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Althorne Lake

23rd April. St George smiles on Althorne

The London Marathon and Althorne Lake shared a weather window on St George's Day that was as good for running 26 miles as it was for tethered hydros. A perfectly flat lake greeted us when we finally arrived having navigated through miles of delightful Essex countryside due to the A12 being closed for the entire weekend. Our plan to avoid the official diversion paid off as Ray Cox decided enough was enough on his normal route. Mind you, we nearly came to the same decision after passing Colchester zoo twice. Although traffic and other difficulties restricted the entry it was something of a momentous meeting with two new records, three personal bests, the second fastest speed ever in this country and highest ever individual laps for two competitors.

Tony Collins' G15 powered B1S Norman Lara, Rick Neal, Tony Collins The 'Blowers' line-up

The first round saw Steve Poyser record 105mph with his A1 and a personal best for this class. Tony Collins has dug his Soloviev powered A1 out of the cupboard for its first run for a while and is also campaigning a B1S with an aged Supertigre G15, both recording about the same speed. Lynn Blowers’ A2 set off well into the 120s but slowed during the run, victim of a loose needle. Norman Lara’s A2 with the very latest OPS45 needed a bit more of a tweak on the needle but did lean out after the run to show that this motor has true potential. It is good to see Jim Free back to his best, which he proved by promptly breaking his own Sport 40 record although some 10mph slower than his Novice record. His electric boat should be very competitive with a full complement of batteries. Rick Neal, Stuart Falconer and Norman completed the S40 line-up.

Only one A3, Tony Collins, who has been threatening to build a new boat, but gave his old one a last run, and what a run. At 137ish he pressed the button, only to see the speed go up every lap and then beyond after the five laps. A final speed of 138.29 was his fastest ever and the second fastest recorded in this country. Ron Hankins’ AB/Rs, which are capable of matching this sort of speed both proved very baulky.

Having changed every conceivable component to exceed 86mph, Hugh Blowers had even transplanted the Ernie Hills B engine into another and much lighter boat, red instead of blue in case that was even a contributory factor? A marked improvement to 87mph but not managing to complete five laps, mmmm.

Round 2 saw Steve Poyser over 100mph again with his A1 and Tony Collins getting his B1S away nicely for the only airscrew run of the day. Tony also loaned his A1 to Rick Neal who was within a smidgen of Tony’s 1st round speed. Looks like Rick is developing a taste for the more exotic class. Steve Poyser was the only A2 to record a run, whilst Jim Free did it again and broke his own record that had been in place for no more than an hour. The only other runner was Rick with his S40, which lost its wing halfway through the run. Ron Hankins did get a run with his AB/R this time at 133mph but Tony had put his A3 away until Bulgaria, rather than risk it again.

Rick Neal's Sport 40, still with wing, just.  Washing out time for Rick Norman launching Sport 40 boat

At this point, being aware of the possible traffic problems, we withdrew so the third round summary is gleaned from the results. Steve Poyser had a very good run with his A2 at 111mph while Norman had his first 100+mph with his new motor, only to lose a prop in the process. Ron Hankins backed up his previous AB/R run with another at 129mph to round off the day.

A thoroughly enjoyable day all round, apart from the chaos on the A12 that is. We did manage to avoid most of it, but the queues trying to get to and through the diversion were monumental. Someone we met the following day had taken 5 hours for what is normally a 2-hour jaunt.

Results 23rd April.
A1 Class Steve Poyser 105.2mph Tony Collins 85.67mph Rick Neal 84.15mph B1/S Class Tony Collins 89.72mph
A2 Class Lynn Blowers 116.13mph Steve Poyser 111.03mph Norman Lara 100.56mph
Sport 40 Jim Free 101.62 New Record Norman Lara 83.10mph Rick Neal 82.08
A3 Class Tony Collins 138.29mph AB/R Class Ron Hankins 133.69mph

Results 2nd April
B1/S Class John Underwood 97.39mph Tony Collins 90.68mph AB/R Class Ron Hankins 124.55mph
A2 Class John Underwood 116.63mph Norman Lara 97.49mph A3 Class Ray Cox 107.34mph

