HISTORY OF THE RACE
What Has Happened in 18 Years.
THE history of the race for the trophy given by the late Jacques Schneider goes back eighteen years. The first contest was held in 1913 at Monaco over a course measuring 150 miles. The winner proved to be Prevost, one of the French entries with a Deperdussin monoplane, powered with a Gnome rotary engine of 160 h.p., and his speed was 45.75 m.p.h.
Under the rules, it is laid down that the country which wins the contest has the right to propose the venue for the race in the following year, and thus it came about that the second event was again staged at Monaco, with the Aero Club de France as the organisers. By 1914 considerable progress had been made in the development of seaplanes, and the entries became international in character. Besides the French, there were representatives from England, Switzerland, Germany and America. But various misfortunes befell sundry competitors, engine trouble and crashes putting several out of the running. But Great Britain did extremely well, and lifted the trophy with a speed of 86.8 m.p.h.—an immense improvement on Prevost’s performance in the previous year. The machine was a little Sopwith biplane, powered with a 100 h.p. Gnome, and the pilot was Mr. Howard Pixton who, incidentally, is still in our midst as a ground engineer at a flying club in the South of England.
The 1919 Fiasco.
Four months after our victory at Monaco the War broke out, and so the contest was suspended until 1919. The first post-War Schneider took place at Bournemouth, but although good support was given to the event, bad organisation and unfavourable weather reduced this third contest to a fiasco. On the appointed day, 16th September—a thick fog enveloped the course, and it was not until late in the afternoon that the officials decided to let the competitors start. The British entry numbered four, these being a Sopwith seaplane (“Jupiter” engine), a Supermarine flying boat (Napier ” Lion ” engine), a Fairey seaplane (” Lion” engine), and an Avro seaplane (B.HP. ” Puma” engine). The pilots of these machines respectively were, the late Harry Hawker, Squadron-Commander Hobbs, Lieut-Colonel Nicholl, and Captain Harramersley. Our rivals were three
Frenchmen, i.e., Sadi Lecointe, who flew a Spad, Casale and Malard (N:euports), and Janello, the Italian who piloted a very neat little Savoia flying boat.
No sooner had the competitors taken off, however, than the visibility became impossible again, and all save Jauello retired—and though he completed the course, he was not observed at one of the turning points. There was nothing for it, therefore, but to declare the whole affair void. The lamentable state of affairs of 1919 was nearly repeated in the following year, for neither Britain or France competed and but one solitary machine—a Savoia flying boat put in an appearance ! Never
theless the pilot Bologna was allowed to fly the course all on his own, and he thus secured the trophy, with a speed of 107 m.p.h.
The 1921 race was a mediocre event in which only the Italians took part, for the British aircraft industry at that time was very nearly extinct and could not afford to construct and enter special craft ; Sadi Lecointe who was to have flown a Nieuport, crashed before the race. The Italians too had their share of ill luck, for one ‘plane caught fire and another ran out of petrol, leaving the sole survivorBriganti (Macchi flying boat) to win at 111 m.p.h.
The Second British Win. had to contest but
Italy had now to win the contest but once again to retain the trophy for good, and this fact probably prompted the Supermarine concern to make a special effort in 1922. And so they built a flying boat specially for the occasion ; this was a single bay biplane fitted with a Napier ” Lion ” engine. Considerable secrecy was maintained over this craft, and when it ultimately got the trophy back to Britain again, our friends the Italians were considerably surprised.
The machine was flown by Captain H. C. Biard, test pilot to the Supermarine Company, and his speed was 145 m.p.h.
It seems inevitable that there should be last minute withdrawals and misfortunes before the Schneider is run each year, and this happened in 1922, for although France intended to compete with two new type seaplanes, these were not finished in time, so that there were only three machines competing, Biard’s Supermarine, Passaleva in a Macchi, and Zanetti in a Savoia.
Biard’s success gave us the chance of seeing the race fought out over British waters again, and the Royal Aero Club arranged a course off Cowes. Much better support was forthcoming in 1923, and the Americans came over with two NavyCurtiss biplanes and a T.R.3, the French entered a C.A.M.S. flying boat, a Latham, and a Blanchard seaplane, while British hopes rested with a Supermarine flying boat and a Blackburn ” Pellet ” flying boat. Out of this total of eight, only four actually competed, however, the others being eliminated for various reasons during the preliminary trials. The weather conditions fortunately, were ideal, and with three nations competing, public interest was very keen. It was apparent from the outset that the Americans were very formidable indeed, for besides being very fast on the level they were extremely manoeuvrea.ble and rounded the turning points in very tight banks. Moreover their chances were increased by having two ‘planes in action as against France’s solitary C.A.M.S. and the British Supermarine. On the second lap the French machine retired, and in the end Lieut. Rittenhouse came home the winner in his Navy-Curtiss with an average speed
of 177.38 m.p-h. His team mate, Lieut. Irvine was second in a similar machine, at 173 m.p.h. and Biard finished at 151 m.p.h. These Navy-Curtiss machines were small single bay biplanes with Curtiss water-cooled engines 500 h.p.
As most readers know, four years were to elapse before Britain had a “look in” again in this great contest of the air, which by this time had left all other sporting events far behind in the matter of sheer speed, and while British aircraft manufacturers and their pilots tried hard to regain the trophy, we had to give best to both Italy and U.S.A. until 1927.
After the U.S. victory in 1923, the race was not held until 1925. In that year the course was arranged at Bay Shore Park, Baltimore, and altogether seven machines were entered—two British, three American, and two Italian. The necessity for more speed resulted in all the craft being more powerfully engined and much more attention was given to streamlining. For the first time the English entry comprised solely of seaplanes—one being the Gloster Napier III biplane and the other the Supermarine-Napier 8.4. The former was a development of the famous Gloster ” Darnel,” with which Mr. ” Jimmy” James was so successful in various speed events, and the Supermarine was a cantilever “middle-wing” monoplane. The Italian challenger was a Macchi monoplane flying boat, powered with a Curtiss engine, and the American defenders were all Curtiss biplanes.
Our Bad Luck at Baltimore.
If we had not had our share of bad luck in previous Schneider contests, we certainly received it at Baltimore. Our team in the first place suffered in the week before the race with severe influenza colds, and they were by no means fit. Then it was discovered that the propellers for the machines were unsuitable. And finally during the preliminary trials Captain Biard crashed on the new Supermarine. So on the day of the race, Captain H. Broad on the Gloster was the sole British challenger, and against the speedy Americans he had no chance. The wonderful performance of the victor—Lieut. Doolittle—will long be remembered, for his average speed was 232.5 m.p.h. Broad came second with a speed of 199 m.p.h. and the Italian, de Briganti third at 168 m.p.h. With so great an increase over previous winning speeds it seemed extremely probable that the Americans would retain the trophy in the following year, but a strong Italian team took it back in 1926, only to be beaten by our own team of
pilots in 1927. There was no race in 1928, and of the High Speed Flight’s achievement in the following year little need be said, for the 1929 Contest is still fresh in our minds.
What the result will be this month no one can tell, but it is certain that the 12th Schneider Trophy will be a tremendously swift affair.