The origins of the Gordon Bennett race

The Gordon Bennet Cup (or Coupe Aéronautique Gordon Bennett) is the most famous aviation event in the world and is the ultimate challenge for balloon pilots and their equipment. The objectives of the race are simple: to fly the furthest distance from the start in the open wicker basket of a gas balloon.

This international gas balloon competition was initiated in 1906 by the adventurer and newspaper magnate James Gordon Bennett. In that year 16 balloons started from the gardens of the former Tuileries Palace in Paris. None of those present to see the event could possibly have imagined that the race would continue to be staged right into the 21st century.

The 57th race will take place in 2013, 107 years after that first race. The rules remain almost unchanged. The winner will be the team that flies the longest distance in a straight line between the start and the landing point. The actual distance flown and the time taken are of no significance. The competing balloons are allowed a maximum volume of 1050 cubic meters (about 37’080 cubic feet). The pilot and co-pilot must be the same nationality and their country must also be a member of the FAI (Fédération Aéronautique Internationale). Each country may enter a maximum of 3 teams. The winning country has the right to stage the next-but-one race, normally 2 years later.

In 2011, the French team Sebastien Rolland and Vincent Leys won the race, with a flight of straight-line distance of 780 km from Gap, France, in Linz, Austria. This win allowed France to host the race in 2013, which will be based in Nancy. http://www.gordonbennett2011.org/

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