Team 2 Lands Safely Near NM/TX Border
October 3, 2021
Posted Sunday, October 3, 9:00 PM MDT (0300Z, Monday, October 4)
The America’s Challenge Command Center has received word that Team 2, Mark Sullivan and Cheri White, has landed safely near Melrose, NM, west of Clovis. Cheri told the controllers that the team plans to rest up in Clovis overnight before returning to Albuquerque. When they landed, Team 2 was second in the race and had travelled approximately 174 miles (280 km). Sullivan and White have previously won the America’s Challenge twice, in 2008 and 2012.
That leaves just two balloons in the hunt, pursuing very different strategies. Team 4, Noah Forden and Bert Padelt, have had a healthy lead since very early in the race. They’re currently southeast of Lubbock TX and have flown about 324 miles (522 km). Though they are at a lower altitude as of this writing, at the beginning of the race Forden and Padelt went up to near the race altitude limit of 18,000 feet and have flown at high altitude for most of the race.
Meanwhile, Team 1, Barbara Fricke and Peter Cuneo, headed northeast and spent much of the day over the southern Sangre de Christo mountains. The four-time America’s Challenge champions (2001, 2010, 2013, 2016) have been as much as 150 miles (241 km) behind the lead much of the race and have been mired in slow winds for most of the day. But as they keep flying, they potentially could move up in the standings, passing Team 2 and maybe even making a run at the leaders.
This has been a most unusual America’s Challenge, a race where the winning teams usually travel over 1,000 miles (1609 km). The race is playing out somewhat like a typical Coupe Gordon Bennett, the world championships of distance gas ballooning, which is usually flown in Europe within a restricted geographical area. These are often shorter, highly strategic races of a few hundred miles, where teams employ diverse strategies to eke out a win over the competitions.
A long cold night is ahead for the two teams still aloft, and we’ll keep you posted on their progress on this website, and on the YB Tracker free app – just download the app and subscribe to the America’s Challenge race.