H for Hovercraft Mishaps

‘Make it short & snappy’

H for Hovercraft racing and the multiple series of mishaps that occurred.

A nice day out to experience some fun in the Kent countryside ended up in my boyfriend and I being pretty much barred* from a hovercraft racing track due to single handedly destroying three quarters of their fleet!

‘Just the facts please’

‘I’ve got a cup of tea, tell me all about it…’

Hovercrafting – a transport both of the past with memories of crossing the English Channel in a large air filled vessel, and of the future: likened to a step closer to travelling by hoverboards Back to the Future style!

I was certainly excited about the prospect of manoeuvring my very own hovercraft! I’m not likely to be jetted out into space anytime soon so this was likely to be my closest foray into the world of sci fi technology!

It was with an excited bubble in my tummy that I entered what looked like a “bog standard” water logged field in the deepest Kent countryside. I guess water logged, boggy and marshy lands are what the hovercraft is ideally suited for! I had images of it suspending on a cushion of air as it serenely glided around. How wrong I was.

Once kitted out in a fetching array of waterproofs and sporty helmet, our group got our safety briefing and were set the task of our practise run.

Starting out with the instructions

Starting out with the instructions

I was there with my boyfriend, J – a key figure in the previously alluded to mishaps – and we started off well. The key trick it appeared was to treat your hovercraft like an unruly supermarket trolley – you know the type where you have to swing your whole body into it and start your corner much earlier than if it was a normal functioning wheeled vehicle! It was actually quite physical work thrashing around and leaning all the way in to achieve those turns.

A few practise tries in and we had graduated onto the big time track. The sense of anticipation was palpable as we were all competing for individual best lap time. You could taste the testosterone in the air as the guys puffed up their chests in anticipation of taking home the gold.

First lap was a success, we whizzed around gaining confidence and adding to our muddy demeanour with every circuit as it splashed and swilled around our knees and legs, spectators and drivers alike. We took it in turns on the designated crafts, each having little quirks to be adjusted to, some larger and others smaller.

Skimming the water

Skimming the water

Then the problems started.

Halfway around the second or third lap, J’s hovercraft suddenly sank like a sulky teenager in the middle of the track with no explanation, just a huffy puff by means of explanation as the air stopped and the motion with it. The crew ran out to see what the issue was and declared a flat battery. Deflating in all senses. A little deflated himself, J sheepishly returned to the group as our instructors fetched a spare craft from their shed.

Doctor's diagnosis

Doctor’s diagnosis

A little while later we returned to the thrill of the competition, geared up with a newer model to get our hands on. Back to the racing, cheering and flashy u-turns. These were the timed laps – the ones that counted.

Then J’s turn came, a little gingerly he made his way and buoyed up by our support charged back out there. Just shy of the end of the lap we heard a bang! Once again J sank to the ground with a furious expression matched by the Hover craft team who diagnosed a rather dramatic explosion of the engine where a hole was blown out and the engine was flooded with oil!

Second time

Second time

As he clambered out, the chap taking notes wrote a big “DNF” Did not Finish on his timesheet. This didn’t go down well at all.

This time the team brought out the big guns with their flashiest model, the one usually reserved for VIPs and special events. Their mechanical team was still working on the other one.

Time for the final round, time to hit (or rather hover) the ground running and make our way around in the speediest time! I saw the look of grit and determination in J’s eyes, a naturally competitive guy anyway he was not going to be beaten.

My turn came and went, I’m a little more hesitant in my style so knew I would never win but was happy with a respectable time and I had fun trying to master these temperamental beasties!

Then it was J’s turn, we were all making little good humoured jibes about being careful with this craft (there were no spares left)!

With baited breath we watched him start, make the first bend, the second, come careering around with a triumphant grin spread across his face and at last he crossed the finishing line! Cheers all around.

Speeding around his lap

Speeding around his lap

Then … and you can’t make this stuff up! …He continued rocketing into the long grass, the “rough” or “no go zone” if you will, and the hovercraft spun, as they were liable to, and shot backwards into oblivion! He literally plonked out of sight. One minute there, the next vanished!

We all ran through the long wet grass towards where he had last been seen and found ourselves staring down disbelievingly into a rather large ravine.

He had gone and plunged his hovercraft into a nearby stream. We were laughing until we saw water entering the vessel at a rapid rate and he started to sink! I was confused, all my memories of sitting on a tranquil hovercraft across the Channel involved going over water, so why was it sinking?! During this the instructors were calling frantically to one another to get the Land Rover and help all whilst pulling J from the disappearing wreckage. Apparently they’ve never had someone overshoot that much and go into the river and therefore have never had cause to put the plug in! A little silly in my opinion – if it has a plug, why not put it in just in case?! We were all beginners after all.

Needless to say they didn’t give him a time for that lap! After pulling him out, checking he was ok, the team insisted we left them to deal with the car-hovercraft-crash situation, probably worried he would jinx something else. We apologised profusely and made our exit. I don’t think we’ll be welcomed back there in a hurry!

Even with out triple whammy of misfortune, I would really recommend the Hovercraft Adventures company for the fun we did have. It was a very sad series of bad luck that all happened to land on one person, but we were reassured no lasting damage had been done, it was all repairable, we just apologise to the afternoon group whose session was delayed.

*As a footnote, I can see from their website that they’re now under new management, so potentially we can try our luck in the future. It would make a really fun birthday party!


One response to “H for Hovercraft Mishaps

  1. Pingback: Full on February Alphabet Challenge – Complete! | MishMashTash·

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