Balloon pair close to record

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The Independent Online
WHAT DO you do when you are travelling in a balloon at 24,000ft? Shiver, apparently.

AT 6am today, having passed over Bombay, Colin Prescot and Andy Elson should have broken the world balloon endurance record. Their one problem is that they are rather cold.

A heating pump on board the Cable and Wireless balloon has broken and with outside temperatures falling to minus 30C, the two men have been forced to put on the special cold-weather clothing, suitable for Arctic conditions, they were carrying in case of an emergency landing in inhospitable surroundings.

"Let's just say they are rather uncomfortable," a spokeswoman said yesterday.

"They do have the correct clothing but I still think they are rather cold. I know that there is ice on the inside of the observation window."

Mr Elson, 45, and Mr Prescot, 48, spent the best part of yesterday travelling at 50mph over the Arabian Sea, with unpredictable weather patterns requiring their full attention and not allowing them time to repair the pump.

The pair set off from Spain on 17 February and are attempting to circumnavigate the globe. Because they do not have permission from the Peking government they are being forced to go around China.

Their course will take them across south-east Asia before they head north to try to catch the Gulf Stream that they hope will carry them across the Pacific at up to 160mph. They have supplies for 25 days.

To break the current endurance record, set last year by Mr Elson himself on board the Breitling Orbiter 2, the pair need to add 1 per cent to the nine days, 17 hours and 55 minutes achieved then.