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Gordon Bennett Facts

Distance Record: At the 2005 Gordon Bennett in Albuquerque, Bob Berben and Benoit Simeons (Belgium) broke the distance record that was set in 1912.  Berben and Simeons flew a record 3400.39 KM (2112.9 miles).  2nd and 3rd place winners also broke the previous record.  2nd place, Eimer Wilhelm and Ulrich Seel (Germany) flew 2582.54 km (1604.71 mi) and 3rd place Christain Stoll and Walter Mattenberger (Switzerland) flew 2404.61 km (1494.15 mi). The 1912 record was set by winners Maurice Bienaimé and René Rumpelmayer, competing for France, flew 1,361 miles (2191 km).  Their countryman Alfred LeBlanc finished second, flying 1,243 miles (2001 km).

Duration Record: It’s a walk -- not even close.  In 1995, Wilhelm Eimers and Bernd Landsmann flew for a whopping 92 hr. 11. min in scoring their Gordon Bennett win - longer than it took to complete the first crossing of the Pacific!  That same year, Johann Furstner and Gerald Sturzlinger of Austria stayed aloft for 80 hours.  More typically, Gordon Bennett teams stay in the air for 50-65 hours.  In 2005 when Bob Berben and Benoit Simeons broke the distance record, their flight time was 64.39 hours.

Stick ‘em up! Several Gordon Bennett teams have had to explain themselves to the local gendarmes upon landing, most recently the Leys brothers in 2003.  After flying nearly 70 hours -- including 2½ days over the Atlantic Ocean -- they landed at Zambujeira do Mar in Portugal, only to be arrested.  (They won the race, though.)

Most tragic year: In the 1923 race, the balloons of three teams were hit by lightning; five of the six pilots aboard were killed.  In those days (and up until 1998), Gordon Bennett races were never postponed or cancelled because of the weather.

Biggest international incident (and another tragic year) In 1995, the race launched at Wil, Switzerland and several teams flew into the nations of the former Soviet Union.  The U.S. Virgin Islands team of Alan Fraenckel and John-Stuart Jervis were shot down and killed by the Belarus Air Force.  The Belarus armed forces also forced down the balloons of two American teams, J. Michael Wallace/Kevin Brielmann, and David Levin/Mark Sullivan.

Glub. In 2000, the German team of Thomas Hora and Volker Löschhorn launched in Belgium and stayed aloft for 53 hours before being forced to ditch in the North Sea.  They were not injured, but suffered the indignity of receiving no result because, under the Gordon Bennett rules, balloons must land on dry land.

Countries Hosting the Gordon Bennett

  • USA - 13*
  • Belgium - 8
  • France - 7**
  • Austria - 7
  • Germany - 6
  • Switzerland - 6
  • Poland - 3

*  Includes 2005
**Cancelled in 1998 due to weather

Pilots winning the Gordon Bennett Three or More Times

Austria’s Josef Starkbaum and Belgium’s Ernest Demuyter are the undisputed Kings of the Gordon Bennett.  Only five pilots have won the race more than twice:

PilotYearsNumber of WinsCo-pilot

Josef Starkbaum, Austria

1985-90, 1993

7

Six of the 7 wins were with the same co-pilot, Gert Scholz, the seventh (1993) with Rainer Rohsler

Ernest Demuyter, Belgium

1920, 1922-24, 1936-37

6

Demuyter flew with four different co-pilots in achieving his six wins

Vincent Leys, France

1997, 2001-03

4

Jean-François Leys, his brother

Wilhelm Eimers. Germany

1995-96, 2000

3

Bernd Landsmann

Ward T. Van Orman, USA

1926, 1929-30

3

Walter Morton, A.L. McCracken

Women in the Coupe Gordon Bennett

The first woman to fly in the Gordon Bennett was Mme. Gustave Goldschmidt, co-pilot to Renee Rumpelmayer of France. (They finished 6th.)  It was not until 1984 that an all-female crew competed in the race.  That year, the late Nikki Caplan flew to an 11th place finish with co-pilot Jane C. Buckless.

But it was not until last year -- 2004 -- that a woman won the race -- co-pilot Carol Rymer Davis of the USA, who competed with pilot Richard Abruzzo.  It is the latest of many ballooning achievements for Rymer Davis, who holds the world altitude record for class AX-5 balloons (900-1,200 cubic meters).  She has twice been awarded the Montgolfier Diploma, one of ballooning’s most prestigous honors.

Other women have come close to Gordon Bennett glory.  The last time the race was held in Albuquerque (1999), Danielle Francoeur of Canada, flying with Leo Burman, finished second to Philipe de Cock of Belgium.

In recent years, many women have competed in the major events (Gordon Bennett, World Championships, World Air Games, and America’s Challenge).  One of the most successful is Astrid Gerhardt of Germany, whose team won the most recent World Air Games and finished second in the most recent World Gas Balloon Championships.  Other well-known female competitors are Lesley Pritchard, Janet Folkes, Barbara Fricke, Ruth Wilson, Judy Lynne, Jenny Houghton, Tami Stevenson-Bradley, Marsha Lambertson, and Ruth Lind.  In 2005, women made another great step within the Coupe Gordon Bennett, Pat Brake became the first women to direct the event.

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