Pair in Gordon Bennett Gas Balloon Race go for win
An intrepid pair of balloonists were yesterday in 15th place in the prestigious – and dangerous – Gordon Bennett Gas Balloon Race in the skies over southern France.
Adventurer David Hempleman-Adams, from Box, near Bath, and his co-pilot and neighbour Simon Carey were seventh to take off from Epnat-Kappel in the Swiss Alps with the simple aim of travelling furthest from the launch site than all of the 17 balloons in the race.
The pair took off in the early hours of Sunday and by yesterday afternoon had reached a spot between Lyon and Clemont-Ferrand, with all 17 balloons caught by a light north-easterly wind blowing them towards south-western France and the Pyrenees.
But the Bath-based team were playing catch-up after failing to get away from the Alps in good time before dawn yesterday and were some 200km behind the leading balloons.
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Among that leading pack was the second British team, piloted by Christopher Wood and John Rose.
All the balloons are traditional gas balloons – rather than hot-air balloons with burners that can keep the craft in the air. They can only gain height by dropping sandbags and the race is seen as the ultimate in traditional balloon flying.
Hempleman-Adams won the Cup in 2008, when it was held in the USA, with co-pilot Jon Mason, flight controller this year.
As dusk approached southern France last night, all the crews were preparing for a second night in the baskets.
Forecasts predicted that if they were able to get over the Pyrenees, the winner would be the one who managed to get furthest into southern Spain.
Flight director Colin Bailey said the British pair wanted to take their time, as they believed a slow and steady effort would win.
“Dave and Simon had a great take-off. They managed to stay low and slow down just north of the Alps and let the majority of the balloons go ahead of them,” he said.