Gas Balloon Racers Launch

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Steady and brisk northwest winds were pushing competitors in the annual Gordon Bennett International Gas Balloon Race into southern Europe and toward the Mediterranean when we last checked. The race, billed as the oldest aviation race, was first launched in 1906 and has been held 54 times in those 104 years. The premise is simple. All competitors (20 this year) launch at the same time and the one that travels the farthest wins. This year's launch site was near Bristol in southern England and the winds put everyone over the English Channel within hours.

The French team of Sebastian Rolland and Vincent Leys took the lead over the Japanese team of Sabiro Ichioyoshi and Akio Hachinohe over the Bordeaux region of France. The northerly flow is expected to shift more westerly and put the balloons on track for French Riviera. The balloons normally stay aloft for 70 to 80 hours. Winner of the race earns the right to host the launch of a future race.