Royal Aero Club - Blog

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Schneider "Shambles"
In 1914, Howard Pixton had won the Schneider Trophy for Britain and the Royal Aero Club, who then became the hosts for the next contest. However, the outbreak of the War curtailed all sporting events and it was not until the summer of 1919 that it was possible to schedule Britain’s defence of the trophy. The Club selected Bournemouth Bay (below) as the venue and entries were received from both Italy and France. The contest was held on 10 September 1919 – 100 years’ ago today - but was soon reduced to a shambles: a lack of proper facilities for the aircraft onshore; a pebble-strewn beach; poor communication from the Club’s headquarters on a yacht offshore; and a fog bank offshore that persisted all day. Those aircraft that attempted to fly the course soon lost their way. One sank after alighting to establish its location and hitting a submerged object. Although the Italian entry, a Savoia S-13 flown by Guido Janello (above), appeared to have completed all the laps, it transpired he had missed a turn marker, on a boat moored in the thick fog in Swanage Bay, and had been mistakenly turning around a similar vessel nearby. The F.A.I. declared the contest null and void, but designated Italy as the host country for the next contest. The Royal Aero Club was heavily criticised by the teams and in the press for its poor organisation. As Flight reported “It cannot be said that the Schneider ‘Race’ at Bournemouth was a success. In fact, in modern slang, it would undoubtedly be termed a ‘wash-out’”. Having been wined and dined on the Club’s yacht, C. G. Grey in The Aeroplane commented “The Committee of the Royal Aero Club may not be great as organisers of flying events, but it certainly is astonishingly competent in arranging for the social side of aviation”. It was an error that the Club would not repeat in subsequent events.