Hovercraft will break new ground
in Canberra again
7 May 2003
|By Robert Messenger
Canberra, which staged the World's First Hovercraft Race, will mark
the 40th anniversary of that event by hosting the first world hovercraft
endurance championship next year. Chris Fitzgerald, organiser of the World
Hovercraft Championship in 1989 and 2002, outlined plans for HoverWorld
Expo 2004 on a visit to Canberra yesterday.
Also scheduled is an attempt on the hovercraft world
speed record, which stands at 137.37km/h.
Melbourne-born Mr. Fitzgerald is president of Neoteric
Hovercraft, Inc., based in Terre Haute, Indiana.
Between talks with the Canberra Tourism and Events Corporation and the National
Capital Authority, Mr. Fitzgerald scouted possible sites for the endurance
race. The most suitable location appears to be off Black Mountain Peninsula
[on Lake Burley Griffin], close to where the first hovercraft race was held
in 1964, he said. Of course, it has changed a lot since then and will require
more turns and be a lot more challenging.
Instead of the six- to eight-lap races held at previous
world championships, Mr. Fitzgerald said the event he was planning
for Canberra would be a daylong race of 100 laps, including refueling
stops and changes of the flexible skirts. "We really haven't
developed the technology at world championship level and an endurance
event like this will take hovercraft racing into new areas."
The race is planned for late December 2004, so that
European and United States competitors can come to Australia in
Mr. Fitzgerald said he would be promoting the Canberra
event at the next World Hovercraft Championship, in Berlin in September
2004. "A strong German lobby swayed the vote against Canberra
as the venue for the world championship. But in retrospect that
might turn out to be a good thing, because it will give Canberra
the chance to organise something completely different and new," he
Mr. Fitzgerald leaves for Melbourne today (Wed) to
talk to the Australian Hovercraft Federation about the Canberra
event. He will go with nothing but great encouragement. He also
plans to involve the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry,
the Australian National University, the Canberra branch of the
Royal Aeronautical Society, and service clubs and sport aviation
clubs in Hover World Expo.
"The history of this is that a lot of hovercraft
technology was developed in Canberra and the focus should come
back on Canberra. Holding this event is the way to do it. An event
to mark the 40th anniversary of the world's first hovercraft race
will also allow us to see what progress has been made."
Mr. Fitzgerald entered the 1964 race, but had to
scratch when a chain drive broke.