Hovercraft Events / News / Information
The Official Newsletter of the World Hovercraft Organization
September 2004 - In this issue:
- Announcement: Cancellation of HoverWorld
- Hoosier Hovercraft Championship
- Interview with Robert Hodson, Trans-American
Cancellation of HoverWorld Expo 2004
With great regret, we must inform you that the National Capital
Authority in Canberra has recently declined the opportunity to stage
HoverWorld Expo 2004.
Despite the wholehearted best efforts of the World Hovercraft Organization,
the Australian Hovercraft Federation, and the entire HoverWorld
Expo organizing team, the National Capital Authority in Canberra
has "withdrawn its support for the HoverWorld Expo 2004 event
on Lake Burley Griffin." In addition, Australian Capital Tourism
believes that the tourism benefits of HoverWorld Expo 2004 would
not be significant enough for it to receive support through their
Events Assistance Program.
After four years of planning - and a massive investment of man-hours
and funds - we certainly share in your disappointment. As Australian
citizens, we are sincerely aggrieved at the loss of this opportunity
for Canberra and all Australians to celebrate the 40th anniversary
of a genuine historic first: the World's First Hovercraft Race,
staged in Canberra in 1964.
Sadly, many nations will share this disappointment. Groups from
throughout the world have registered to attend HoverWorld Expo 2004,
including teams from Australia, New Zealand, Malaysia, Sweden, Nigeria,
Canada, the United States and the United Kingdom.
Although Canberra officials were initially responsive to bringing
HoverWorld Expo to their city, and provided much assistance in the
planning process, the extensive regulatory process in Canberra ultimately
proved to be insurmountable and cost-prohibitive for the not-for-profit
Australian Hovercraft Federation and the World Hovercraft Organization.
As disheartening as it may be to all of us that the event has been
canceled, it is perhaps the best alternative, given that the enormous
number of ever-increasing regulations with which we were expected
to comply would, at best, severely limit the scope of activities
offered to participants and, at worst, subject HoverWorld Expo 2004
to being closed at any time during the event.
More than two months ago we appealed to the various governmental
agencies in Canberra to grant some minor concessions and assistance
with the regulatory and approval processes that would allow HoverWorld
Expo to take place. Upon no response from the twenty-five individuals
contacted, and after several repeated appeals, we received the National
Capital Authority's kindly, but final, withdrawal of approval in
a letter dated September 1, 2004.
It is our deepest and most sincere regret if this decision has
caused any hardship or loss to you.
So that the cancellation of HoverWorld Expo 2004 does not leave
you entirely without an opportunity to celebrate the 40th Anniversary
of the World's First Hovercraft Race, the Australian Hovercraft
Federation is working to organize a cruise on the famous Murray
River downstream from Albury Wodonga, December 28, 2004. Details
will be available to you soon on WorldHovercraft.org, and in future
issues of HoverWorld Insider.
Please be assured that the World Hovercraft Organization will stage
events in the future, in locations that will allow for us to create
events as enjoyable as World Hovercraft Week 2002 in Terre Haute,
Indiana. In addition, you can anticipate a new venue of events being
planned in conjunction with DiscoverHover, our international school
Chairman, World Hovercraft Organization
President, Australian Hovercraft Federation
The Hoverclub of America invites you to this year's very special
Hoosier Hovercraft Championship, Friday-Sunday, 15-17 October 2004
on Lazy L Lake in West Terre Haute, Indiana USA. The Hoosier Championship
will be the first official points event of the Hoverclub's 2004/2005
US racing season.
Terre Haute has long been a hub of hovercraft activity in the United
States, the birthplace of the Hoverclub of America, and was the
host city of World Hovercraft Week 2002, during which Mayor Judy
Anderson appropriately re-named the city "Hover Haute, Indiana."
The World Hovercraft Organization and its international school hovercraft
program, DiscoverHover, as well as Neoteric Hovercraft, Inc. are
all based in Terre Haute.
If you have never attended a hovercraft event, this is one you
won't want to miss! Besides the racing action and the chance to
meet hovercrafters from throughout the US and Canada, this year's
Hoosier Championship will offer several special attractions:
Endurance Racing: Open to students and novices!
Based on handicapping, endurance racing opens the field for students
and novices to compete alongside experienced hovercraft racers.
Several school teams have already indicated their intention to compete
in the Hoosier Championship Endurance Race, many of them participants
in the DiscoverHover program or the Hoverclub's Youth Program. Cecil
Scalf, Hoverclub of America Inc. Chief Marshall, has asked for all
drivers to pre-register. This will assist with executing a safe
program. Please email Cecil at firstname.lastname@example.org
giving the number of hovercraft, team members, and what races you
wish to enter.
