A Period of Obsession

So today it begins. My period of obsession. The Gordon Bennett Balloon Race (or the Coupe Aéronautique Gordon Bennett) will begin in Paris, France. Sixteen two-person teams from around the world will launch in gas balloons from Tuileries Gardens (where the first race began in 1906). When and where will they end up? It is anyone’s guess.

This is from a gas balloon race in Albuquerque a couple of years ago…just to give you an idea of the type of balloons

The goal here is distance, but it also requires endurance. You always have hopes of going farther the longer you are in the air. But the distance is what wins it in the end.

These pilots are true adventurers. They follow the wind and in this particular race have no idea which country they will end up in. Strategy matters. Last year’s winners took a different route than most and it paid off for them. They went approximately 1145 kms, or 711 miles. It took them 2 days, 10.5 hours.

Last year began in Bern, Switzerland….see where they ended

And just think of having to endure living in that basket with another person for potentially days. The time record is 92 hours. That was in 1995, so is certainly not the norm. Last year the longest team up was up for 2 day, 18.5 hours.

I’ll be tracking it throughout. There is an app called YB Races that I’ll use. This is used for other types of races, too….if you want to download and follow along, click on “Add races” and you’ll see the COUPE AÉRONAUTIQUE GORDON BENNETT 2019 in the selection menu (or you can search,) If you want an idea of the results from last year, download 2018 too, and see the map of where the teams landed.

I’m set up and ready to go! All of my devices have the tracking ready for easy access. The You Tube channel is also ready for easy access. It’s a busy weekend for me, so I’ll be that rude person….constantly looking at my phone. Sorry, friends. As it gets farther along, I’ll be drilling down into Google Earth on a regular basis to guess where they may land. My friend Kat, who lives in Georgia has an obsession that matches mine. I predict many texts will be exchanged. Armchair quarterbacks and cheerleaders. Warning….we may not be fit to be around.

There are other media to follow. Many of the teams have Facebook pages. There is a You Tube channel, which I suspect will show commentary and possibly interviews with the teams and chase crews. And if you want information, fai.org is a great place to get it. It was my command center last year. It also has info about other aeronautical sports you might find interesting. And just found https://live.gordonbennett.aero.

Launch will be about 1 p.m. in North Carolina (7 p.m, in Paris.) . I’ll be cheering for our two US teams loudest (Cheri & Mark and Andy & John), but being a balloonist country boundaries only matter so much. We’ll cheer for them all and be watching for some great competition and flying. I will be excited for any winner and will marvel the ingenuity, courage, and endurance they all show.

Good luck to all the teams. We’ll be watching you, thrilled and bewildered by your strategy (and probably then thrilled again when we figure out what the heck you’re doing) and yelling at our screens often. Especially at the end. Or will that just be me? Be safe, y’all!

And if you join me in watching, enjoy!

Tuesday, September 18, 2019 Edit

The obsession is over! Congratulations to the two Swiss teams, who came in at the first and second positions. Two of the teams ended up flying 90 hours…..almost beating the record of 92. Here are the final standings and a map of where they traveled.

5 Comments

    1. I have never been in a gas balloon at all. They are very expensive to operate, so not many get the privilege. I am not a pilot, so never could be in a Gordon Bennett. Only the two pilots can fly. I would love to be on a chase crew for one someday, though. That’s on my bucket list.

      A few of my friends are competitive hot air balloon pilots and a couple have let me ride with them in a competition. I love it. Though usually the serious ones prefer to go it alone, so it has been a while since I have done that. I have scored these competitions, though, and it is great fun to watch them from below. Most of the hot air balloon pilots record themselves with Go Pros, so it feels like you were with them watching those.

      Liked by 1 person

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