Supermarine S-6B

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 Trophy.

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."