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Althorne Lake

Regatta roundup

Three meetings so far this season, the first exceedingly cold that put all but the most hardy off, although it did see Tony Collins start the year where he left of in October with a 133mph run. The second was very windy so that only the bold and brave ventured on to the water, whilst the third coincided with that most un-British phenomenon, a warm and sunny Bank Holiday.

Record temperatures elsewhere, but just up from the River Crouch it was delightful, with all the prospects of a good day’s running, if only? First on were the airscrew boats, now fifty years since the MPBA recognised them as a class. Dave Smith had two perfect launches and two yip free runs at 112/113mph and called it a day, not bad for a standard MDS that was definitely short on compression. Of the others, Rick Neal’s Proffi showed just what it might do, if it could complete five timed laps at those speeds, while John Underwood was trying every combination of botching his launches. The A1 class is certainly on the up at present with seven competitors in this class, including the newest recruits, Stuart Falconer and Ron Hankins, although on this occasion they showed what temperamental little beings they are with not a single run being completed.

Tony Collins' B1 Sport Diesel side winder Rick Neal's B1

The A2 Class was quite tight with Steve Poyser beating Mark Hankins by less than 1mph. Mark took the honours on the day with an unblemished three starts and three completed runs. Ron Hankins had a day that he would prefer to forget no doubt with a most uncharacteristic series of failures for no immediately fathomable reasons. A3 saw Ray Cox miss what could have been his best run ever as the OPS was still coming up when he put his hand up. John Hyder achieved what is a vain hope for many of us, a run with a Picco, which even Tony Collins struggled with for the first two rounds. In round three he got closer to a good needle setting at 126mph with a boat that is so fast, but so touchy on the needle.

Sport 40 was interesting, as Stuart Falconer seemed to find the only breeze of the day on consecutive laps to see his boat fly happily just after the platform, coming down right way up each time. Alan Greenfield has now got his asymmetric boat with the lay down engine running correctly, recording his second fastest speed ever. Bryn Colman has joined him in the ‘odd design’ stakes with another asymmetric hull and an even more unusual engine, a laid down ED Super Hunter diesel. Given the lack of umph and revs from this 1950s design it was expecting a bit much, but it could work. His more conventional S40 look on for a very respectable run until he left it too late and saw the boat run out of fuel before the five laps were up.

Engine guru Taff Bolen, who was on hand all day, pointed out the importance of having engines that started first go, but even more vital is keeping the things running at racing speed, a quest that many struggled with on the day, a most inexact science compared with F2A.

Speed round up.

8th April: B1 Class Rick Neal 102.5mph B1S Class John Underwood 92.65 A2 Class John Underwood 101.85mph A3 Class Tony Collins 133.87mph

20th April: AB Class Ron Hankins 114.69mph A3 Class Tony Collins 121.15mph A2 Class Steve Poyser 95.38mph
Sport 40
Class Stuart Falconer 90.91mph

6th May: A3 Class Tony Collins 126.70mph John Hyder 116.02mph Ray Cox 111.94mph

B1S Dave Smith 113,89mph A2 Class Steve Poyser 113.64mph Mark Hankins 112.96mph

Sport 40 Class Stuart Falconer 89.06mph Alan Greenfield 61.34mph

 Althorne 20th May

It was an enjoyable day, the water was quite flat and everyone was pleased with their runs. Ron Hankins was trying hard with his new CMB powered A1 but only achieved half a lap so it’s back to the workshop for some mods. Ray Cox had three good runs although running in a new piston and liner, so very pleased with 114, 111, 110mph.

Steve Poyser was running his new A1 engine that went well, as did his A2. Mark Hankins  was running his Picco  A2  managing three consistent runs at 111, 113, 110mph, something of an achievement on the day. Norman Lara also ran an A2, now with a few modifications to it and was happy with the motor.

A pensive Steve Poyser Dave Sheldrake, new B1 Pete Dirs on Starting duty

Dave Sheldrake had his new B1S with a Nova Rossi and was running very well, but the model pecked in and broke in 3 pieces, so back to the workshop for him for major repairs. Pete Dirs is still struggling to get a needle setting with his B1 although he deserves a medal for persistence.

