The Schneider Trophy (or prize or cup) for seaplanes was announced by Jacques Schneider, a financier, balloonist and aircraft enthusiast, in 1911 with a prize of roughly £1,000. It was meant to encourage technical advances in civil aviation but became a contest for pure speed with laps over a triangular course (initially 280 km, later 350 km). The races were very popular and some of them attracted crowds of over 200,000 spectators.
The official name of the prize, in French, was "Coupe d'Aviation Maritime Jacques Schneider". If an aero club won three races in five years they would retain the cup and the winning pilot would receive 75,000 francs. Each race was hosted by the previous winning country. The races were supervised by the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale and the Aero Club in the hosting country. Each club could enter up to three competitors with an equal number of alternates.
After 1921, an additional requirement was added: the winning seaplane had to remain moored to a buoy for six hours without human intervention.
The trophy was first competed for on April 16, 1913, at Monaco and won by a French Deperdussin at an average speed of 45.75 mph (about 73 km/h).
The British won in 1914 with a Sopwith Tabloid at 86.6 mph (about 139 km/h).
The competition resumed in 1919 at Bournemouth where in foggy conditions the Italian team won. They were later disqualified and the race was voided.
In 1920 and 1921 at Venice the Italians won - in 1920 no other nation entered and in 1921 the only non-Italian entry did not start.
In 1922 in Naples the British and French competed with the Italians and the British private entry won.
The 1923 trophy, contested at Cowes, went to the Americans with a sleek, liquid-cooled engined craft designed by Glenn Curtiss.
In 1924 there was no competition as no other nation turned out to face the Americans - the Italians and the French withdrew and both British craft crashed in pre-race trials.
In 1925 at Chesapeake Bay the Americans won again, the British challenger (R.J. Mitchell's Supermarine S4) and the Italians soundly beaten by pilot Jimmy Doolittle.
In 1926 the Italians returned with a Macchi M39 and won against the Americans with a 246 mph (about 394 km/h) run.
In 1927 for Venice there was a strong British entry with government backing and RAF pilots (the High Speed Flight) for Mitchell, Gloster and Shorts. Supermarine's Mitchell designed S5s came first and second. 1927 was the last annual competition, the event then moving onto a biannual schedule to allow for more development time.
In 1929, at Cowes, Supermarine won again with a new Rolls-Royce engine with a average speed of 328.63 mph (about 526 km/h).
In 1931 the British government withdrew support but a private donation of £100,000 from Lady Lucy Houston allowed Supermarine to compete and win on September 13 against only British opposition, setting both a new world speed record (379 mph, about 606 km/h) and winning the trophy outright with three straight wins.
|Date ||Location ||Winning Aircraft ||Nationality ||Pilot ||Speed (km/h) |
|1913 ||Monaco ||Deperdussin ||France ||Maurice Prevost || 73.56 |
|1914 ||Monaco ||Sopwith Tabloid ||UK ||Howard Pixton ||139.74 |
|1920 ||Venice, Italy ||Savoia S.12 ||Italy ||Luigi Bologna ||170.54 |
|1921 ||Venice, Italy ||Macchi M.7bis ||Italy ||Giovanni de Briganti ||189.66 |
|1922 ||Naples, Italy ||Supermarine Sea Lion II ||UK ||Henri Biard ||234.51 |
|1923 ||Cowes, UK ||Curtiss CR-3 ||USA ||David Rittenhouse ||285.29 |
|1925 ||Baltimore, USA ||Curtiss F3C-2 ||USA ||James Doolittle ||374.28 |
|1926 ||Hampton Roads, USA ||Macchi M.39 ||Italy ||Mario Bernardi ||396.69 |
|1927 ||Venice, Italy ||Supermarine S.5 ||UK ||Sidney Webster ||453.28 |
|1929 ||Calshot Spit, UK ||Supermarine S.6 ||UK ||Henry Waghorn ||528.89 |
|1931 ||Calshot Spit, UK ||Supermarine S.6B ||UK ||John Boothman ||547.31 |
The race was very significant in advancing aeroplane design, particular in the fields of aerodynamics and engine design, and would show its results in the best fighters of WW2. The streamlined shape and the low drag, liquid-cooled engine are obvious in the British Supermarine Spitfire, the American P-51 Mustang and the Italian Macchi C.202 Folgore, planes which comprehensively outperformed those built with air-cooled radial engines. During the actual conflict new high power radial engines made a significant come-back, powering many of the major designs and proving that in piston-engined aircraft brute horse-power was the key decider in performance rather than streamlining.
The trophy is at the Royal Aero Club in London.