Balloonists from 12 countries launched late on Sunday from Gladbeck, Germany for the start of the 60th Coupe Aeronautique Gordon Bennett, aviation’s oldest and most prestigious hot air balloon race.
Some 48 pilots in 24 balloons set off under the glare of floodlights.
The pilots are heading south from Germany towards France, Spain and the Mediterranean. Poor weather over the Alps means pilots will have to use the wind to track west of the mountains, possibly heading out over the Mediterranean to the islands of Sardinia and Sicily. The winners could land in Crete or mainland Greece, a straight-line distance of almost 2,000 kilometres.