Our satellite telephone kept us well posted as to how things went. We could receive almost instantaneously the tracks of most of the balloons. Only if the balloons were more than 70 km apart reception of the tracks became impossible. The weather forecasts were ok, but of very short validity. In fact it is almost impossible to predict the weather for more than 48 hours for such a vast area.
The second day a huge wall of clouds (up to 6000m) loomed up in front of us. It cost us 4 bags of ballast. The second night was very cold (-4°C) but our winter clothes managed to keep us quite comfortable.
We had to fly at that altitude the second day to stay ahead of the other two balloons that were still in the air, and because we estimated they were going to land that evening. By 17:00h they were still 21 km behind us and we wanted to keep it that way. We flew a long time at an altitude of 4500 - 5000 m, while speed decreased visibly at lower altitudes. We came down very late to land. The chase crew caught up with us after 15 minutes. We had to pack in the dark, only lighted by the lights of the chase car.
We were very surprised when we discovered that the other two balloons were still up in the air. Possibly they had turned off their trackers.
But a third place certainly is OK. The America's Challenge closed with a distribution of prizes in the Hilton Hotel. We will certainly be back in 2004!
You can download the entire flight report by clicking on the photo.