Hot air balloon race to launch from Gloucestershire Airport

A rare spectacle is taking place in the county in 2023, when a fleet of hot air balloons launch from Gloucestershire Airport to compete for one of the oldest prizes in aviation, The Queen’s Cup.

By Andrew Merrell  |  Published
Air balloons, their pilots and crews are heading for Gloucestershire this October 2023, to compete for one of aviation's oldest trophies.

Balloonists from across the UK are due to ascend from Gloucestershire Airport this October 2023 to compete for what organisers call the oldest and most prestigious sporting trophy in the UK – The Queen’s Cup.

Competitors have vied for the trophy since 1719, with the honour of organising the annual event entrusted to the Royal Aero Club (RAC) in 2010 by its then patron, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II - who received the trophy as a wedding gift in 1947.

Made of Irish silver, the prize bears the Royal Arms on one side and the inscription ‘The Queen’s Air Race Challenge Cup’ on the other, with each year seeing a different challenge put forward by RAC member associations, which include the British Aerobatic Association, British Model Flying Association, Helicopter Club of Great Britain, and British Skydiving.

For 2023, it has selected the British Balloon and Airship Club (BBAC) to host the event and has picked the Staverton venue, between Cheltenham and Gloucester, as the starting point of what promises to be a memorable race.

Karen Taylor, Gloucestershire Airport’s managing director, said: ‘It’s a great honour to have been chosen to host the 2023 Queen’s Cup hot air balloon race.

‘We’re currently working closely with the event organisers to confirm all necessary details and plan how we’ll deliver the event.’

Stephanie Hemmings, chair of The Queen’s Cup for BBAC, said: ‘We have a great range of balloonists entering the event, so it will be very interesting to see how each adopt different tactics.’

Competition balloonists and their crews will launch from the airport’s recently refurbished main runway at dawn on a Saturday morning in October, with the date yet to be announced, heading off ‘wherever the winds will steer them’.

The winner will be the crew that touches down furthest away from the airport in a straight line on the Sunday evening.

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