Start of the 2003 Hoosier
Hovercraft Endurance Race, Terre Haute, Indiana
Bob Windt and Bill Zang of Universal Hovercraft will participate
in a WIG (wing-in-ground effect) race, as a trial run/evaluation
for the World's First WIG Hovercraft Race, now being planned by
the World Hovercraft Organization. There will also be a pre-race
WIG demonstration. If you've never seen a WIG craft in action, this
is a definite must-see!
|First ever evaluation
of WIG racing, will be staged by Bob Windt and Bill Zang of
at the 2004 Hoosier Championship.
Hoosier Championship Cruise
Following Saturday's racing events, the Hoosier Championship Cruise
will launch upstream Sunday morning on the Wabash River from Fairbanks
Park, following a 10 a.m. drivers' meeting.
Open Forum with Robert Hodson, Trans-American Hovercraft
Meet Robert Hodson, the British adventurer, who will attend the
Hoosier Championship during his two-year, coast-to-coast exploration
of America's rivers in a two-ton Griffon Hovercraft - the longest
hovercraft journey in history. Robert will be joined in an open
forum by Bob Windt, Mike Keister and Don Bender - who recently completed
a 1000-mile hovercraft trek up the Missouri River - to discuss their
adventures with you.
For more about Robert's Trans-American Hovercraft Adventure, see
the following sites … and watch the Neoteric Hovercraft web
site for an extensive photo gallery of Robert's visit to Neoteric
Hovercraft, coming soon.
Tribune Star, 16 Aug. 2004, Terre Haute, Indiana:
hovercrafter stops in Terre Haute
HoverWorld Insider, Jan. 2004:
Sea to Shining Sea … by hovercraft!
The Daily Helmsman, 5 Aug. 2004, Memphis, Tennessee:
explores U.S. rivers by hovercraft:
Robert Hodson's web site:
For more information about the Hoosier Hovercraft Championship,
Steve Pope: email@example.com
Wabash River Cruise:
Chris Fitzgerald: firstname.lastname@example.org
DiscoverHover International School Hovercraft Program:
Chris Fitzgerald: email@example.com
Hoverclub of America Youth Program:
Marquis Songer: firstname.lastname@example.org
with Robert Hodson, Trans-American Hovercraft Adventure
Robert Hodson, a British citizen, sold his home in Goldalming,
Surrey to buy the hovercraft that is now piloting him on his two-year,
coast-to-coast Trans-American Hovercraft Adventure. His epic journey
began on April 7, 2004 when Robert launched from Georgia on the
Robert visited Terre Haute, Indiana from 13 August to 4 September
2004, as the guest of Chris Fitzgerald, President of Neoteric
Hovercraft, Inc., Chairman of the World Hovercraft Organization,
and founder of DiscoverHover,
the international school hovercraft program.
While Robert enjoyed some "Hoosier Hospitality," and
his hovercraft received some tender loving care while at Neoteric,
he shared his thoughts about his adventure with Sharolyn Herring,
Marketing Director of the World Hovercraft Organization:
Using his laptop, Robert
checks his hovercraft's 1.9L ADE turbo VW engines, which can
be monitored for faults using their digital engine management
Robert, how did your Trans-American Hovercraft Adventure
come to be?
The idea first evolved in my mind six or seven years ago. I'd been
in America several times exploring the land, but always wanted to
get onto the rivers and waterways. I must have had some sort of
seed interest there in the back of my mind. When I was packing up
and selling stuff in England, in what you call a yard sale here
in America, I found an old book about a hovercraft expedition into
Nepal that I had read when I was very young.
Also, I've lost several close friends in recent years, and it really
made me think about making the most of life. One had Lou Gehrig's
disease and I watched him become completely debilitated. He was
a wonderful guy, with a wife and child, and eventually all he could
do was move a cursor on a computer screen with his eyebrow or from
his lip. I lost another good friend a few years before that. It
makes you think you should just go for something because you see
the frailty of life. It makes you really think, well, I'm not just
going to wait. You can wait all your life to try and do an adventure,
but you may never get there, you know.
Why did you choose a hovercraft rather than a boat for
A hovercraft would get me to places I couldn't get to in a boat.
Also, I get terribly seasick so a hovercraft could provide a smooth
ride and an answer to that. I've not felt at all sick on this trip,
even when I've gone through choppy water in the Gulf.
