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Who’s who in tethered hydroplanes


Jim Free

In 2000 Jim set the British B1 record at 154.91mph. Holds Super Novice record at 111.30mph, Novice record at 107.97mph, B1R record at 121.32mph. Now holds the new B1Sport Class record at 126.01mph.

How did you start in Hydro’s?

The first model that I built when I was 9 was an Airfix, Spitfire, it was later in life that I started to build and fly control line models. I joined the Blackheath MPBC in 1964 and started my model boating interest (obsession) with a series of straight running craft powered by both IC and electric motors. I also dabbled in the early days of fast electrics.I started to get serious about hydro's in the late 60's early 70's.

What made you choose the B1 class(airscrew) to compete in?

I was inspired to start building airscrew hydro's after reading about Mike Drinkwater's efforts in this country, and reading in Model Boats Mag the reports of the high speed obtained by the B1 class craft in international competition.
I was only producing very mediocre speeds at first until I met the then French Champion Jean Marie Piednoir at St. Albans in 1978 who helped me push my speeds from the high 90's to speeds of over 100mph. I then met Hratcha Shahazizian in 1985 at the world champs in Holland, and then Alexander Tupekin in 1987 in the world champs in East Germany, both these guys were getting speeds of over 160+ mph when all around were doing 130-140mph. It was with their help with engine set up and prop technology that I set a new british record of just over 143mph in 1988

What engines do you run?

It used to be Rossi but when they stopped production I started to use Irvine in the open class B1, and MDS 15 in the B1R class

Hulls, built to your own design, or based on someone else’s plan?

I look at other designs and try and incorporate them into my own plans.

Which win has given you the most satisfaction?

1988 in Welwyn Garden City, all I heard was the time 7.2 sec, then I realised that I had got the British record at 143 mph.

Do you have an engineering background?

Yes, I took an apprenticeship with Henry Sykes, makers of water pumps and attended College at Woolwich, worked for Sykes from 63 to 81, then Head Lab Tech at Thames Poly for four years.

Current ambition or project?

Project, a new B1 boat for the World's in 2007. Ambition, how about the world B1 speed record, (well you never know)

Most crucial element in getting a boat to go fast

Only make one alteration at a time, and careful attention to detail.
Is there any boat you would liked to have raced?

Bluebird, but failing that one of Ken Hyder's, Slipper series of hydro's, the last one being beautifully shaped, chrome yellow in colour and powered by a McCoy 60 engine

Straight running Jim the photographer Jim and Sue at Payre  Jim's Snapdragon with Slipper

Many thanks to Jim for answering my questions, and sorting out the gremlins.

Thanks to Jim and Sue Free, and Terry Everitt for the photos