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Saturday, March 13, 1999 Published at 12:19 GMT

Balloonists break distance record

British balloonist Brian Jones and his Swiss co-pilot Betrand Piccard have crossed the International Date Line and set an unnofficial world distance record as they continue in their bid to circumnavigate the globe.

The BBC's Linda Duffin: "They have enough fuel to see them through any delays"
The Breitling Orbiter 3 had travelled 14,355 miles (23,097km) by 1030 GMT - 125 miles further than the previous balloon record set by American Steven Fossett during his solo round-world bid last year.

The Anglo-Swiss balloon has now passed over Hawaii and is heading for the Mexican coast.

Breitling organisers at their Geneva Airport headquarters insisted the record meant little to them and they only had their sights on completing the round-the-world adventure.

[ image: Piccard and Jones: Unofficial record set]
Piccard and Jones: Unofficial record set
Breitling spokesman Gerard Fremier said: "The truth is we are not too impressed by setting distance records - the whole object of this project is to go around the world.

"We are concentrating on that objective and we are doing well.

"Brian and Betrand are in good spirits and they are planning so they can complete the journey and touch down in Africa next weekend."

The two pilots crossed the International Date Line at 06.30.

The balloon, which launched from the Swiss Alps on March 1, was soaring at 28,000ft and cruising at around 40 knots as its pilots waited to catch a 125mph sub-tropical jet-stream to sweep them to Mexico and out into the Caribbean.

The Swiss-registered balloon has 10 days of propane fuel left to allow the crew to complete the attempt at one of the world's last remaining aeronautical challenges.

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