About the Gordon Bennett Race..
Long before men have tried to fly around the world in a balloon, balloon pilots have tried to capture the oldest and most prestigious prize in aviation, the Coupe Gordon Bennett. Also known as the Gordon Bennett Cup, the goal of this age-old competition is to fly the farthest distance from the launch site.
Adventurer and newspaper tycoon Gordon Bennett initiated this timeless challenge. He sponsored an annual auto race, airplane races and even co-funded Stanley's expedition to Africa to find Livingston. In 1906 he inaugurated his International balloon race from the Tuileries Gardens in Paris, France before a crowd of 200-hundred thousand. The first winner of the event was an American, Lieutenant Frank P. Lahm. He and his co-pilot flew more than 400 miles to the northeast coast of England.
The second race in 1907 from Saint Louis drew 300-thousand spectators. By 1909, it was 400 thousand spectators in Paris again. Each year, special airmail and other commemorative items were carried. Pilots struggled to stretch their journeys farther. In 1908, the Swiss winners set a world duration record for small gas sport balloons of 73 hours aloft. That record that would stand for 87 years and not be broken until 1995 when another Gordon Bennett team led by Wilhelm Elmers would raise the bar to 92 hours
Over the past two decades, the race has moved from country to country, where traditionally, the winning country hosts the next year's competition.
Each country is allowed to enter their three best balloon teams. Everyone has to use the same lifting gas and similar balloons. Only two balloon pilots can be on board each balloon Once airborne each team tries to fly farther than any other team, non-stop through days and nights, dodging storms and fighting fatigue. The winners are declared as the best balloon pilots in the world.