A Polish team has flown their gas balloon 1145.29 kilometers from Bern, Switzerland, without touching down, achieving the furthest distance from take-off and winning the 2018 Coupe Aéronautique Gordon Bennett.
The Poland 2 crew – Mateusz Rekas and Jacek Bogadanski, both regulars in the legendary balloon race – combined years of flying experience to use the weather systems to take a course across Germany and into their home nation, flying for 2 days, 10 hours, and 28 minutes. (58 hours, 28 minutes).
The USA-2 team of Andy Cayton and Bill Smith finished in 2nd place. They covered 882.37 kilometers after 56 hours and 20 minutes aloft! They plotted a rather different track and followed a south-easterly direction to land in Salerno, Italy.
It was a thrilling race, with the meteorological conditions offering three different options to the teams’ navigators, and the balloons dispersed across Europe. The twenty gas balloons took off on Friday 28th September, but only the German 1 team flew in the same north-easterly direction as the Polish winners, after originally starting in the opposite direction.
Flying for the longest time in this year’s competition (66 hours and 27 minutes), people in Bern and those following the live tracking watched with bated breath as Matthias Zenge and Benjamin Eimers made it to fifth, then fourth, and finally third place after traveling 840.59 kilometers. A number of other teams took a third approach and followed a south-westerly flow to land in France.
Markus Haggeney, Event Director summed up the thoughts of those following the race. “The Gordon Bennett HQ has never seen three such different strategies. It’s meteorological skills and pilot skills at their best. Congratulations to all the pilots.”
The teams will all make their way back to Bern for the prize-giving ceremony, which will take place on Saturday 6th October. The Poland 2 team will return to Bern to collect their trophies and enjoy a gala dinner in celebration of their success.