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Friday, January 2, 1998 Published at 02:41 GMT

World: Americas

Fossett heads for Atlantic
image: [ Fossett - no sleep but on his way ]
Fossett - no sleep but on his way

Balloonist Steve Fossett has completed the first full day of his planned circumnavigation of the globe.

He was 70 miles south east of Bermuda and cruising at 22,000ft as he aimed his balloon Solo Spirit towards the currents that will take him over the Atlantic Ocean.

The balloon was on the edge of the fast-moving polar jet stream, which could double his current speed of 80 mph.

It is projected to carry the Solo Spirit gently north-east on a path crossing the coast of the Iberian Peninsula.

The mission spokesman, Doug Blount, said: "We can't complain about anything. It's been picture-perfect so far."

Fossett, 53, the millionaire chairman of Chicago-based Lakota Trading Inc, has told his command centre at Washington University that he has managed to grab two hours rest but has not slept yet on the voyage.

But another balloonist competing to be the first person to fly non-stop around the world has pulled out of the race.

Kevin Uliassi landed safely in northern Indiana just three hours after lifting off from the floor of a rock quarry in Rockford, Illinois, on Wednesday.

Uliassi, 34, was unhurt when his craft, the J. Renee, developed a leak that caused him to lose altitude rapidly and abandon his attempt.

Three other balloon teams are also after the record and plan to launch in the coming weeks. They are:

  • British tycoon Richard Branson, who had to delay his bid in December when his Global Challenge balloon broke loose in Morocco before launch and was damaged.
  • Co-pilots Bertrand Piccard of Switzerland and Wim Verstraeten of Belgium in their Breitling Orbiter 2 plan to take off during Switzerland's Chateau d'Oex festival.
  • American balloonists Dick Rutan and David Melton are expected to make their attempt from Albuquerque New Mexico in early January in their Global Hilton.


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  Internet Links

Solo Spirit

J. Renee

Virgin Global Challenge

Breitling Orbiter

Global Hilton

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