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Dating back more than 100 years, the Gordon Bennett race is the premier gas balloon distance race and attracts some of the most experienced and distinguished pilot teams from around the world. This legendary race is often compared to the America’s Cup Yacht Race for the endurance necessary to compete and win.

While the mission of the race is simple, executing that mission is anything but easy. The winning team is the one that flies the farthest distance from the launch site.

At the time of writing this post, there are only two teams left in this year’s amazing contest, and as they near the North Carolina coast, they will need to land soon to avoid a water landing disqualification.

This year marks the 5th time that the famed balloon race has been hosted at Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta. The race is famed as the world’s oldest gas balloon race, and possibly the oldest air race at all. The race generally happens every two years now, and with the French leading, it looks like the 2026 race will take place somewhere near Paris. With the storied history of this famed race being so intertwined with the Balloon Festival in Albuquerque,

History of the Gordon Bennett Cup

The first race took place in Paris, France in 1906. It ran annually most years (with the exception of WW1) but was suspended with the invasion of the host country Poland. It was only recovered in 1979 when a team of volunteer enthusiasts began the race again without being sanctioned. They ran the race four times before the governing body, the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI), would once again sanction the event.

The Gordon Bennett Cup Trophy

According to the organizers, the aim of the contest “is simple: to fly the furthest distance from the launch site while landing on solid land”.  This rule was tested once as a team in Europe came down the furthest from the origin but in the Bearing Sea, thus disqualifying their balloon.

When will the Gordon Bennett Cup return to Albuquerque?

Since the host country is determined by the most recent winner, it is likely that the Gordon Bennett Cup will not return to Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta again until at least 2027, assuming that the US team can win in 2025. That said, the Balloon Festival in Albuquerque will continue on.  This festival, which began with only 13 balloons in 1972, is now one of the premier ballooning events worldwide.  With the enthusiasm and engagement, the festival brings to the public, it is only a matter of time before another US team is inspired to take home the Gordon Bennett Cup again.