Five teams of gas balloonists including Clive Bailey from Bristol representing Team GB have launched from the America’s Challenge Gas Balloon Race 2012 in Albuquerque.
The Gas Balloon Race, with the pilots using their skills to see who can fly the furthest from the take off point, started at 1.00 am BST on Monday morning, with one balloon being launched at a time. After a long day of preparation,
Clive Bailey and Jon Mason were the fourth balloon to take to the skies in their balloon, called Lady Britannia at 1.31 am BST.
They lifted off with the balloon lit up by a spotlight and to the sound of the British national anthem.
Clive said: “I was physically shaking with emotion and nerves as we were moved to the launch podium and the National anthem started playing, thousands of people cheering and all I could think of was the 10,000 foot mountains a few miles ahead and had we calculated the ballast correctly to clear them.”
By 7.00 am the British team had travelled over 76 miles/122 km travelling East. Over night they said it was cold with beautiful clear skies and thousands of stars. The only sound they could hear were cows mooing below!
Clive & Jon are being followed by their retrieve crew, Mike McDonald, who taught Clive to fly and is used to being in hot pursuit of their balloon. Over the last few years, in co-ordination with the control centre, the retrieve crew have often arrived within minutes of the team landing.
This year the tables have turned for Team GB with David Hempleman-Adams, as Flight Controller, for the first time, along with Simon Carey who are based at the Flight Control Centre near Bath. They are speaking regularly to Clive and Jon giving updates on the weather and balloon track.