Update 12:45 PM MDT (1845Z) Wednesday, October 11
The Swiss team of Nicolas Tièche and Laurent Sciboz, newcomers to the America’s Challenge but experienced international competitors, are the apparent winners of the 22nd Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta’s America’s Challenge distance race for gas balloons. All results are unofficial pending analysis of tracking data, pilot debriefings with the scoring team, and imposition of any point deductions for rule violations.
Tièche andt Sciboz (Team 6) appear to have achieved the greatest distance, at 2,278 miles (3,666 km). They landed in a remote area near Labrador City, not far from the border between Labrador and Quebec, Canada. The pilots were helicoptered out and their team is working on retrieval of their balloon and equipment. Their distance far exceeds the America’s Challenge record of 1,998.1 miles (3,215.5 km), set in the year 2000 by the late David Levin and his brother Alan Levin.
Tracking data shows Team 4, Krzysztof Zapart of Poland and Andy Cayton of the US, with the second greatest distance, traveling 2,185 miles (3,516 km) to a landing near the border of Quebec and New Brunswick, Canada. They also beat the old America’s Challenge distance record. The unofficial third place finishers are the defending and four-time champions Peter Cuneo and Barbara Fricke of Albuquerque (Team 1), who landed near Brighton, VT after a near-record fight of 1,938 miles (3,119 km).
This race will long be remembered for its picture-perfect launch from Balloon Fiesta Park, where thousands of people cheered the teams as they began their long journeys, and for the long, scenic flights enjoyed by all of the eight competing teams. All eight flew distances that in some years would have been good enough to win the race. Seven exceeded the 1,000-mile (1,609 km) mark, a distance that would have won the race in six of the 22 years it has been held.
The UNOFFICIAL order of finish is:
The tracking map and status page are still available for viewing on the America’s Challenge website.