Second No More! Cayton-Zapart Emerge On Top At America's Challenge
Posted: 8:30 AM MDT (1430z)
In 2014, Poland’s Krzysztof Zapart, a jovial newcomer to gas ballooning, flew in his first America’s Challenge and impressed in his debut by finishing second. After a weather-related cancellation in 2015, with a couple of Gordon Bennett races under his belt, Zapart came back in 2016 for his second America’s Challenge. Same result. Second.
In 2017, Zapart teamed up with American veteran Andy Cayton, a two-time America’s Champion as hungry for victory as himself. They exceeded the former America’s Challenge distance record by a considerable margin, and Zapart set a new Polish distance record. But the Swiss team of Nicolas Tieche and Laurent Sciboz flew just a little farther and won the race. Krzysztof Zapart was second again.
So this year, do you think Krzysztof Zapart was hungry?
Well, fourth time is the charm. The time-honored strategy of coming from behind paid off, as Andy Cayton and Krzysztof Zapart flew further than any of their competitors and are the apparent winners of the 23rd America’s Challenge distance race for gas balloons.
Cayton and Zapart landed at about 7:30 MDT (1330z) in a very remote area along the Muketei River about 120 miles (193 km) west/northwest of Attawapiskat, a small town on Canada’s James Bay. The landing site is in tundra and is wet and marshy. The pilots are in good spirits and the Command Center is working with their ground support team to get assistance to them.
The team flew 1,616.46 miles (2601.44 km) an impressive distance in a race where the balloons routinely travel more than 1,000 mi (1609 km). They were aloft about 58 hours.
Finishing second were America’s Challenge newcomers Eric Decellieres and Vincent Leys from France, logging an impressive 1,327 miles (2137.6 km). Leys, the nine-time world distance gas ballooning champion, and relative rookie Decellieres said they were looking forward to a nice, long, pleasurable, and safe flight, and they achieved that.
Finishing third was the other French team, Benoit Pelard and Benoit Peterle, who have been flying in the America’s Challenge since 2014. This is the first time the team has finished on the podium.
The unofficial order of finish with approximate distances flown is as follows:
1. Andy Cayton, USA, and Krzysztof Zapart, Poland (Team 1), 1616.46 mi/2601.44 km, duration 58 hours, 2 minutes
2. Eric Decellieres and Vincent Leys, France (Team 2), 1327.23 mi/2135.96 km, duration 43 hours, 9 minutes
3. Benoit Pelard and Benoit Peterle, France (Team 7), 1216.89 mi/1958.40 km, duration 39 hours, 0 minutes
4. Brian Duncan and Brenda Cowlishaw, USA (Team 3), 1091.98 mi/1757.38 km, duration 34 hours, 44 minutes
5. Noah Forden and Bert Padelt, USA (Team 4), 1016.50 mi/1635.90 km, duration 34 hours, 20 minutes
6. Cheri White and Mark Sullivan, USA (Team 9), 1011.95 mi/1628.58 km, duration 37 hours, 27 minutes
7. Barbara Fricke and Peter Cuneo, USA (Team 5), 992.55 mi/1597.35 km, duration 34 hours, 35 minutes
8. Christian Wagner and Thomas Lewetz, Austria (Team 8), 899.67 mi/1447.88 km, duration 28 hours, 37 minutes
9. Al Nels and Andy Baird, USA (Team 6), 580.24 mi/ 933.80 km, duration 24 hours 48 minutes
All results are unofficial until the scoring team debriefs the pilots and analyzes the data from their trackers, and any penalties are applied for violations of the race rules. Official results will be released Saturday evening, October 12.
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