The Schneider Trophy Race was introduced in 1912 by Jacques Schneider, a French financier, balloonist and aircraft enthusiast. The race offered a prize of approximately £1,000 to the winner and the Schneider Trophy which is a sculpture of silver & bronze set on a marble base was held by the winning county during the following year.

The trophy depicts a zephyr skimming the waves, and a nude winged figure is seen kissing a zephyr recumbent on a breaking wave. The heads of two other zephyrs and of Neptune, the god of the Sea, can be seen surrounded by octopus and crabs. The symbolism represents speed conquering the elements of the sea and the air.

The Schneider Trophy should not be confused with an earlier event that was also promoted by Jacques Schneider in 1910, in France, which was the Schneider Cup.

Jacques Schneider was convinced that seaplanes would dominate the sky’s as the demand for civilian air travel increased. At that time no one had envisioned the advent of the land-based airports that we have today and since most major cities were near large bodies of water most thought that seaplanes were the answer.

It wasn’t long however before the race became a contest for pure speed and during the course of the life of the 12 races, the winning speed went from barely 45 MPH to over 340 MPH. Due to this increase in speed, the triangular race course was also increased in size from 280 km to 350 km.

The aircraft were usually launched at 15-minute intervals and would fly laps around the course and their speed was tracked and recorded by crews in boats which were staged at different points around the course.

The contest was held twelve times between 1913 and 1931 with no races being held from 1915 To 1919 because of World War I and was extremely popular with many of the races attracting crowds in excess of 250,000 spectators.

Each race was hosted by the country that won the previous year’s event and the races were supervised by the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale and the hosting country. Each country could enter up to three aircraft each of which could have one backup aircraft.

The rules of the contest stated that if the contest was won three times in five years by the same country the contest would be retired, and the trophy would remain in the possession of that county indefinitely. In addition, the winning pilot would receive 75,000 francs for each of the three wins. In 1931 the UK did just that with John Boothman’s win at Calshot Spit in his Supermarine S.6b at a speed of 340.08 mph (547.31 km/h). Today the Trophy is proudly displayed at the Science Museum, in South Kensington, London.

The races may have ended in 1931 but the advancements in aircraft design brought on by the Schneider Trophy, particularly in the fields of aerodynamics and engine development, would live on to play a significant role in the development of many of the very best fighters of World War II. Including the British Supermarine Spitfire, the American North American P-51 Mustang, and the Italian Macchi C.202 Folgore.

The Rolls-Royce R aircraft engine built by Rolls-Royce Limited was developed specifically for Schneider Trophy races held in England in 1929 and 1931 for use in the Supermarine S.6 and later the Supermarine S.6B.

The experience gained by Rolls-Royce and Supermarine from the R engine was invaluable in the subsequent development of the Rolls-Royce Merlin engine which powered both the British Supermarine Spitfire, and the American North American P-51 Mustang. Which of course both played major roles in World War I.

 

The races may have ended in 1931 but the advancements in aircraft design brought on by the Schneider Trophy, particularly in the fields of aerodynamics and engine development, would live on to play a significant role in the development of many of the very best fighters of World War II. Including the British Supermarine Spitfire, the American North American P-51 Mustang, and the Italian Macchi C.202 Folgore.

The Rolls-Royce R aircraft engine built by Rolls-Royce Limited was developed specifically for Schneider Trophy races held in England in 1929 and 1931 for use in the Supermarine S.6 and later the Supermarine S.6B.

The experience gained by Rolls-Royce and Supermarine from the R engine was invaluable in the subsequent development of the Rolls-Royce Merlin engine which powered both the British Supermarine Spitfire and the American North American P-51 Mustang. Which of course both played major roles in World War I.

Date Location Winning aircraft Nation Pilot Average speed
1913 Monaco Deperdussin Monocoque  France Maurice Prévost 73.56 km/h (45.71 mph)
1914 Monaco Sopwith Tabloid  United Kingdom Howard Pixton 139.74 km/h (86.83 mph)
1920 Venice, Italy Savoia S.12  Italy Luigi Bologna 172.6 km/h (107.2 mph)
1921 Venice, Italy Macchi M.7bis  Italy Giovanni de Briganti 189.66 km/h (117.85 mph)
1922 Naples, Italy Supermarine Sea Lion II  United Kingdom Henry Biard 234.51 km/h (145.72 mph)
1923 Cowes, United Kingdom Curtiss CR-3  United States David Rittenhouse 285.29 km/h (177.27 mph)
1925 Baltimore, United States Curtiss R3C-2  United States James Doolittle 374.28 km/h (232.57 mph)
1926 Hampton Roads, United States Macchi M.39  Italy Mario de Bernardi 396.69 km/h (246.49 mph)
1927 Venice, Italy Supermarine S.5  United Kingdom Sidney Webster 453.28 km/h (281.66 mph)
1929 Calshot Spit, United Kingdom Supermarine S.6  United Kingdom Richard Waghorn 528.89 km/h (328.64 mph)
1931 Calshot Spit, United Kingdom Supermarine S.6B  United Kingdom John Boothman 547.31 km/h (340.08 mph)