Main Page | See live article | Alphabetical index

Schneider Trophy

The Schneider Trophy (or prize) for seaplanes was announced by Jacques Schneider, a financier and 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 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 1921 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 Americanss 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 James 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, UK Supermarine S.6 UK Henry Waghorn 528.89
1931 Calshot, 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 C202 Folgore, planes which comprehensively outperformed those built with air-cooled radial engines.

The trophy is at the Royal Aero Club in London.