The North Wind Doth Blow. Althorne May 7th

Well, the north wind did not bring snow as the rhyme goes, but it was nearly cold enough. Somewhat perversely a warm, sunny and calm day was thin on entries, whilst a cold, cloudy and blustery conditions had people flooding in through the gate. Something of a leap of faith as the forecast wind was right on the limit for running and due to get stronger later in the afternoon. Considering that this was going to be the only day of the week when the northerly air coming straight from the Arctic did abate a bit, fourteen hardy souls entered, supported, aided and abetted by a number of equally well wrapped up spectators and pundits. Star of the day was Sonia Collins who stuck it out all day timing and recording ignoring the covetous glances at her thick and lovely warm woolly ‘pixie coat’, thanks Sonia.

Tony Impervious to cold Sonia well 'snuggled' Norman enjoys the conditions

Whether we were going boat racing looked in some doubt when Norman Lara was seen to complete several laps of the circuit with a very nice little RC yacht. That it was not as rough as thought was born out by Bryn Colman’s electric hydro-cat that was charging up and down the lake at indecent speed. It was certainly OK for the larger boats, although the first round produced an unexpected number of failures. Ron Hankins could not get either of his ultra reliable AB or Bs to run cleanly for an entire run while a lose plug brought Lynn Blowers’ run to a premature end. Tony Collins had dug his faithful OPS boat out, but that steadfastly refused to play. Ray Cox’s OPS was reluctant to react to Pete Dirs twiddling the needle indicating something not altogether as it should be.

The only success of the round, if you can call it that was Hugh Blowers’ B. It received its final warning on the jetty that if it did not manage five laps at over 86mph, it was due for the nackers yard. It was either this ultimatum or the new tank that saw the speed rise to a giddy 87mph by the end of the run, which continued for several more laps, with a final speed of 85 and a bit earning itself a reprieve. Mind you, thanks to the continued support of Ron Hankins, all that remains of the original boat and engine is the crankcase, barrel and flywheel.

The change to the A2 line showed that the water conditions were marginal as a succession of Sport 40s, A2s and electric boats bounced their way round. All survived with both Steve Poyser and John Underwood some 10mph down on where they would be with smoother water, although both boats suffered problems from the rough ride needing workshop attention. Jim Free’s electric boat handled the conditions well and was not far off its usual speed. No other runs were recorded and with the A1 and airscrew competitors deciding that it was still a bit iffy, it was back to the heavier line.

Bryn Colman. Sport 40, Sport E and Vintage boats Ron Hankins, why won't the B go? Stuart, Pete and Alan Greenfield

The pattern of the first round was repeated with only two completed runs, both notable in their own small way. The Blowers B was obviously encouraged by its previous run recording a best ever speed of 87+ mph run with the clock nudging 90mph after the run. Next target, a 90+ run, let’s not be too greedy at this point. The other run was the fastest ever by our own ‘fast lady’ Lynn Blowers at 122mph with her OPS A3.  Little action on the A2 line until Jim Free got his Sport 40 underway, which did almost 90mph and staying upright. Stuart Falconer had a run at a shade under 84mph, again around 10mph slower than his best on smoother water.

By now there looked like a weather window so the light line went on for the A1s. Given the conditions the way these little boats handled the water was amazing, with Steve Poyser coming within 1mph of his best ever at 104 and Tony Collins having his best run for ages at 91mph with the little Soloviev motor quite happily turning a huge prop. Unfortunately one of his equally tiny sponson bars gave up the fight, yet the boat carried on without further damage.

Pete on starting duties all day Jim, Rick and Pete Tony enjoys the sun afloat

It was during the recovery that a change in the wind was noted when the recovery boat ‘sailed’ back to the platform towing the line and A1 boat as well. The waves further out were getting a bit impressive as well. Ron Hankins did give it a try, as did Tony with his A3, only to see it do a submarine act just by the platform. Mark Hankins gave his Picco A2 a run as well, but that was skittering about far too much for a realistic speed, so at that stage discretion ruled and any thoughts of further running abandoned for the day.

