World Hovercraft Championship
will bring international flair to town
Forty-five foreign racers registered for competition
August 17, 2002
By Howard Greninger
International racers may outnumber U.S. competitors during the
Eighth World Hovercraft Federation championship when they meet
in Terre Haute next month.
As of last week, 45 hovercraft were registered for the championship,
with an estimated 100 hovercraft anticipated for the event, said
Chris Fitzgerald, president of Neoteric Hovercraft Inc. in Terre
Haute and a founder of Hoverclub of America Inc. He also serves
as chairman of the 2002 championship.
"We have seven containers, 40-foot and 45-foot-long containers
that are on the ocean right now headed to the U.S.," Fitzgerald
said. Those containers house hovercraft, which teams from various
parts of the world will race.
Racers outside the United States will come from Australia, Belgium,
Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Sweden and the United Kingdom.
"There will be more overseas competitors than American competitors,
probably 3 to 1. That means the hovercraft championship will have
more international competitors than any single Indianapolis 500," Fitzgerald
A hovercraft is a self-propelled vehicle supported on a self-generated
cushion of air contained in a flexible skirt, which makes the vehicle
amphibious and able to travel across less-than-perfect surfaces.
The first World Hovercraft Championship was held in 1987 in Germany.
The event is held biannually. The last time the event was held
in the United States was in 1989 in Troy, Ohio, Fitzgerald said.
"This is a once-in-a-lifetime occurrence and will be something
to see," Fitzgerald said. The championship will be Sept. 19-21
at the Wabash Valley Family Sports Center at 559 S. Tabortown St.,
and World Hovercraft Week 2002 will run Sept.15-22.
On Sept. 22, drivers will try to break the world speed record
for a hovercraft, now standing just over 85 mph.
"We have six miles of the Wabash River closed through the
Indiana Department of Natural Resources for that event," said
Steve Jackson of Terre Haute.
Jackson has been working to coordinate water events at Fairbanks
Parks as part of the hovercraft week. The events are sponsored
by Sycamore Chevrolet-Nissan Inc. Dennis Meng, owner of the dealership,
is the director for the events on the Wabash River, while Jackson
is the assistant director.
Electronic speed-reading equipment has been leased from officials
at Utah's Bonneville Salt Flats, a world-famous site for land speed
attempts. "The hovercraft will go through an electronic speed
trap in front of the park to calculate how fast they are going," Jackson
"The equipment will be shipped a week before the event,
so we have to survey the river to get the trap exactly 1 kilometer
long for the [speed-reading] devices," Jackson said. The electronic
devices must be less than 500 feet apart, so Jackson is hoping
the Wabash River remains low so that the riverbanks can be used
to set up the equipment. "That's something we haven't got
all the bugs out of yet and won't know until we get the equipment," Jackson
On Sept. 15, hovercraft owners will try to set a record for the
most hovercraft assembled for a cruise. It will start at Fairbanks
Park, Jackson said. The hovercraft will travel to Lafayette, with
a stop at Montezuma for food and fuel, then return Sept. 16.
In addition, a conference on the development of the hovercraft
will be held at Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology on Sept. 16-18. "There
will be in excess of 20 technical papers presented from people
in China, Netherlands, Sweden, Russia and United Kingdom on the
hovercraft. We hope to get a roundtable discussion and develop
an operating protocol for hovercraft," Fitzgerald said.
"Right now, the hovercraft is not listed for ice rescue.
What we are trying to do is develop a national protocol that will
be inserted in rescue manuals listing the hovercraft as a technique
for ice rescue and swift water rescue," Fitzgerald said. "Ice
rescue now is extremely dangerous. A hovercraft can travel over
any thickness of ice and go right up to the person and provides
a very stable working platform to pull people out of the ice or
perform first aid."