20 Sep 2016

Day 2: Race leaders cross the Alps, head south

The race has split, with one group climbing high and crossing the Alps while a second group plays strategy to the north. We update who's landed and the state of play...

Here’s a catch-up of news that has happened since yesterday afternoon.

Teams that landed on Monday afternoon are:

BEL 02
BEL 03
USA 02
GER 03
FRA 02

Teams that landed this morning, Tuesday 20 September are:

FRA 01

Event Director Stefan Handle reports all are down and have reported back to race HQ.

That means 12 balloons – exactly half the field – are now on the ground. The rest are still in the competition.

This morning the race is clearly split.

In the north, a group of balloonists spent the night low and to the north of the Alps. They are positioning themselves there for something, but we have no confirmation what for. It will be weather-related, lets say that!

To the south, the race leaders are now streaming along at 50km/h over the Mediterranean with mainland Italy on their left.

Last night they went up to 4,000-5,000m and flew straight over the biggest bit of Alps. It was -15C up there, which with windchill will mean pilots have been literally freezing. On oxygen, they will have been glad to have seen the sunrise this morning.

Markus Haggeney, a brother of one of the pilots in the race and a balloonist himself, reported from the FAI office in Lausanne: “I watched the teams approaching from the north on live tracking and outside I could even see one team (SUI 01) with naked eyes on their way to Italy. They were flying in the last daylight and bright sunshine and crossed Lake Geneva above 4,000 metres. It was a spectacular and stunning sight.”

Team SUI 02, currently racing down Italy at the head of the pack with ESP 01 and SUI 01, sent this amazing photo from last night’s crossing of Mont Blanc, at 4,854m the highest mountain in western Europe.