Branson set to re-ignite hot-air balloon odyssey

The millionaire Richard Branson and two fellow hot-air balloonists were making final preparations last night for their attempt to circumnavigate the world in 18 days.

Branson, 46, Per Lindstrand and Rory McCarthy were told yesterday morning that ground conditions in Morocco were suitable for the launch. The Virgin boss interrupted a holiday in Klosters to go to North Africa. The trio are likely to make their attempt from a military base in Marrakesh tomorrow or on Wednesday.

Last year's attempt was aborted because of bad weather in Morocco.

This week's effort is being dedicated to the memory of Matthew Harding, the vice-chairman of Chelsea Football Club, who died last year in a helicopter crash returning from a match.

His company, the Benfield Group, is patron of the record-breaking attempt.The balloon's planned flight path will take it from Morocco over Algeria, Egypt, India, Bangladesh, the South China Sea, Japan, the USA and back to Britain.

Branson and his fellow fliers will encounter varying climates during their proposed 18-day flight, ranging from the heat of North Africa to the harsh winds and bitter chill of the Atlantic Ocean.

Branson almost came to grief when his catamaran Virgin Atlantic Challenger was holed and wrecked in August 1985 as he attempted to cross the Atlantic in record time.

He and the rest of the crew abandoned the vessel in liferafts and were flown to safety. However, next year he captured the Blue Riband title for the fastest Atlantic crossing when his powerboat Virgin Atlantic Challenger II made the trip in three days, eight hours and 31 minutes. It cut two hours and nine minutes off the record set 34 years previously by the American liner the United States.

In 1987 Branson promised to give up dangerous exploits after the near- fatal end to his first ballooning adventure.

In the Irish Sea, after completing the first transatlantic crossing, the co-pilot, Lindstrand, jumped into the water when the balloon looked certain to crash.

The damaged craft then shot skywards, with Branson waving red underpants to attract the attention of a naval helicopter.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Clinical Lead / RGN

£40000 - £42000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: IT Sales Consultant

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This IT support company has a n...

Recruitment Genius: Works Engineer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A works engineer is required in a progressive ...

Recruitment Genius: Trainee Hire Manager - Tool Hire

£21000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Our client is seeking someone w...

Day In a Page

Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
Theme parks continue to draw in thrill-seekers despite the risks - so why are we so addicted?

Why are we addicted to theme parks?

Now that Banksy has unveiled his own dystopian version, Christopher Beanland considers the ups and downs of our endless quest for amusement
Tourism in Iran: The country will soon be opening up again after years of isolation

Iran is opening up again to tourists

After years of isolation, Iran is reopening its embassies abroad. Soon, there'll be the chance for the adventurous to holiday there
10 best PS4 games

10 best PS4 games

Can’t wait for the new round of blockbusters due out this autumn? We played through last year’s offering
Transfer window: Ten things we learnt

Ten things we learnt from the transfer window

Record-breaking spending shows FFP restraint no longer applies
Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

‘Can we really just turn away?’

Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

... and not just because of Isis vandalism
Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

Girl on a Plane

An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent
Markus Persson: If being that rich is so bad, why not just give it all away?

That's a bit rich

The billionaire inventor of computer game Minecraft says he is bored, lonely and isolated by his vast wealth. If it’s that bad, says Simon Kelner, why not just give it all away?
Euro 2016: Chris Coleman on course to end half a century of hurt for Wales

Coleman on course to end half a century of hurt for Wales

Wales last qualified for major tournament in 1958 but after several near misses the current crop can book place at Euro 2016 and end all the indifference