Winners of epic balloon race land in the Algarve.jpg

Winners of epic balloon race land in the Algarve

The first three teams in a renowned manned balloon race landed safely in the Algarve.

This year’s gas balloon race started in Geneva on September 4 with a total of 16 competitors – and all of the three winning teams landed in the Algarve.

The Coupe Aéronautique Gordon Bennet is a prestigious event in aviation and the ultimate challenge for the balloon pilots and their equipment.

The goal is to fly the furthest distance from the launch site.  

The winning French team of Sébastien Rolland and Vincent Leys, who flew a balloon named Golden Eyes, landed safely in Lagos at the Aerodrome at 10.37 am on September 9.

After travelling a total distance of 1,587km in 85 hours, they were both thrilled to be greeted by fellow balloonist Helena Sá of Barlavento Balloons, who had been tracking the competitors.

The race was described by Helena as “an epic journey of human tolerance and the true spirit of the most ancient form of ballooning”.

She added: “To have them land in our back garden was something I had not even dreamed of.”

Sébastien and Vincent could not believe their luck when confronted by such immediate specialised assistance.

Helena and her team helped the winners pack, liaised with the local farmers and supplied the tired winning team with much-needed coffee.

Gerry Breen of the Algarve Airport Centre was busy flying when they entered Lagos airspace and managed to catch their landing on camera.

The team that came second were Kurt Frieden and Pascal Pitpraechtiger, who landed in Marmelete near Monchique at 4.30am after travelling 1,570km.

The team that came third were Mark Sullivan and Cheryl White who landed in Santo Estevão near Tavira at 9.14pm on September 8 after travelling 1,528km.

The international balloon competition was initiated by adventurer and newspaper tycoon Gordon Bennett in 1906, when 16 balloons launched from the Tuileries Gardens in Paris, France.

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