Update 6:20 PM MDT Tuesday, October 10 (0020Z Wednesday, October 11)
The final team to land in the 22nd America’s Challenge distance race for gas balloons is safely on the ground after nearly three days in the air. Poland’s Krzysztof Zapart and Andy Cayton of the US (Team 4) landed at about 3:50 pm MDT (1550Z) near the border between Quebec and New Brunswick in Canada. As the tracking data does not always indicate a team’s actual position at landing, the Command Center is awaiting confirmation of the coordinates of their final position before publishing unofficial results for this distance race for gas balloons, which will most likely occur tomorrow morning.
Based on tracking data and landing coordinates provided by the teams, at this point, the Swiss team of Nicolas Tièche and Laurent Sciboz (Team 6) achieved the greatest distance in this distance race, at 2,278 miles (3,666 km). They landed in a remote area near Labrador City, not far from the border between Labrador and Quebec, Canada. The team is in good shape and has been helicoptered out, and are awaiting arrival of their ground crew to attempt to retrieve the balloon. Their distance far exceeds the America’s Challenge distance record of 1,998.1 miles (3,215.5 km), set in the year 2000 by the late David Levin and his brother Alan Levin.
Zapart and Cayton’s tracking position would put them in second place, with a stellar distance of 2,185 miles (3,516 km), which if confirmed would also exceed the old record. The defending champions, the USA’s Peter Cuneo and Barbara Fricke (Team 3), got oh-so-close to the record with a flight of 1,938 miles (3,119 km) and a landing near Brighton, VT. Seven of the eight teams achieved distances exceeding 1,000 miles, along with memories of a race that will be talked about in gas ballooning circles for a long time.
Once the Command Center receives final coordinates from Team 4, it will be able to provide unofficial results which remain provisional until the scoring team analyzes the data coming back from the balloons’ trackers and debriefs the pilots.