The 66th edition of the international gas balloon competition will start on October 7, 2023, in Albuquerque (New Mexico), USA. 18 two-person teams from 9 countries will take part, including two from Poland. One of them will be created by Przemysław Mościcki and Jacek Bogdański. The latter and Mateusz Rekas won the Gordon Bennett Cup in 2018. New technologies enabling contact with the ground station and the pursuit team played a significant role.
The competition has been held since 1906, and Poland has won it six times, which ranks us 7th in the history of all time: three times in 1933-35, winning the Cup as their own, and then in 1938, 1983, and 2018. The winner is the team covering the longest distance from the take-off point to the landing point. The Polish team of the 2018 Cup winners will be supported by a 6-person ground crew from Krakow, who will maintain contact with them via satellite phone: forecasters from the Institute of Meteorology and Water Management – Jacek Barski, Iwona Lelątko and Rafał Kielar, as well as Bazyli Dawidzuk, Arkadiusz Sionkowski, and Monika Zams.
This year’s competition was supposed to be held in Switzerland, but that country decided not to organize it due to the war in Ukraine. To participate in them, you have to spend at least PLN 1 million on equipment alone, and there are no cash prizes for winning. Therefore, the balloons of the Polish teams will be filled with flammable hydrogen, not non-flammable helium – 1 m³ of helium costs $30, and hydrogen only $1.75. Since the capacity of the balloons is limited to 1,200 m³, filling them with helium would cost approximately $36,000, and hydrogen only $2,100. Interestingly, all balloons taking part in the competition will be white. If they were colored, they would heat up faster and, therefore, be less stable, making navigation more difficult. The course of the competition will be available online. One of the team’s sponsors is the Jordan Group.