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Monday, 1 July, 2002, 01:36 GMT 02:36 UK
Balloonist breaks own record
Steve Fossett's balloon
US balloonist Steve Fossett has crossed South Africa
American balloonist Steve Fossett has broken his own record for a solo balloon flight on the final leg of his journey around the world.

The 58-year-old millionaire stockbroker reached the milestone while travelling over the Indian Ocean, having cleared the eastern side of the tip of South Africa at 1100 GMT, his mission control says.

This means that, 12 days after taking off from Western Australia on 19 June, he has traversed more than 80% of his around-the-world distance.

Steve Fossett in his balloon
Mr Fossett has spent much of his journey battling the weather
Twelve days into a previous such attempt last year, he crash-landed in Brazil, setting the record for longest solo balloon flight.

If all goes well, he should land in Australia next Tuesday, weather permitting of course.

Mr Fossett's mission control team based in St Louis quote him as saying that "life is good" in the gondola of his balloon, which has now travelled more than 23,440 kilometres (14,565 miles).

The balloonist is reportedly 26,200 feet (7986 metres) in the air, travelling at 86 km/h (54 mph), and less than 7,763 km (4,823 miles) from Australia.

Close call

This is Mr Fossett's sixth attempt to be the first person to fly a hot-air balloon around the world single-handedly.

While crossing the Andes on the previous leg, he had to fight a three-hour battle to save his mission after his balloon went into a series of dramatic leaps and dives.

The journey has seen him spend much of his time attempting to avoid storms around South America.

Last week, he came "perilously close" to smashing into the ocean.

Mr Fossett's five earlier solo attempts ended with crash-landings in spots such as the Coral Sea off the north-east coast of Australia and a cattle ranch in Brazil.


Map showing projected flight path of the balloon

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The BBC's June Kelly
"So far he has travelled a record breaking 17,000 miles"
See also:

28 Jun 02 | Americas
01 Jul 02 | Americas
27 Jun 02 | Americas
24 Jun 02 | Asia-Pacific
23 Jun 02 | Asia-Pacific
21 Jun 02 | Asia-Pacific
20 Jun 02 | Asia-Pacific
10 Oct 01 | England
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