The box conditions created a spectacular show for the spectators, with all the balloons hanging over the field. However, this isn't necessarily a good thing when the object is to go the greatest distance. At this writing, several of the balloons are headed northward up Interstate 25 towards Santa Fe. The real strategies in the race will begin to play out after sunrise tomorrow morning.
The launch included some light moments. German competitor Willie Eimers arrived on the launch platform sans balloon. He climbed onto the platform, waved to the crowd, and shot video as the launch crew brought his balloon, with co-pilot Greg Winker aboard, onto the platform. He then climbed aboard and the balloon headed aloft to the strains of the German national anthem.
Mark Sullivan gave the spectators a little shower as he took off -- water ballast slowly dropped so the balloon could gain a little altitude. German ballooning champion and video producer Astrid Gerhardt, who was filming on the platform, came in for some good-natured ribbing -- and compliments -- during lulls in the launch.
In the next eight hours, the race will really begin to get interesting, and you can follow it through live tracking on the Balloon Fiesta Web site, www.balloonfiesta.com.