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World Hovercraft Championship
will bring international flair to town

Forty-five foreign racers registered for competition

August 17, 2002
Tribune Star

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 said.

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 said.

"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 said.

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."


Neoteric Hovercraft, Inc.
1649 Tippecanoe Street Terre Haute, Indiana USA 47807-2394
Telephone: 812-234-1120 / 800-285-3761 Fax: 812-234-3217
Homepage:
www.neoterichovercraft.com / www.rescuehovercraft.com
E-mail: hovermail@neoterichovercraft.com
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