The Gordon Bennett Cup (or Coupe Aéronautique Gordon Bennett) is the world’s oldest gas balloon race and is “regarded as the premier event of world balloon racing” according to the Los Angeles Times.
The first race started in Paris, France, on September 30, 1906. The event was sponsored by James Gordon Bennett Jr., the millionaire sportsman, and owner of the New York Herald newspaper. According to the organizers, the aim of the contest “is simple: to fly the furthest distance from the launch site.”
The contest ran from 1906 to 1938, interrupted by World War I and in 1931, but was suspended in 1939 when the hosts, Poland, were invaded at the start of World War II. The event was not resurrected until 1979, when American Tom Heinsheimer, an atmospheric physicist, gained permission from the holders to host the trophy. The competition was not officially reinstated by the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) until 1983.
According to the official rules, the competition is open to all National Aero Clubs (NACs) “who have met their obligations to the FAI”, with each NAC being allowed to enter up to three teams whose pilots are of the same nationality as the NAC. Before this, only two teams from any single NAC were permitted to compete in a single competition. Pilots should have at least 50 hours of experience as pilots in command and be authorized for night-time flying. At least one member of each team must be capable of communicating with Air Traffic Control in English.
The team who wins the contest receives the Coupe Aéronautique Gordon Bennett trophy and the team’s NAC will hold the contest two years later (originally the winning NAC would host the competition the following year). Any NAC winning the cup in three consecutive races will be the final holder of the cup with the subsequent option to offer a new cup.
According to Wikipedia