In a lot of the water I've been on, I've been going against the
flow; in a boat that would be a struggle and put a lot of strain
on fuel supplies. Even on the Mississippi River, I've made good
headway against 5-6 knots at times, while seeing little boats -
and certainly big boats, the barges - struggling hugely with the
Also, I felt the hovercraft might open doors for me, giving me
access to people and communities the way that just another boat
or canoe wouldn't. Really, for me, the trip is about seeing what
part of America the rivers open up, seeing the land that's beyond
the trees that line most riverbanks. I need to stop and meet people,
and the hovercraft does that, opens the doors that give me a way
in to the hinterland behind the river.
How are people receiving you along the way?
Most people say, "Are you doing this alone? You don't even
have a dog with you!"
Usually the first thing from men is, "How fast does it go?
What engines you got in there?" I can go just in excess of
forty knots, with two VW diesel engines delivering 84 hp each. And
they want to know how much these things cost. I tell them, well,
I had to sell my house to buy it.
But women have different concerns, saying, "Where do you sleep?
But there's no bathroom!" They're more interested in basic
living qualities - or in this case, the lack of them!
How many hours a day are you actually spending on the water?
I've done pretty much a thousand miles a month. Typically it would
be just over 150 miles a day, but it doesn't flow like that. I may
be two weeks in one place and then I may do 500 miles on the water
just like that. I'd say I'm spending about 20 percent of the time
on water and 80 percent on land. I think about ten straight days
on the water is the longest I've gone without stopping and sleeping
in a bed.
How are you finding that America compares to Great Britain,
geographically and environmentally?
The immediate difference is the size; Britain is the size of something
like Alabama. What goes along with that is less pressure. We've
got 56 million people in a small space and that means the rivers
and waterways have a lot of competition on them and there are lots
of rules and regulations. It's relatively unregulated here, believe
it or not, though I've met law enforcement along my way. At home,
I simply wouldn't be allowed on a lot of the rivers, certainly not
with a hovercraft and especially not one of this size..
In many respects America is a land of opportunity for somebody
with a hovercraft, especially with your large rivers. The Thames,
for instance, is our largest river, and it's the size of the smaller
rivers over here. Britain has a great coastline, but we don't have
rivers with big mudflats and sandbanks.
There are places, I'm afraid to say over here, that people throw
away litter and beer cans and bottles and I think it's a great shame
to see that. I think Britain may be a little bit cleaner on the
whole, but there's dirty places in England, that's for sure.
But it's much more open here, so it has the feeling of being less
polluted, less intense. But I have found quite a few places with
effluent coming in where you'll see water bubbling away and you'll
think it's rapids - but before you get there you'll smell that it
What about the people? Are you finding great differences
between Americans and the British?
In many ways Americans are able to be more varied within their
culture because they have more space, more room to do your own thing
is what I'm saying. English people in the main will be more reserved,
will hold back a little bit, are more conservative on committing
themselves in talking about a lot of different things because they
all have to live very closely together. Over here, you can hear
two completely different opinions from two people on the same street
and they're quite vocal about it, will vocalize strength of opinion
more readily than an English person probably would.
America seems to be quite polarized in politics and certain other
areas. People are more "go for it" here, which I really
enjoy - I think that's fantastic! Okay, it may be a slightly strange
thing I'm doing, but there's an awfully lot of people who say, "Hey,
I'd like to come with you!" There's a lot more of that than
there would be at home, where I'd get, "You're just crazy,
who on earth would want to do that". There's a much more adventuresome
spirit in America.
What has been the most enjoyable aspect of your trip so far?
Well, the first day in Savannah was something of a seminal moment
for me, heading up a river for the first time on a hovercraft that
I'd never driven on a river before! And getting to Augusta from
Savannah in one piece was also a very satisfying moment. And I really
enjoyed a time down at the bottom of the Mobile River as it comes
into the Gulf. I met up with some old friends down there for July
Fourth. People came for rides and let me into their lives for a
Food has been one of the best things. I've probably put on weight.
Because I have to stop for diesel, there's ample opportunity to
snack, and it's America so there's lots of fast food places. And
people love to show me their home cooking, which is fantastic.
There have been quite a few special moments when I've just been
on my own and I've pulled off into an absolutely beautiful white
sand bank and found the perfect place to stop. Although I enjoy
meeting people, I'm equally at home on my own in the outdoor environment
- those provide very special moments, clear skies at night, being
able to see the stars, early morning with the mist just lifting
off the water - beautiful! And perhaps going round a bend where
the water's a bit glassy and you've found yourself committed a little
bit more to the bend than you would have liked, and you find the
bend does what you want it to do and it turns into a beautiful turn
- those are great moments!
