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Encyclopedia > Schneider Cup

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.

  Results from FactBites:
The Major Trophy Races of the Golden Age of Air Racing (1621 words)
The Schneider Cup seaplane trophy, probably shortly after it was won by the U.S. Navy on September 18, 1923.
Schneider stipulated that if a nation won the trophy three times in a row, that country would become the race's overall permanent champion.
As the Schneider Trophy Race was coming to a close, a new contest was being born.
Libreria Gatti: Piccola Coppa Schneider (654 words)
Schneider Trophy was without a doubt, the technical and sporting event which characterized the world of aviation in the 1930’s.
Even thoug the Schneider Cup was eventually won by England, Italy still as the honor of holding the World Speed Record for seaplanes, at a speed of 709.209 Km/h or 440.075 Mph.
The Schneider Cup was exclusively for seaplane racers and the format was a pure speed contest around a triangular course.
  More results at FactBites »



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