Schneider Trophy 1931

The twelfth and final race of the Schneider Trophy was held at Calshot in Hampshire on Sunday 13, 1931, where it was yet again won by the British, albeit they were uncontested winners. John Boothman in Supermarine S.6B was the winner, with an average speed of 340.08 mph.

In 1931 the Schneider Trophy contest was once again held in England. The race circuit was planned to take place in a triangular route across the Solent. The contestants were based at Calshot, just as they had been at the previous 1929 race. 

It was anticipated to be a highly competitive event, with not just the Supermarine S.6B on the British line-up, but also a strong French presence. The French had specially designed Bernard HV.40, HV.42, HV.220, Dewoitine et Nieuport planes for the Schneider Trophy, to go up against the Supermarine racing plane designed by R.J. Mitchell. The S.6 had won the 1929 race, but was re-designed as the Supermarine S.6B with a more powerful version of the R engine.

supermarine s6 n248 calshot
Supermarine S6 N248 would be one of the British entrants at Calshot Spit.

However, the 1931 Schneider Trophy was not to be the competitive race that onlookers might have been expecting to witness. The French entrants had to cancel their participation due to engine development problems. The Italian entry also withdrew as they would not be ready in time for the race that was scheduled for Saturday September 12, 1931. Both countries had also lost their primary race aircraft and best pilots in the lead up to the event. Subsequent requests by the French and Italians to have the race rescheduled were refused by the British Royal Aero Club. 

supermarine s6 at Calshot in 1931
The three British Supermarine aircraft at Calshot. L to R: S1596, N248, S1595.

The 1931 Schneider Trophy might not have happened at all if it wasn’t for the intervention of Lady Houston, a British philanthropist, political activist, and suffragist. She donated a huge sum of £100,000 to finance the project after the Air Ministry pulled funding for the event. In 2024 money, Houston’s donation equates to around eight and a half million pounds. 

The day of the race was scheduled for Saturday September 12. However, owing to bad weather, the event was delayed for twenty fours until Sunday the 13th of September 1931 where visibility was good, and the sea was calm. 

The British team consisted of Lieutenant J.N. Boothman, F.W. Long, and officer L.S. Snaith. Each went out separately in their planes at set intervals on time trials. There were reportedly half a million spectators lining the beachfronts around the Solent. 

Schneider trophy course 1931
The race circuit and course for the 1931 event.

The race circuit itself was in a triangular shape of just over 31 miles (50 kilometres). Each pilot had to make seven circuits of the course, with all left-hand turns, for a total distance of 350 kilometres (217.48 miles). The start and finish was off Ryde (Isle of Wight), and the turning points being NE of Cowes (Isle of Wight) and at West Wittering (Sussex).

Boothman, flying Supermarine S.6B (S1595) flew the course with an average speed of 340mph, and captured the third victory for Great Britain. The rules stated that if one country won three Schneider Trophy races then they would keep the trophy.

supermarine S6.B trophy winner at Calshot
The Supermarine S6.B S1595 trophy winner at Calshot
Race numberReg.A/C typePilotAv. speed
2S1595Supermarine S.6BBoothman340.1 mph
4N248Supermarine S.6
7S1596Supermarine S.6B

Despite the race being uncontested, the Schneider Trophy was permanently awarded to Great Britain after this twelfth and final race.

The Schneider Trophy is now kept in the Science Museum in London. It was donated to the museum in 1977. It is currently on display in the Flight Gallery.