The other good times are when people come for a ride on the craft
and you see their eyes light up with this new experience, the initial
joy. There are relatively few new experiences in the world and for
a lot of people having a ride on a hovercraft is one of them. Every
bend in the river is a new experience.
Have most people you've met been familiar with hovercraft?
No, absolutely not. "Hover what?" I get a lot of "hoovercrafts."
People relate them very quickly to an airboat, but they really don't
understand how it's lifting. You can talk to somebody half an hour
about it, and they still don't understand that it's actually just
air lifting the craft up underneath; they think it's like a solid
rubber bag and it's going to puncture. Youngsters have a bit of
a better idea about what hovercraft are, I think because of radio-controlled
models and they've watched James Bond.
You know the role that hovercraft have played in your life
so far. What would you say to DiscoverHover students about what
the program could do for them?
If your imagination has been fired up, then you've got to go out
there and find out what hovering is really all about, find out the
physics involved, and have some fun at the same time. It's a whole
new sensation. It's not a common sport, it's not something everyone
does. You can find information about hovercraft, but with the DiscoverHover
program you have people who can provide back up and support, so
if you're interested in hovering, it's a very good way to get into
it. Because, otherwise, on your own it could be a lonely trip.
as a backseat driver and proudly displays the DiscoverHover
logo on his hovercraft. When taking passengers, this is where
they sit, and in the evening this becomes a platform for Robert's
You've mentioned that people you meet are giving you gifts
- you must feel like Lewis and Clark and the natives are bearing
gifts! What sort of gifts do you most need?
I would say, pretty much nothing! The people give very generously
from their hearts, all sorts of extraordinary things from tee shirts
and baseball caps to a memento that belonged to someone special
in their family and, of course, food and supplies. But I can't accumulate;
I'm normally trying to get rid of stuff, including stuff I thought
I would need, then have to leave somewhere along the way. I've got
loads of different types of insect repellent from people, and they
all swear theirs is the only one that will work, and I've got too
much of it now. So the best gift is pretty much nothing. Maybe a
packet of biscuits or cookies for that day, that would be nice.
What will you be doing to the hovercraft here at Neoteric?
The main thing is Chris and I will be looking at a little electrical
thing. One of the engines is starting to hunt. Whether a little
pipe has been squashed or there's a bit of fuel starvation, I'm
not sure. If you can diagnose what the problem is, then you're more
than halfway to solving it.
You've been out on the river in a Neoteric craft. How was
the experience of light hovercraft after piloting your two-ton Griffon
I'm fascinated by the reverse thrust buckets. And a big difference,
obviously is that it offers great versatility and can get you to
places a bigger craft can't get to. Everything increases in intensity
as far as driving a smaller craft and that's great - you're closer
to the water. And it offers the opportunity to stop off a lot easier
than with a bigger craft; it's like stopping a car as opposed to
stopping a big truck.
What are your plans after leaving Terre Haute?
I'm looking forward to getting back up here mid-October for the
Hoosier Hovercraft Championship, so what I'll probably do is head
back down the Wabash River and go up the Cumberland to Nashville
and explore a little beyond that. Then I'll go down to the Tennessee
and go back up to the headwaters and overwinter on the Tennessee
to write up and document what I've done this year.
Chris Hebb and Chris Fitzgerald
depart Terre Haute with Hodson in their Neoteric hovercraft
for a 90-mile river trek to Vincennes for a fish fry hosted
by the Vincennes Boat Club, then south to New Harmony to camp
overnight on a sandbar. Crisis struck the flotilla before
departure when Robert discovered his GPS was missing, which
contains all records of his 4,000 mile trip so far! His departure
was delayed several hours while everyone searched Terre Haute,
but in the end he departed without it.
I'm really looking forward to going to the big empty spaces of
the Midwest. I'm fascinated with farming. I love the idea of being
able to put a seed in the ground and then taking something out of
it. Getting something out of Nature's harvest, there's really something
sort of basic about it I really enjoy. The people I tend to get
on with very well seem to be country folk, so I'd like to spend
a few months going through the Midwest, getting really involved
in their communities, the ranches, the big corn and soy bean farms.
What do you hope to take away from your Trans-American
In many ways, I've already got out of it what I originally hoped.
Now my hope is that what I get out of it will be shared by many
other people. The most satisfying aspect will be to see other people
involved in the adventure. Everywhere I stop, the people that I
talk to and stay with, they're not just signs on the road, they're
very much involved. And I think it inspires them to perhaps get
up and do something that they've always wanted to do, you know,
just to have a go. So if it does that in any way and puts a smile
on peoples' faces, that's what I'll get out of it.
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