First built in 1913 when all speed records were held by monoplanes, the Sopwith Aviation Company’s triumphant Tabloid racer proved that a biplane could be first as well as robust. Originally a two-seat landplane powered by an 80-hp Gnome engine, the Tabloid’s performance proved so promising that Tom Sopwith decided to enter it for the 1914 Schneider Trophy seaplane race.
However, the necessary adaptations did not go smoothy. An initial seaplane version with a central float and stabilizing wingtip floats sank while taxying out to commence test flights. Back in the factory, a new twin-float undercarriage was devised by cutting the
central float in half; the wingtip floats were removed and a small tail float added. Fitted with a 100-hp Gnome engine, the aircraft proved itself a most successful seaplane racer. Piloted by Howard Pixton, it claimed Britain’s first Schneider Trophy victory at Monaco on 20 April, averaging 86.78mph over 28 laps. Pixton then set a new world seaplane speed record of 86.6mph over 186 miles.
Landplane and Seaplane versions of the Tabloid served with both the Royal Flying Corps and the Royal Naval Air service early in World War I as single-seat “seouls”.