Thanks to everyone who prepared and put away all the gear, always a thankless task at the end of the day, but vital and a special thanks to Sonia Collins for timing and Pete Dirs for being on hand for starting duties. A hole where a bridge used to be on the A12 revealed the cause of the closure and chaos a fortnight earlier, but the scheduled replacement will create similar traffic misery for the next meeting.

Early Notice: The event scheduled for the 30th July has been cancelled owing to the clash with the Championships in Bulgaria.


AB/R Class Ron Hankins 110.88mph B Class Hugh Blowers 87.46mph A3 Class Lynn Blowers 122.36mph
A2 Class John Underwood 105.32mph Steve Poyser 102.21mph Mark Hankins 92.7mph
A1 Class Steve Poyser 104.04mph Tony Collins 91.78mph Sport E Class Jim Free 65.62mph
Sport 40 Class Jim Free 89.04mph Stuart Falconer 83.92mph

Results 21st May

AB/R Class Ron Hankins 132.61mph A3 Class Tony Collins 114.23mph Ray Cox 94.93mph
A2 Class John Underwood 106.75mph Mark Hankins 105.17mph Steve Poyser 104.96mph
Sport 40 Class Jim Free 101.98mph Norman Lara 96.17mph Stuart Falconer 95.96mph
A1 Class Tony Collins 105.2mph Steve Poyser 101.79mph Pete Dirs 94.62mph
B1 Sport John Underwood 93.26mph

Results 4th June:

AB/R Class Ron Hankins 130.86mph B Class Ron Hankins 120.24mph
A3 Class Tony Collins 128.44mph Ray Cox 101.5mph
A2 Class Steve Poyser 124.44mph Mark Hankins 113.97mph
Sport 40 Class Bryn Colman 86.93mph Stuart Falconer 69.93mph
A1 Class Steve Poyser 86.51mph Pete Dirs 75.65mph B1 Sport Dave Smith 110.44mph

It weren’t half hot mum. Althorne 18th June

Forays into running tethered cars had meant missing a couple of meetings at Althorne, but there was a distinct similarity between the two disciplines, the heat. There is a scene in the Full Monty where one of the characters wraps himself in cling film to sweat a bit of weight off. No problem, just spend a day at Althorne in waders, same effect, phew it was hot. Kingsbury the week before also presented a stark contrast, as there it was too much water making starting and launching difficult, while at Althorne it was touch and go if there was enough water over the platform. Dave Smith found wellies were more than high enough, whilst some just rolled their trousers up and paddled.

Norman had asked us if we could bring back a few vintage hydros from Germany, but what we had not bargained for was ten complete boats, plus a box of engines so unloading our car into Norman’s wagon was something of a relief.

The boats were all built and run by one of the leading East German competitors from the 1970s, Heinz Rost, an amazing collection. A3s, A2s, A1, B1, Vintage and ice boats.

An excellent turnout with most classes represented including A Class with Rick and Joan Benson travelling down for the day. It was the other end of the spectrum though with the B1s and A1s off first, although not a lot happened with only Jim Free getting a run with his exceedingly quick MDS airscrew at 124mph and Steve Poyser 96mph with his sweet sounding A1. The second round of the airscrew classes were more interesting as Dave Smith got a good launch for the first of three very nice runs that topped out at 108mph. It is a long while since we have seen a decent run from a B1 so there are high hopes for Rick Neal with his Bulgarian boat and Profi motor. He had (slight) bragging rights over Pete Dirs after managing nearly a whole lap, but in the last round, and after a great deal of attention from Norman Lara and considerable needle twiddling, as only Norman can do it was away. The run was far from yip free but a speed of 135mph is the fastest for many years.

