Something Else

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The Independent Culture
Was it a boat? Was it a plane? No, the hovercraft was the world-shrinking British transport revolution that never quite got off the ground. Christopher Cockerell's air-cushion machine hit its commercial peak with the sick-bag-provoking car-carriers that still ruffle the Channel. Since then, it's just been too much bovver.

Still, where there's a moribund technology, there'll be a hobbyist, or in this case, 400 or so. Take the Hoverclub of Great Britain's members, add a stately home with lake (Weston Park in Shropshire, seat of the Earls of Bradford), 2000 spectators, and some tyres and buoys to mark a course, and you have Round 4 of the National Hovercraft Championships.

Construction Requirements for Racing Hovercraft ( pounds 2.50 inc p&p) tells you all you need to know. Follow the instructions and you'll end up with something smaller than Sealink's monster: 10ft x 6ft, a fibreglass body with a cockpit, not unlike the vehicle favoured by Dan Dare.

Home-built they may be, but these machines are quick. The fastest, 20-odd Formula One machines, shoot down a slight hill at 80mph (steered largely by the shifting body- weight of the driver), over the lake, and up to the finish, a mile in all. Best of four wins.

No competitors will, however, be driving their machines home. Hovercrafts' instability means they don't mix too well with roads. They also have no brakes. Is it any wonder they never caught on?

The National Hovercraft Rally, Sat / Sun at Weston Park, Shropshire (09576 201); free

Hoverclub of GB, PO Box 354, Stafford