Saturday, December 26, 1998 Published at 19:03 GMT
Branson may try again
Rescued by US coastguard
Tycoon Richard Branson, whose attempt to be the first to fly around the world in a hot air balloon ended in failure on Christmas Day, has hinted he may try again.
But Branson has been criticised by fellow balloonists for violating restricted Chinese air space and incurring a suspension of further balloon flights across the country.
"I've made the mistake before of saying 'never again' the day I've been rescued after failing," he said.
"I've decided this time not to think about it, to relax over Christmas ... and we'll decide early in the New Year."
All three men were rescued unhurt by US Coastguards after a dramatic splashdown in shark-infested waters.
Fossett, who has already made three attempts on the record in 1998 alone, also refused to rule out trying again.
Branson and his crew will be closely watching two attempts that leave at the end of December to see if they manage to snatch the prize first.
Breitling Orbiter 3, piloted by Switzerland's Bertrand Piccard and Briton Brian Jones, is set to launch from the Swiss Alps.
They will be followed by the Anglo-American Spirit of Peace from New Mexico and the J Renee from Chicago, piloted by soloist Kevin Uliassi. Both are scheduled to leave before the end of the winter.
World Quest is to fly from Santiago in Chile in the summer of 1999, as are Global Conqueror from Cape Providence, South Africa, and Re/Max from Alice Springs in Australia.
'Ballooning is a sport'
The standing record for the longest distance travelled by balloon is held by Branson's co-pilot Fossett who single-handedly took Free Spirit 10,406 miles earlier this year.
Suggestions that the ICO Global attempt had ruined the chances of other balloonists were deflected by Branson.
China has said it is reviewing its position over whether or not to allow further round-the-world balloon flights to pass over its territory after the Branson attempt drifted into restricted airspace and was initially ordered to land before eventually being permitted to continue.
"I think if China wants to hold the Olympics one day they've got to become part of the real world and accept that ballooning is a sport and as such they ought to allow our rivals through," Branson said.
Rival Colin Prescot from the Cable and Wireless bid said tension with China created over the ICO Global attempt "hasn't helped" other balloonists in their record attempts.
Meanwhile it later emerged that worldwide charities have missed out on up to $2m because of Branson's failure. He had put a $300,000 bet on his success at 10-1, with most of the money allocated to unnamed charities.