Tony, Jim and Dave B1 Sports Pete Dirs and Rick Neal B1 Rick Benson with aged A2

Three A2s entered, including a vintage OPS from Rick Benson that gently went down by the stern after stopping. Mark Hankins had three very consistent runs at 115mph, slightly hampered by having his needle valve break off in the second round. Only Stuart Falconer managed runs in the Sport 40s, with a best of 84mph.

The A3 class was very much a case of over and done with quickly, with the emphasis on the quickly bit. Lynn Blowers took us all by surprise by recording her fastest ever speed in joining the 130mph club, but at the expense of a very battered piston.

Post 130mph wreckage Brace of A1s

Tony Collins has been trying to work out why his Lazarov Picco is so much faster than his standard one, so made a new backplate to the same design as the Lazarov one. This probably gave us all a clue as the boat and engine recorded its fastest speed ever and by a big margin at 135mph although his day was also done with a shaft bush that gave up the ghost. Ron Hankins had two AB/Rs, one of which would not run properly and the other with a best of 129mph.

Sonia Collins Tony Collins Backplate worth nearly 10mph

It is a while since we had any 30cc A Class boats running, and while not fast, Joan Benson’s white boat did manage two runs, almost, stopping on the fourth lap on the first attempt and just over the finish line on the second, but enough to trip the timing at 69mph.

Rick’s second run ended with a big splash as the boat got somewhat squirrelly after launching and dived in.

Our thanks to Sonia Collins for looking after the timing all day in the intense heat.


A1 Class Pete Dirs 96.51 Steve Poyser 96.24mph B1 Class Rick Neal 135.42mph
B1 Sport Jim Free 124.84mph Dave Smith 108.79mph A2 class Mark Hankins 115.48mph
Sport 40 Class Stuart Falconer 82.19mph AB/R Class Ron Hankins 129.83mph
A3 Class Tony Collins 135.44mph Lynn Blowers 130.97mph Ray Cox 99.45mph A Class Joan Benson 69.78mph

‘Grand’ Day out Grommit. Althorne July 2nd

Prior to the breaking up of the MPBA into separate sections there were two major regattas in the year, the International and the Grand, both having all disciplines running on the same day. With the loss of Blackheath and Victoria no longer able to host all hydro classes, the ‘Grand’ was restricted to straight running, whilst the hydros competed only at the International. This left some of the long established trophies sitting in storage for nigh on thirty years. A decision was made to reintroduce the Grand and run it in conjunction with the two-day meeting at Althorne. Unfortunately, the weather conspired to make it just a one day meeting as well as delaying the start of the second day, while mechanical mayhem reduced the number of boats competing. The water conditions also precluded any of the A1s or B1s running until later in the afternoon. The featured trophy of the day was to be the Wembley ‘quickstart’, decided during the second round, giving everyone a chance to get their boats set up. This trophy is unique in that it times the boat from the first pull of the starting cord to the completion of five laps.

Ron Hankins with his AB/R was the first to test the conditions having a good run, but things went somewhat awry from there on. Tony Collins’ A3 did not lean out as it normally does, so no time, Lynn Blowers’ newly rebuilt OPS was set off deliberately very rich so the run was not called. Ray Cox had his motor start then instantly stop in the way that is always bad news. Hugh Blowers’ B refused to run at all, for a very daft reason, not revealed until it was stripped down, while Ron Hankins A2 completed the fastest run of the day in the class, only to break a drive shaft after the run.

Hugh Blowers 'fettles' his Picco Ray Cox reflecting on another breakage Ron Hankins 15cc OPS

The ‘quickstart’ round was somewhat farcical as those boats that did start failed to make the five laps, while some failed to start at all. Last to go was Tony Collins in the somewhat luxurious position of just having to get the boat round the five laps to win. He did it in some style though, at just over 48 seconds from pulling the cord to the end of the run.

Not too much in one piece by this stage for round three. Lynn Blowers had a good run at 124mph only to join the ranks of the broken drive shaft brigade, the third of the day, but at the expense of a mangled prop as well. Tony Collins immediately replied with a 128mph, but his boat also stopped a bit sooner than expected, this time with one prop blade missing. It was all going well?

