13th Coupe Aéronautique Gordon Bennett - Brussels (BEL) 1924

Belgium finally wins the Coupe

Start: Bruxelles-Solbosch, Sunday, June 15th         

From the Book: Die Gordon Bennett Ballon Rennen
(The Gordon Bennett Races) by Ulrich Hohmann Sr

Not only superstitious people looked forward to the race with the number 13 with sorrows. After the incidents the year before everybody hoped for better conditions, but some more wind could have been sent by the weather god.

Launch had been brought forward to June, obviously not to share the public interest with the VIII. Olympic Games, opened 20 days later in Paris an lasting until July 27th. (It became the games of Paavo Nurmi, winning five gold-medals and of Johnny Weissmüller, being successful twice in swimming.) Of both events German and Austrian competitors were still excluded, but at the 24 hours car racing of Monza one day before the launch of the Gordon Bennett Race, the only German participant, Hans Berthold won in a NAG racing- car with a new record distance of 2583 km.

The banning because of the incidents in the war 1914 to 1918 started to break up. One contribution to this may have been the close completion and afterwards the flight of LZ 126. With this Zeppelin Hugo Eckener started on October 12th 1924 for an Atlantic crossing to America. At the arrival at Lakehurst on October 15th the New Yorkers come in crowds to cheer this technical achievement. The newspapers in Berlin even told, that this transfer flight of the Zeppelin had helped Germany more that ten ambassadors. President of the USA, Coolidge writes in a message: "For me and the American people it is a great satisfaction, that peaceful relationships between Germany and America are fully restored and that this big airship has successfully completed the first direct flight between Germany and America." LZ 126 got the American registration ZRIII and later the name LOS ANGELES.

In the Gordon Bennett Race it would take another three years until German balloons were allowed to participate again. Among the 17 teams that had come to Bruxelles, Ernest Demuyter was considered to be the outstanding favourite, especially, because his sponsor, the newspaper ETOILE BELGE, or better its readers, had organised a brand new balloon for him by a fund raising. The envelope made from silk weighed 215 kg, the basket only 30 kg, that meant about 100 kg more ballast than the other competitors and therefore a much longer flight duration. Who would be able to keep up with this? Belgium was at the doorstep to the third victory in a series and finally winning the silver table top of James Gordon Bennett from the year 1906.

All of Bruxelles cheered its hero. 200.000 spectators had come to the launch field. They crossed fingers for Demuyter, and if he would not win (because a soldier again would not release the handling rope), there was still Veenstra/Quersin, who came second the year before. Labrousse/Dewandre were more outsiders, as pilot in command Labrousse had not reached more than the fourth rank till then.

Demuyter had chosen again his co-pilot from the year before, L. Coeckelbergh. This was a perfect crew, they flew together in a total of six races, and Coeckelbergh always kept in the second row.

The race turned out to be a slow motion flight. Not much could happen at this wind speed. One only had to choose the right direction, but the selection was wide. The Americans Peek/Gray tried it to the east, the Englishmen Baldwin/Grosvenor preferred south-south-east, four (Cormier, Labrousse, Grassi and Casas) flew to the south, and a van Orman tried to win distance to the north. Except Demuyter and the French Laporte all the others flew to southwest or west, where they gave up at the coast of the Channel after 21 to 35 hours. Veenstra/Quersin flew for more than 33 hours and covered 112 km, an average speed of 3,36 km/h! They landed at Oostende, which they could have reached by walking in the same time.

Gordon Bennett had fixed in his rules from 1905, that the directors of the race may order a duration flight instead of a distance flight before launch due to the weather situation. In 1924 this situation could have been given. But no Gordon Bennett Race had been flown according to this possible arrangement, always the distance flight was kept. It would not have changed anything for the Demuyters victory, only Veenstra could have reached 4th place.

French Laporte and Demuyter risked the jump across the Channel. Laporte landed after 33 hours and 18 minutes in the English bath Brighton, Demuyter flew for 10 hours longer. Now the lighter balloon allowing 100 kilograms more of ballast paid off. Demuyter tells about the flight in his book "Randonnées Victorieuses du Belgica".

Report Demuyter

So far the report of the winner of this flight Ernest Demuyter, with 714 km he had covered more than double the distance of the one on the second place. An impressing success! So Belgium got possession of the desirable trophy, the first nation with three victories in a row. The royal aero-club at once sponsored a new cup, so the Gordon Bennett Races could continue.

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Coupe Aéronautique Gordon Bennett

The Coupe Aéronautique Gordon Bennett is the most prestigious event in aviation and the ultimate challenge for the balloon pilots and their equipment.