French balloon pilots Vincent Leys and Christophe Houver won the 61st Gordon Bennett Cup over the weekend of 8-10 September 2017.
The Gordon Bennett Cup is the oldest and most prestigious gas-balloon race in the world. The French Pair flew more than 1,800km to win the Gordon Bennett Cup 2017
The pair travelled 1,836.06km having launched on Friday 8 September 2017 from Gruyères near Fribourg, Switzerland.
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Twenty-one gas balloons took off on Friday evening to compete in the race, which sees gas-balloon pilots fly through the night over several days. Whoever goes furthest, wins.
Windy conditions this year saw the balloonists pushed northeast overnight. The direction of travel meant on Saturday many crews had to land in Poland in order to avoid violating Russian airspace around Kalingrad.
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By Sunday morning just five teams remained in the competition. Only Leys and Houver managed to squeeze through the narrow airspace corridor between Kaliningrad and Belarus, giving then the win.
Behind them, Switzerland’s Kurt Frieden and Pascal Witprächtiger (SUI-1) and Spain’s Anulfo Gonzales Redondo and Angel Aguirre Rial (ESP-1) hung on to land a few kilometers short of the Lithuanian border.
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The win is the second for the pair flying together as a team – they also won in 2013, when they flew 1,402.42km after launching from France. Vincent Leys however has been in the winning team eight times.
The win means that the 2019 Gordon Bennett Cup will launch from a location in France.
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Established in 1906, the Gordon Bennett Cup was re-started for the modern era in 1983. Since then it has attracted many of the world’s top balloon pilots, providing a challenge unrivalled anywhere else in the ballooning world.