Ron Hankins had his new A/B out for the first time but had problems setting it up, but looks it will be a good model, so back to the workshop for that one as well. Ron also ran the new B class engine that he built during the winter and this performed very well with a run at 119mph.

The 'Hankins' stable. A2 B AB/R Ray Cox and Dave Dave Sheldrake's secondhand B1

John Hyder was running his A3 but the Picco engine was not happy (when are they) so he brought out his other boat, which is a real ‘blast from the past’, being a sidewinder with the motor laying down and it showed very good speed after a very long lay up in the garage.  A good day in all

B1 Class Pete Dirs 84.73mph B1S Class Dave Sheldrake 91.40mph B Class Ron Hankins 119.56mph
A2 Class Mark Hankins 113.7mph Steve Poyser 99.64mph A3 Class Ray Cox 114.13mph

Oh what a perfect day

So goes the lyrics of the song, and in terms of the weather it was, an almost perfect day for tethered hydroplane racing. The fly in the ointment is the ongoing struggle that almost everyone seems to be suffering from at present, that of getting a hydroplane round five timed laps at racing speed. The failures were many and varied, covering the explicable, the botched launches and engines breaking with an ominous thud, to the entirely inexplicable, that has been evident for far too long, where they just won’t go.

Dave Smith, after two perfect launches last time out, found a far too tight bungee responsible for the first two failures with his B1S and then had the boat peck in after a perfect launch, mid way through a very quick run. Pete Dirs new, all carbon, B1 persisted in going round in ever decreasing circles leaving only Stuart Falconer managing a timed run on the light line. His little A1 sounds sweet enough but is way off the pace he is looking for, but it is going round, the first challenge. Unfortunately it also has an annoying habit of pecking it at the conclusion of the run, which it did twice. Ron Hankins has also joined the A1 ranks, something of a contrast to the mighty 15cc boats he usually runs.

Stuart Falconer's A1 Mark Hankins' A2 Steve Poyser's A2

Mark Hankins has been very consistent with his Picco A2 but only managed one run this time, again, nowhere near as fast as he is aiming for. Steve Poyser managed one run before a brand new exhaust sheared in half, whilst Lynn Blowers had the rod on her OPS snap the instant she launched. A perfect launch with a dead engine, with the boat coming to rest as it came off the bungee. For consistency though it was hard to beat Stuart Falconer and his Sport 40. As he puts it, a true S40 with a standard Irvine motor rather than a more expensive and trick motor. Three runs at 90mph with the final two just 1/100th different. Five out of six runs completed and more than the rest of us put together, well-done Stuart.

Stuart Falconer's S40 Ron Hankins' A1 Broken again

Last up were the A3s and a bit thin on the ground. Hugh Blowers’ Picco insisted on being a Picco and did get round once, but at a very sedate speed. Tony Collins’ similar motor refused to respond to his manipulations of the needle and never looked like going. Lynn Blowers decided on an ‘early release’ of her OPS, before her pit crew had finished work, so everyone got wet. In the second round, she held on until the ‘lollipop man' said go, launching perfectly to her first run of the season and her second fastest ever at 124mph, the top speed of the day.

Thanks to Sonia Collins for timing and recording all day and compiling the results. A wonder her DNS and DNF pen did not run out during the day?

Leading Results:

A1 Class Stuart Falconer 67.81mph A2 Class Mark Hankins 110.47mph Steve Poyser 102.23mph

S40 Class Stuart Falconer 90.96mph A3 Class Lynn Blowers 124.88mph Norman Lara 115.62mph

It weren’t ‘alf hot. July 15th

Gazebo, check, shorts, check, sandals, check, oodles of sun tan and water, check, ah yes, better put in a couple of boats as well. For the second weekend in succession, the temperature was going to be hovering around 30 degrees at a hydro meeting, and Althorne lake is somewhat short of shade, only a gentle breeze wafting up from the Crouch gave any hope of respite. The sustained dry spell is also having a very severe effect on the lake. Not only has the upper launching platform had to come out for the first time in years but now the lake bed is showing all round and the tripod on the pylon is above water level, which we have never seen. That we are in the driest part of the country and no rainfall in prospect is most worrying.

