More than a million spectators were cheering as RAF Flight
officer H.R.D. Waghorn set down his Supermarine S-6 in
southern England's Solent Channel on September 10, 1929.
Waghorn had just flown an average of 328 mph around the
triangular course to defeat his Italian rivals and capture
Britain's second straight Schneider Trophy win.
France, Italy and the U.S. had all won the Schneider trophy
in the past, as had Britain. But none of the four had
managed to win three out of five consecutive races, as
required for retiring the trophy. Now Britain stood within
reach of the elusive goal and, shortly after Waghorn's
victory, Prime Minister McDonald vowed that England would do
her level best to win the next race in 1931. But a few
months later, McDonald's Air Ministry stunned the Aero Club
of Britain -- sponsors of the country's Schneider Trophy
entries -- by announcing the government would give no
financial support to future Schneider trophy efforts.
Without this financial support, the Aero Club could not
develop a new racer to compete with heavily subsidized
French and Italian challengers expected in 1931.
The British public was outraged. Their country's prestige
was at stake. Soon several million pounds were raised to
support the home team. Disaster struck the Italian and
French teams. Mid-summer crashes claimed a top plane and top
pilot from each. Crippled by these losses, both countries
withdrew from the race a week before it was scheduled to be
run. On Sunday, September 13, 1931, RAF Lieutenant John
Boothman flew the S-6B, unopposed, over the Solent Channel
course at an average speed of 340 mph. With courage, skill
and a little bit of luck, England had retired the Schneider
Was it worth all the money, work and heartache to claim a
fairly ugly, now almost forgotten trophy? The British think
it was. Because five years after the 1931 race, Reginald J.
Mitchell introduced a new Rolls Royce powered interceptor
fighter incorporating many lessons he had learned designing
Schneider Trophy seaplanes. Someone gave Mitchell's fighter
a nickname, which stuck: "Spitfire."