From the Chairman’s Desk - Chapter 32 - Planning

Firstly I would like to thank all those who emailed their support of the Council members. It has inspired us to work harder for the benefit of the whole club.

The Racing season is over but the Recreational one carries on. Russ Pullen and fellow members are still planning various explorations of estuaries and rivers so any one who would like to join them is welcome.

We are also in the early planning stages of hosting the Hovercraft World Championships in England in 2016. Keith Oakley has written a short piece at the end of this report about those plans. Soon there will be a request for volunteers to help the club make those plans a reality. This hovercraft club is now at over 630 members and still growing and I am sure that we collectively have the skills to create a truly memorable event.

One key element of all this will be the funding. I would love to see us able to invite members of the hovercraft community from around the globe to come and join us in 2016 and for them to be able to afford to come. Sponsorship is hard to raise, so I have started investigating elements such as the television rights etc as a possible source of revenue. Over the next racing season I would like to see a lot more members of the public coming and paying to watch the club at play. I believe that this can be vastly improved for the benefit of the whole club and still have enough money for local branch requirements.

Martin Webster of Somerset and Avon scouts has just collected two hulls for them to build two hovercraft. Keith Smallwood has kindly offered to mentor their builds and I look forward to seeing new faces enjoying the use of their machines at various events next year. Schools/Youth Groups have been a constant supply of new members of this club and need encouraging.

In the North West we have a great race venue at Charlie Peach’s farm but the local branch that helps organise the event, as well as have some fun at the summer meetings on the site, seems to be diminishing (and aging). We need to actively encourage new members to come and have some fun.

In the North East, we have an emerging club branch with Phil Hall and Francis Morales spearheading a new racing venue close to Harrogate. Phil and Fran would welcome any support from local members. I have seen their proposed site (next to the A1) and it will be great for racing as well as spectators.

At Cullompton there is a group of families who were associated with the College when the hovercraft were based there. The college no longer supports their students in this non-curriculum activity and these families would like to continue as club members. If any one in the South West can aid them in this endeavour, please contact me.

Just before the Towcester race event, there was a meeting of the Hovercraft Manufacturers Association. John Gifford (Chairman) and Russ Pullen (Secretary) are leading this group through the complexity of hovercraft regulation changes with the Marine and Coastal Agency. I understand that the new Hovercraft Code is now on its ninth draft. Part of this Code (change) directly affects users of light and ultra-light hovercraft (this club). The resulting final draft will help us formulate a modern version of the club’s recreational hovercraft construction guidelines.

There is a meeting of the European Hovercraft Federation near Paris at the end of this month where discussions about their race series and plans for next year will take place. The club is represented by Conrad Beale with Jamie Lewendon going as the EHF Secretary. If you have any comments/points for them to make, please contact them.

For the Racing craft owners, there are just seven months left until the first race of next season. For the Recreational craft members go and use your craft as often as you can!

This club is its members. Please support them.

Chris Daly



From Kevin Foster (Chairman Competitions Committee)

As another hectic and highly successful racing season comes to a close, the Competitions Committee's thoughts turn to the 2015 race season. We will be holding a meeting of the Committee in November to review the season just gone; to see if there is anything we can learn from it - things that might need to be changed, things that went well on a particular event that other organisers might benefit from, and also to review the Race Regulations. This is your opportunity to have your say too, so if you have any proposals for the Committee to consider, please email them to chairman.competitions@hovercraft.org.uk by the end of October.

The race calendar for 2015 is filling up quickly. Five new venues have been looked at by various members and it looks like at least three new sites will feature for 2015. Expect to see eight or nine UK race events next year if everything goes to plan. Would event organisers please submit their budgets for 2015 to me by the end of October if possible, so that we can set the budget and announce the race entry fees for 2015 as early as possible?

As you may know, nine of the Committee are elected members and are voted on at the AGM. Every year at least three members stand down and may stand for re-election, but other candidates are always welcome to stand for election. New candidates should put their names forward by the closing date of 30th November so that their names can be circulated to the membership by the AGM.

Thanks & regards.

Kevin Foster


From Keith Oakley, Celebrating our 50th – Plan B

Earlier this year it was suggested we should celebrate our club’s 50th anniversary in 2016 with a festival of activities that celebrated all the different things we have done over the last half century – racing, cruising, schools etc. I suggested that it could be held at the Hop Farm in Kent from where we could go cruising on past stamping grounds like the Thames in Central London and explore the mud of the Medway Estuary leading up to a 5 day World Championships at the end of the fortnight. By holding it in the last 2 weeks in July 2016 it would fit with school holidays in UK, Europe and the US. The Hop Farm has a permanent caravan site which might be useful for visitors from N America and Australia and is close to London for family tourism.

The Hop Farm management were keen, suggesting we use a 20 acre part of their 500 acre site that had previously been used for mock battles and could now be re-landscaped for our use. Although the site has direct access to the River Medway for cruisers it could not form part of the racecourse and we needed to build 3 small ponds to create an amphibious course. We submitted a plan of our proposals to the Hop Farm in early June and awaited their response. And then we waited, and waited. Urging emails, and telephone enquiries got nowhere until finally in mid September Chris Barlow literally door stepped them until he got in. A meeting then followed where we reiterated our proposals in response to their invitation and finally at the end of September we received their response – a quote for £8k for earthworks (which experts we had contacted suggested would cost a quarter of that) and £5k for a weekend National in 2015. The latter is considerably higher than any other site we use and presumably a 10-14 day event in 2016 would be still higher. Such high costs could only be met if we had a very significant sponsor for both a National in 2015 and a Festival/Worlds in 2016, which is unrealistic. The complete failure of the Hop Farm to communicate with us for 3 critical months is also not encouraging.

I believe the Festival idea celebrating all our activities in a fortnight is still worth pursuing for 2016 – so what’s plan B? Chris Daly has negotiated with a water sports site at Tamworth, just north of Birmingham, which has 3 large lakes, plenty of grass, good camping and ‘evening do’ facilities at a site fee just over 10% of the Hop Farm, and has cooperative management. It is a good site for both a National in 2015 and a Worlds in 2016. Russ Pullen has enrolled the SE Branch in the Medway and Swale Boat Owners Association and we aim to locate a waterside campsite in the Lower Medway area where we can continue with the cruising components of the Festival. Having the Festival split over 2 sites 150 miles apart is less than ideal and it looses some of the attraction to overseas visitors of being close to London. But on the upside the proposed events are more likely to be affordable without heavy sponsorship, which is always welcome but uncertain, and being spread geographically can draw in more members to help organize them. Thus Plan B is more realistically achievable with the resources we have.

Let’s get on with planning our 50th.

Keith Oakley