Saturday, December 26, 1998 Published at 00:49 GMT
Branson's 'glorious failure'
Branson's record attempt foundered once again
Richard Branson and his crew have escaped unhurt from a crash landing in the Pacific Ocean as their attempt to circle the globe in a balloon came to a dramatic end.
It was dragged for 15 minutes across the ocean and had begun to fill with water before the crew could jump to safety. They were rescued by US coastguards 10 minutes later.
"It was sad. It was the most beautiful balloon, the most beautiful capsule, it was working like perfection.
"We had gone better then anyone else that had tried it before. We were three days from home, so to abandon it to the seas just because of this weather block was sad."
The flight hit a trough of low pressure on Thursday night, causing it to lose the winds that would have carried it to the west coast of the US.
By sunrise the crew knew the attempt was going to fail and spent most of Christmas Day preparing for splashdown by steering the balloon towards Hawaii.
Lindstrand, who built the balloon, was chosen to land it.
There were tense moments at the control centre after the balloon landed, because it was initially unclear if all the crew has been picked up.
A short time later the news that Branson and his co-pilots were safe was greeted with cheers from the project's London staff, who then sang "We Wish You A Merry Christmas" to the balloon's crew over a satellite telephone.
"I've made three attempts to fly around the world just in 1998," he said.
"It's getting pretty discouraging to come what I believe is close and still not be able to grasp the golden ring."
Speaking just before the flight splashed down, Mr Kendrick said: "We were beset with all sorts of problems from the beginning when we launched in Marrakech but they were all political.
"In the end, a weather problem is what stopped us, but that is the nature of ballooning."
During the journey the balloon gained permission to cross the airspace of 97 countries. Only Iran, Iraq, Russia and North Korea refused.