French Pilots Win World’s Prestigious Gas-Balloon Race

Source: FAI —

French balloon pilots Vincent Leys and Christophe Houver won the 61st Gordon Bennett Cup over the weekend of 8-10 September 2017. The Gordon Bennett Cup is the oldest and most prestigious gas-balloon race in the world.

The pair traveled 1,836.06km having launched on Friday 8 September 2017 from Gruyères near Fribourg, Switzerland.

61st Gordon Bennett Race – Balloon Tracks. Photo courtesy: FAI

Twenty-one gas balloons took off on Friday evening to compete in the race, which sees gas-balloon pilots fly through the night over several days. Whoever goes farthest, wins.

Windy conditions this year saw the balloonists push northeast overnight. The direction of travel meant, on Saturday, many crews had to land in Poland in order to avoid violating Russian airspace around Kalingrad.

Balloons prior to launch. Photo courtesy: FAI

By Sunday morning just five teams remained in the competition. Only Leys and Houver managed to squeeze through the narrow airspace corridor between Kaliningrad and Belarus, giving them the win.

The win is the second for the pair flying together as a team – they also won in 2013, when they flew 1,402.42km after launching from France. Vincent Leys however has been in the winning team eight times.

The landing. Photo courtesy: FAI

The win means that the 2019 Gordon Bennett Cup will launch from a location in France.

Established in 1906, the Gordon Bennett Cup was re-started for the modern era in 1983. Since then it has attracted many of the world’s top balloon pilots, providing a challenge unrivaled anywhere else in the ballooning world.

Source: FAI

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