24 Aug 2021

Expert view: How the winds influenced the first stages of the 64th Coupe Aéronautique Gordon Bennett

The most important question on the minds of the competitors at the start of any gas balloon race is: “What will the winds do?” Here, Australian aviator and adventurer Ruth Wilson explains how the winds affected the first stages of the 2021 Coupe Aéronautique Gordon Bennett, which launched from Torun in Poland on 20 August.

A gas balloon once airborne becomes one with the wind it is moving with at any altitude. So, for balloon pilots and especially Gordon Bennett pilots, focus is on the meteorological (met) conditions that surround them. 

Wind speed at launch for the 15 teams from 6 countries competing in this year’s Gordon Bennett gas balloon race in Poland was light. With access to the YB Tracking unit designed for adventure racing giving live updates every five minutes, enthusiasts around the world were following the teams in this year’s race. 

pre-race wind predictions

balloon locations on 24 August (5.30pm local time)

Following a selection of teams during the early stages of the race (see below) shows just how important knowledge of meteorological conditions are for this race, and how intrinsic it is to understand the aerial dance of the winds if a safe and successful Gordon Bennett race is to be flown.

2 hours into the flight 

  • Poland 2 were at 197meters with wind speed 11.3 kmph
  • Germany 3 flying at 395 metres with speed at 7.3kmph
  • Poland 1 at 501 meters with a speed of 10.9kmph
  • Swiss 1 a little higher at 565 metres with slightly faster 11.9 kmph
  • U.S.A.1 1809 metres with a speed of 18.7 kmph
  • Poland 3 went high to 3487 meters flying at 39.7kmph

4 hours into the flight

  • Poland 2             6.8kmph   @   146metres
  • Germany 3          3.4kmph   @   304metres
  • Poland 1             4.5kmph   @   247metres
  • Swiss 1               13.6kmph @   343metres
  • U.S.A.1               34.5kmph @ 2793metres
  • Poland 3             31.6kmph @ 2750metres

8 hours into the flight (at sunrise)

  • Poland 2            11,1kmph   @   257metres
  • Germany 3          2.7kmph    @   190metres
  • Poland 1             8.3kmph    @   313metres
  • Swiss 1               12.2kmph   @   152metres
  • U.S.A. 1              41.1kmph   @ 2220metres
  • Poland 3             38.4kmph   @ 2328metres     

Congratulations to all Officials, Pilots and Crews on achieving this Coupe Aéronautique Gordon Bennett in such testing times!

Photos: FAI