With the scent of two-stroke petrol in the air, the Australian Hovercraft Federation held its 25th rally at Wyangala Waters last weekend.
Choppy conditions didn’t stop around 30 hovercraft taking to the water over the weekend, with Australian Hovercraft Federation president Peter Streader saying that one family had driven 52 hours from Perth with two kids in the back for the event.
Pilots took their craft a good way up the bank before tearing down the sand and catapulting the craft into the water for the afternoon’s competitive events.
Most pilots at the rally built their craft themselves, with different specifications, speeds and maneuverability. Some crafts have even gone the length of the Murray River while others can reach racing speeds.
Owen Ellis has designed hovercraft for decades. In the mid-19802, he even prepared kiyd for the DIY enthusiasts.
Ivan Price bought one of these kits in 1986 and after 200 hours of fiddling in his workshop, his own machine was ready for a test run.
"I am an engineer so I didn't make it exactly to plans, every time Owen and the others see it they say it shouldn't work but it does, and it's one of the fastest machines around," Mr Price said.
Hovercraft are designed to travel over any kind of surface, supported by a cushion of pressurised air. Most hovercrafts use at least two engines – hence the dull roar at Wyangala over the weekend – that are connected in a similar way to the propellers on air craft. One engine is used to generate vertical airflow to lift the vehicle and the other is used to generate thrust and horizontally steer the hovercraft.
Hovercraft carry around two or three hours worth of fuel and can run on two-stroke, four-stroke or your typical ’95 unleaded.
While the transition from water to land is smoother than butter and hills are no problem, Mr Streader said that large rocks or dusty sands can shred the skirting on the bottom of the craft.
If you’d like to know more about hovercraft or are thinking about investing in one of your own, head to the Australian Hovercraft Federation’s website: http://www.hovercraft.org.au.