Steve Poyser A1 and A2 Tony and Sonia Collins enjoying the sun

By now it was flat enough to put the light line on, where Rick Neal provided a moment of comedy, not realising that the bungee was over the barrier, not round it, so his B1 launched upwards instead of forwards. His second attempt was a perfect launch but with the motor not set quite right, so it did not make the end of the run. Pete Dirs A1 was a little lively and would have been very fast if the prop had stayed in the water for more of each lap.

British contingent all set for Bulgaria

Despite the delayed start, the shortage of boats left to run meant that three rounds were completed in record time, the threat of a time limit on the line not needing to be invoked. Winners and runners up in each class were presented with bottles of wine by way of consolation for the damage sustained during the day. With Kingsbury just a week later and the British team heading off to Bulgaria shortly, there will need to be some midnight oil burnt in workshops.

Tony Collins A3 Lynn Blowers A3 Pete Dirs A1 Steve Poyser A1 John Underwood A2

Thanks to Sonia Collins again for looking after the timing and recording all day and to those assisting with stopwatch duties for the ‘quickstart’.

Results: Wembley Quickstart Trophy Tony Collins 46.64secs

AB/R Ron Hankins 131.17mph A3 Tony Collins 128.99mph Lynn Blowers 124.70mph
A2 Ron Hankins 105.99mph John Underwood 99.12mph A1 Pete Dirs 103.31mph Steve Poyser 100.46mph

A long time coming. Althorne August 13th

After a couple of years of shenanigans surrounding the new A1 Class back in 1992/3, the acknowledged master of the A1 and E class, Martin Hamilton set a record of 120.52mph that no one has come within a country mile of for many years. Indeed, so dominant was he that there was relatively little interest in these 3.5cc boats until Pete Dirs put one together with a CMB motor.

For several seasons he refined and tuned this, regularly running at around 100mph, but still well short of the record until he and Tony bought a couple of motors off Evgeni Soloviev. These are tricky little beasts to set up, but after a lot of work, Pete was getting runs up around 110/112mph and a best ever at Rowden of 115mph, getting closer.

After returning from Bulgaria with some purpose made props, his first run of the day stopped the clock at 122.64mph, finally breaking Martin’s twenty-two year old record. Martin threatened that he would only make a comeback when someone beat his record, over to you Martin, and congratulations to Pete for sticking with it, despite many set backs and disappointments along the way.

Thanks to Norman for photo

Steve Poyser is definitely the man to beat at present in A2, following up his best ever 124mph with a 119mph, the two fastest A2 runs of the year so far. Norman Lara is gradually getting his new OPS 45 dialled in with a best for this new combination at 116, all heading in the right direction. Mark Hankins had three consistent runs, but short of the speeds he was getting last year. Jim Free was close to his B1S record at 124, but of the four B1s present, the less said the better. These are all capable of 150+mph and a long time since we have had that number of competitive B1s on the water.

Ron Hankins had both his B and AB/R, but only the AB/R was performing. Ron has probably the best record of anyone this year for completing the rounds with his 15cc OPS knocking out another three runs, two of them in the mid 120s. Tony Collins was experimenting with tank positioning so did not get a run at all until the last round where he was back in the 130s at an impressive 136mph. If only I could get my Picco round at all I would be happy. Ray Cox celebrated yet another increase in his personal best with his A3, so he is also heading in the right direction.

First venture CMB Record breaking Soloviev

Three very long-standing records have now been broken recently, but that still leaves the A class and A2 up for grabs.


AB/R Ron Hankins 125.33mph A2 Class Steve Poyser 119.25mph Mark Hankins 112.12mph
A3 Class Tony Collins 136.33mph Ray Cox 109.85mph Norman Lara 108.23mph
A1 Class Pete Dirs 122.64mph New record Steve Poyser 102.26mph
Sport 40 Stuart Falconer 82.67mph Jim Free 88.4mph B1 Class Pete Dirs 73.75mph
B1S Jim Free 124.38mph John Underwood 107.66mph