Pacecraft on way to Australia for hovercraft celebration
By Suzanne Risley/Tribune-Star
22 Jan. 2004
(photo: - Neoteric Hovercraft employees Mark Dial, Eric
Whalin and George Reedy load the official Neoteric PaceCraft into
a shipping container bound for HoverWorld Expo 2004 in Canberra,
HoverWorld Expo 2004 "pacecraft" on Wednesday began a five-week journey
that will span two oceans before its arrival in Australia for a yearlong
celebration of hovercraft racing.
The pacecraft was sealed in a cargo container Wednesday afternoon at
Neoteric Hovercraft Inc. on Tippecanoe Street. It will be taken by railroad
to the Port of New York, from which it will sail down the Eastern Seaboard,
through the Panama Canal and across the Pacific Ocean, said Kim Hopwood,
ocean export forwarding agent for the shipping company Schenker Inc.
The next time it will see the light of day will be in mid-March when
Australian customs officials open it, said Chris Fitzgerald, Neoteric
president and Expo organizer.
After being exhibited throughout Australia, the pacecraft will be featured
in the HoverWorld Expo 2004, starting Dec. 28, in Canberra, Australia.
The Expo serves a dual purpose: the introduction of international endurance
hovercraft racing and celebrating the 40th anniversary of the first hovercraft
race, for which Canberra served as the site.
"I'm sort of getting into the event business. I see that as a way to
get the word out about hovercraft," Fitzgerald said. Hovercraft are amphibious
vehicles that ride on a cushion of air.
He also organized the 2002 World Hovercraft Championship race, staged
in Terre Haute in September 2002. The 2004 event will be in September
in Berlin. The world championship race is run every two years.
While knowledge about the sport has grown since its first race on March
14, 1964, on Canberra's Lake Burley Griffin, it still is not widely known,
Canberra is the national capital of Australia. Much like Washington,
D.C., it is independently governed. Located between Melbourne and Sydney,
it is the largest inland city in Australia.
The events raise awareness among the public that this kind of technology
exists and can be used in practical ways, Fitzgerald said. He has worked
with the U.S. Border Patrol, Department of Homeland Security, Disney
World and law enforcement agencies worldwide.
"As the sport becomes more popular, it becomes more competitive," he
Races generally are short, Fitzgerald said, which makes the Australian
Expo unique. Endurance racing can lead to better and more reliable craft,
Fitzgerald also hopes to contact enough of the original 18 competitors
from 1964 to stage a pioneer race. So far, he has found seven, including
himself. At least one has died with whereabouts unknown for the remaining
"There will be a lot of people from Terre Haute there," he said. Crew
members and several of those who helped stage the world championship
in 2002 are going. It's an excellent reason to visit Australia, his native
country, he said.
He also hopes that about 70 schools from the United States will participate
with hovercraft they have built, through the DiscoverHover program he
established last year.
"We're trying to attract schools to build craft," he said, adding Indiana
State University reportedly is working on one. DiscoverHover will pay
the craft's shipping costs for schools participating.
Suzanne Risley can be reached at (812) 231-4229 or email@example.com.