Millionaire adventurer sails above storms lashing New Zealand in solo flight around globe

Friday, June 21st 2002, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

ST. LOUIS (AP) _ Millionaire adventurer Steve Fossett sailed above stormy weather Friday as he cruised toward New Zealand in his bid to become the first solo balloonist to circle the globe.

As of 10 a.m. EDT, Fossett was off the coast of New Zealand, clocking nearly 63 mph at 23,300 feet in his Bud Light Spirit of Freedom balloon. Fossett reported no trouble from the weather.

Since beginning his mission from western Australia on Tuesday night, local time, Fossett has flown 3,275 miles.

``I really look forward to crossing the North Islands of New Zealand,'' Fossett said while eating prepackaged mashed potatoes for breakfast in his 7-foot long, 5-and-a-half-foot wide and 5-and-a-half-foot tall capsule.

As for the potatoes, Fossett told his mission control team at Washington University in St. Louis, ``I'd like to say it's good ... it isn't!''

The investment tycoon from Chicago is hoping to complete his around-the-world flight in 15 total days.

Fossett holds world records in ballooning, sailing and flying airplanes. He also swam the English Channel in 1985, placed 47th in the Iditarod dog sled race in 1992 and participated in the 24 Hours of Le Mans car race in 1996.

In five earlier solo attempts, Fossett has plummeted into the Coral Sea and, last summer, was forced to ditch the balloon on a Brazilian cattle ranch after 12 days in flight, making it the longest-ever solo balloon flight.