World famous balloonist and Black Creek resident Andy Cayton and his co-pilot Stuart Enloe recently turned in a top five finish at the 2008 Gordon Bennett Balloon World Cup, held this year in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
Cayton won the right to compete in the World Cup after winning the America’s Challenge balloon race last October. Cayton won the America’s Challenge race two years in a row.
Cayton said he came very close to winning the Cup this year, and refuses to retire until he reaches his ultimate goal. His placing this year qualifies him for a chance to do just that.
"Unfortunately, I finished well enough to have to go to it the next year," Cayton said with a laugh. "Coming close makes me want it all that much more. I still need to win the Gordon Bennett before I can call it quits."
This is the second time Cayton has turned in a fifth place finish at the World Cup event.
To win the race, one must travel the most distance before landing. The first day of this year’s World Cup event was slow due to cold and rainy weather.
"Nobody was able to get out of the Albuquerque valley for the first 24 hours," Cayton said. "We traveled 200 miles but basically went in a circle, which did us no good as measurements count from point A to point B. We traveled 1,200 miles in the race, but only got credit for about 850."
On the second day, Cayton said he was stuck in slow winds, travelling at merely 1.1 mile per hour through New Mexico. Then, about 4:30 p.m., Cayton and Enloe started picking up speed and made it all the way to South Dakota by midnight.
It was smooth sailing for all the competitors as they sailed through day three. But Mother Nature would soon cause an abrupt halt to the competition as the balloons sailed over Minnesota and South Dakota, in the area above the Great Lakes.
"I purposely dropped down lower, letting everyone in front of me, hoping they would get boxed in by the Great Lakes – which they basically did – because I knew they didn’t have enough sand or water to get them across the Lakes," Cayton said.
He said he and Enloe were within hours of winning, "and we were definitely in a position to do it. Once the balloon turned to ice though, that was the end of the race."
Cayton did turn in a personal best. At 74 and a half hours, it was his longest flight in a gas balloon. The British team ended up with the Cup.
The 2009 Gordon Bennett World Cup is slated for next October in Geneva, Switzerland. Cayton is in search of a sponsor in order to participate. He estimates the cost to compete to range between $10,000 and $20,000.