A month ago, Andy Cayton was one frustrated guy. He was one of three U.S. representatives in the Coupe Gordon Bennett, a prestigious international gas balloon distance race much like the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta America’s Challenge. But his bid for victory in that race never got off the ground after his balloon developed a leak.
What a difference a month makes! This morning, Cayton and his co-pilot, Kevin Knapp (Team 5) have apparently claimed victory in the America’s Challenge, after a bold bid that included a transit over water along the Gulf Coast yesterday afternoon. The team then flew through the night, eating away at the distance posted yesterday by Wilhelm Eimers of Germany and American Greg Winker. This morning, Team 5 slipped past Eimers and Winker to become the unofficial winners.
Cayton and Knapp landed safely at 9:08 AM MDT (1508Z) a mile west of Citra, FL and about 15 miles north of Ocala. They report their crew was waiting for them and taking pictures as they came down.
The launch of the race was delayed for three days because of rain in Albuquerque, but the delay was worth it. The competitors enjoyed good weather all the way across the country, making for a safe race for the pilots.
The results are unofficial and provisional until analysis of the race data and scoring is completed and any penalties teams may have incurred for breaches of the event rules are assessed. The unofficial results, along with the tracking maps, may be viewed at www.balloonfiesta.com through the gas tracking page. Official results will be posted to the site once scoring is completed.