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16 September 2003

Le Petit Prince

Track GB 2003 The balloon "Petit Prince" named after the famous work of Antoine de St Exupéry landed safely this morning at 6:15 UTC (8:15 Paris time), 5 minutes after sunrise, in the tiny village named Tinhosas, 4km East of Silves, 15 km ENE of Portimão, and 58 km ENE of Cabo de São Vincente (Cape St Vincent, extreme South-West point of Portugal).

Landingsite The landing was very difficult and tricky with wind gusts up to 60 kph in a hilly area with a lot of trees and electric wires. The approach and landing required a lot of skill but was perfectly managed by Vincent and Franzi Leys.
A quick and steep descent between the obstacles was necessary. The balloon landed without any damage in a small area between the trees.The remaining sand ballast before the landing was 60 kilograms, but 50 kilograms were required for the approach and landing.

Winning Team The retrieval crew, including Laurence, wife of Vincent, Isabelle, wife of Franzi, and Bertrand Deneullin, got a lot of help from the inhabitants of the area.

A portuguese balloonist attended the landing, helped the crew to pack the equipment and took some digital photographs that will be sent soon by e-mail.
A Britton was also near the landing spot and came to assist. Vincent and Franzi were warmly welcome by very friendly people.

This fourth victory in a row is first of all a story of passion and friendship.
A nice teamwork was accomplished in total harmony with Luc Trullemans who did a splendid routing job from Brussels.
The choice of the ideal trajectory and furthermore the strategy consisting in slowing down and waiting during the afternoon of Monday, letting even the USA-1 and BEL-1 team overtake the "Petit Prince" paid off and proved to be the best plan.
The very precise managing of ballast by Vincent and Franzi made possible a third night, even after the high sand consumption at the very beginning of the flight when high altitudes had to be reached.

Thanks to all the competitors, team members and organisation staff, this 47th Gordon Bennett has been once again extremely challenging and exciting and has been a nice celebration of our beautiful sport of gas ballooning.

Walter Simonson
(ground coordinator of FRA-1 team from Brussels)
Photo's Graeme Pusey

Posted by Luc at 2:55 PM

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