Almost perfect conditions for boat racing, but not apparently for boat starting, as one by one the A1s resolutely refused to respond to the cords, and so hot was it that it was down to relays of starters before the few desultory pops were rewarded with motors coming to life. Even then it was only Ron Hankins and Rick Neal that made it round the five timed laps, although at a somewhat more leisurely pace than either of them would like. Stuart Falconer’s runs ended with a big splash on each occasion as the boat pecked in, something A1s do have a habit of doing, all to do with the angle of dangle of the sponsons and the position of the front of the hull. This dearth of runs seems to be a constant theme and has been for some time, very frustrating and annoying as answers are not currently forthcoming.

The airscrew boats were unable to take advantage of the conditions as bungee and launching problems curtailed run after run. Dave Sheldrake was rewarded for all his years of work with a 147mph run at Kingsbury the previous weekend, could he do a repeat, or had he ‘fiddled with it’? The answers were yes and probably as the motor came in perfectly for another 147 and marginally quicker than his previous best. It is more than a decade since we have seen a B1 recording these sorts of speeds, let alone three in two meetings.

The A2 and S40 classes added considerably to the day’s failures with only Mark Hankins getting a run, his Picco 45 seeming to have lost some of its grunt this season. Norman Lara has been campaigning one of the new OPS 45s, which has shown good speed but a reluctance to complete a run. After two more failures Norman was getting to the stage of chucking the thing in the bin. Now he has, as a suggestion from Pete Dirs proved to be all too true. The only other thing it could be was a crack in the crankcase, and yes it was with the front bearing housing being split along the mould line. Not what was needed when heading off to the European Championships three days later? Another broken coupling and a needle valve left back in the workshop reduced the field even further, not going too well so far.

Dave Sheldrake B1 147.83mph Hugh Blowers AB/R 127.11mph Pete Dirs B1 150.78mph

A select band of A3s and ABs, yes plural, as Hugh Blowers has given up the unequal struggle with his Picco A3 and transferred his attention to one of Ron Hankins’ fearsome OPS 90 boats. Ron was still trying to figure out why one of his motors won’t work, whilst the one he prepared for Hugh started first tug and promptly put in a run at 127mph. Still not bragging rights in the household, but his fastest ever. Norman Lara is firmly mired in ‘Picco problem’ territory and Lynn Blowers had a needle unscrew, but did complete a run, a rare enough event on the day. So to Tony Collins, fresh from his triumph the previous weekend but missing 10mph. Most of us would be happy with 123mph from a Picco, but not when 130+ quite a bit is the norm?

On to round 2 and a blank score sheet for the A1s, so what could the B1s produce? Dave Sheldrake did not get a run, but after goodness how many years of failures Pete Dirs finally cracked it, 150mph. We said in the Tight Lines airscrew special that the prospects are good for this class, and they have certainly delivered. There is one slight ‘fly in the ointment’ in that airscrew boats are that and have to a) float, and b) touch the water when running. Point a) was called into question at Kingsbury and b) this weekend, and b is almost impossible to confirm at those sorts of speeds for the exact, five timed laps. This is a constant problem at International level and has to be judged impartially.

Tony Collins was confident that 150 was possible with his aged ST G15 powered B1S and he did beat Dave Sheldrake by 7mph, but not at 157mph as this was the Sport class and Dave was only just over 60mph. The A2s and S40 followed on from the A1s with an entire round of nulls, and sad to relate there were only two more completed runs. Hugh Blowers with the AB at 122 and Tony Collins with his A3 at 118mph. Ron’s AB upset itself without completing a lap, which decided him to call it a day, as did most others. What had started with a gentle southerly breeze and a delightfully flat water had now developed into a much more lively wind from the east so little to be gained from any more running. Norman and Tony both had another go, but neither of them was able to start a run, leaving Norman to burn the midnight oil before heading off to Bulgaria.

A lovely day that promised so much, and for the three personal best performance it did deliver, but for most nothing, except more frustration. Thanks to Sonia Collins for looking after the timing and recording all day. Not often that the air-con is at full blast all the way home after two consecutive meetings.

Results: A1 Class Rick Neal 86.61mph Ron Hankins 78.7mph A2 Class Mark Hankins 110.93mph A3 Class Tony Collins 123.21mph

AB Class Hugh Blowers 127.11mph

B1 Class Pete Dirs 150.78mph Dave Sheldrake 147.83mph B1S Class Tony Collins 68.56mph Dave Sheldrake 61.14mph