Veteran balloonist sits fourth in US Gas Race
BRISTOL balloonist Clive Bailey has realised his long-held dream of taking part in the America's Challenge Gas Balloon Race.
The veteran balloonist from Ham Green is representing Great Britain in the competition to fly the furthest from the take-off point in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
As the Post went to press the GB team were in fourth position in a close race, having flown more than 450 miles.
Mr Bailey said last night: "The balloon is flying really well. Jon and I are feeling good and enjoying ourselves.
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"It is cold at night with amazing stars but really warm and sunny during the day.
"We have flown across Texas, even finding our way to Amarillo."
Five balloons took off one at a time, starting at 1am UK time yesterday.
The British national anthem was played as Mr Bailey, 54, and Jon Mason lifted off in their balloon Lady Britannia at 1.31am.
Take-off had been delayed by 24 hours due to strong winds.
The pair had suffered a few issues initially inflating their balloon but once they discovered that it was twisted and dealt with the issue they were able to get on their way.
Cheering crowds watched as the balloons took off and there was a fireworks display after they had all taken to the skies.
Mr Bailey said of the take-off: "I was shaking with emotion and nerves as we were moved to the launch podium and the national anthem started playing with thousands of people cheering. All I could think of was the 10,000ft mountains a few miles ahead and whether we had calculated the ballast correctly to clear them.
"As Albuquerque disappeared into the darkness, the silence seems eerie, with distant lights far below us and our magic carpet whisking us swiftly through the skies. The night time temperature has really dipped to -11."
Lady Britannia headed eastwards after taking off and the pair came close to the mountains but after quickly climbing in height they managed to avoid them.
Balloonists in the competition often fly for more than two days in the small wicker basket underneath the gas balloon filled with hydrogen.
Mr Mason won the competition last year, flying with David Hempleman-Adams, after they flew 973 miles in 70 and a half hours.
This year Mr Hempleman-Adams is staying on the ground as flight controller with Simon Carey.
Go to www.baileyballoons.co.uk to follow their progress.