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Hovercraft will break new ground in Canberra again

Canberra Times
7 May 2003

By Robert Messenger High quality picture

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 their off-season.

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 said.

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.

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