From 7 to 16 September 2017, Gruyères will host the 61st Coupe Aéronautique Gordon Bennett, the oldest and most prestigious gas balloon race in the world.
In the idyllic setting of the Fribourg in the foothills of the alps, visitors will have the chance to witness the start of an internationally renowned competition and enjoy a public festival celebrating aerial sports. From 6 December 2016, people will also be able to learn about the history of the Gordon Bennett race at the Espace Ballon museum in Château-d’Oex.
The best balloonists in the world will gather at Gruyères in just over nine months’ time for the world’s oldest and most prestigious gas balloon race, the Coupe Aéronauique Gordon Bennett, the FAI World Long Distance Gas Balloon Championship. Organised by the Gordon Bennett Fribourg 2017 association, this unique event will put the canton of Fribourg in the international spotlight, showcasing the idyllic Gruyère countryside, the canton’s fast-paced economy and the vibrant traditions of the Fribourg region.
The 61st edition of the Coupe Aéronautique Gordon Bennett be held from 7 to 16 September 2017 at the airfield in Gruyères and will open with the gas balloon competition. The organisers are expecting to attract some 20 teams from around ten different countries. After the opening ceremony on the Thursday, the balloons will take off on the evening of Friday, 8 September followed by a sound and light show.
Over the weekend, the airfield will be home to a large festival celebrating aerial sports. Exhibitions and entertainment for young and old will enable visitors to learn about the different aerial sports, in particular gas and hot air balloons, airplanes, helicopters, gliders, and even aeromodelling. Another highlight will be the Swiss skydiving championships, which will be held at site from Thursday, 7 September to Sunday, 10 September 2017.
The people behind Fribourg’s famous “Bénichon” festival will also be part of the event as a catering partner, taking care of the food stalls and bars and allowing guests to sample local produce in a friendly and festive atmosphere. A range of musical entertainment will round off the event.
The Gordon Bennett 2017 will finish on Saturday, 16 September with the return of the teams to Gruyères and a gala ball. A jury including members from the USA, Japan, and Luxembourg will award the prizes to the winners. The idea of the race is simple: balloon pilots must take off and fly as far as they can, travelling throughout the day and overnight, before landing safely. For the past two years, the SUI 1 team, piloted by Kurt Frieden and Pascal Witprächtiger from Thurgau have been victorious, giving Switzerland and the canton of Fribourg the opportunity to organize the Gordon Bennett 2017.
To give a taste of this legendary race, the Espace Ballon museum in Château-d’Oex is putting on a temporary exhibition entitled “The Gordon Bennett 1906 – 2017.” Open to the public from 6 December 2016 until 13 March 2018, it will allow visitors to discover the fascinating world of gas ballooning. Videos, images, and large-format photos as well as numerous instruments and memorabilia plus educational and entertaining information will explain the huge human adventure that is the Gordon Bennett Cup, from the pioneers in the early 20th century to the extremely skilled multidisciplinary teams of today.