, with a distance of 2,278 miles after a flight of 59 hours, 35 minutes.
The pilots landed their balloon, “Fribourg-Freiburg Challenge,” about 6:36 a.m. MDT Tuesday, north of Labrador City in the province of Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada.
The second-place Polish-American team of Krzysztof Zapart and Andy Caton flew their balloon, “Misia,” all day trying to exceed the Swiss team’s distance. Zapart and Caton finally crossed the St. Lawrence River and landed about 3:30 p.m. MDT near the town of Amqui, northeast of Quebec City. They had been aloft for 68 hours, 58 minutes, and traveled 2,185 miles — just 93 miles short of catching the Swiss team.
Zapart and Caton did, however, pull ahead of the American team of Peter Cuneo and Barbara Fricke, last year’s America’s Challenge winners. Their balloon, “Foxtrot Charlie,” landed at 5:25 a.m. Tuesday north of Brighton, Vt., after traveling 1,938 miles on a flight lasting 58 hours, 15 minutes.
The Swiss team and the Polish-American team shattered the previous America’s Challenge distance record of 1,998 miles, set in 2000 by David and Alan Leven of the United States, as well as the distance record of 2,113 miles for the Coupe Aéronautique Gordon Bennett (the World Championships) set by Bob Berben and Benoît Simeons of Belgium in the 2005 race, which launched from Albuquerque.
The other America’s Challenge competitors finished the race in the following order:
— Fourth: Mark Sullivan and Cheri White, USA, “Delta Goodie,” 1,607 miles, 61 hours, 53 minutes.
— Fifth: Benoit Pelard and Benoit Peterle, France, “Marie Marvingt,” 1,187 miles, 57 hours, 21 minutes.
— Sixth: Phil Bryant and Mike Emich, USA, “Air Apparent II,” 1,102 miles, 44 hours, 8 minutes.
— Seventh: Wilhelm and Sebastian Eimers, Germany, “Russian Record Factory,” 1,094 miles, 47 hours, 3 minutes.
— Eighth: Bert Padelt and Noah Forden, USA, “Across the Universe,” 821 miles, 35 hours, 16 minutes.
Race spokeswoman Kim Vesely said that each balloon team has ground crews that are responsible for recovering the pilots and the balloons. Sometimes locals in the landing area, as well as local balloonists in the area, help in the recovery efforts; other times local law enforcement is asked to assist. In cases where balloonists land in remote areas, she said, helicopters may have to be used.
Congratulations to the Fribourg Challenge team.