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Who’s who in tethered hydroplanes


Ron Hankins

Ron is current holder of the record in A/B Class at 137.07mph, having beaten his existing record twice in the 2013 season and the outright hydroplane record at the start of the 2014 season. He also broke the longest standing of British records, the 15cc B Class, no less than four times during the 2013 season. Ron increased the record from the  115.91mph set in 1998 to 124.28mph.

How did you start in hydro's?
I first saw hydro's running at St. Albans and thought I would like to try this sport, but at the time I was well into Catamaran racing so Sundays were all taken up, many years later my sailing had come to an end and I was well into model engine building and visited the London Model Engineering Show at Wembley, I came across the hydro stand, this prompted me to to start hydro racing.

What made you choose the classes you are competing in?
Having made the decision to start racing,  I wanted to run in the 10cc class (the top class in my mind), my brother had a Picco P60 motor. I found it almost impossible to buy a 10cc motor, this was my only option.

What engines do you run and why?
OPS 60,67,Picco exp 10cc,CMB 67 and Picco 75. I think these are the best motors on the market at this time.

Hulls built to your own design, or based on someone else's plan?
My hulls are based on current designs.

Do you have an engineering background?
I have a motor fitting background, which took me to IFVME Fighting Vehicles, from there to the Road Research Laboratory, then to our family run wheelchair business. At this time I bought a second hand lathe, taught myself to use it and started model engine building. Having placed a V12 and 9 cylinder Bentley on the desk of the manager at Sussex & Berkshire he gave me a job in engineering, making food packaging machinery.

Which win or achievement has given you the most satisfaction?
My latest A/BL record.

Current ambition or project?
My current ambition is to reach 130 MPH. As for building my own racing engine, I only build four-stroke engines and much to my disappointment nobody runs in this class.

What do you consider to be the most crucial element in getting a boat to run quickly?
Engine and propellers. As to modification most modern racing engines are well tuned to start with, I do modifications to heads, carburettors, and timing.

Is there any boat from the past you would have liked to have seen?
I am not into the past, I want to run the next record breaking boat.

Breaking the A/B record in 2009 Ron with his son Mark OPS power in the 2011 record holder
V12 at Old Warden Some of the many and varied engines that Ron has built
The impressive looking and sounding 9 cylinder rotary engine


Who’s who in tethered hydroplanes.

Arthur Wall

Secretary of the Model Hydroplane Club of GB  for 35 years, now its President. Long time Kingsbury Club, Hydro Secretary. First person in Britain to officially record a 100mph run at Woburn, October 1972

How did you start in Hydro’s?
Used to pop into the corner shop opposite where I was living for some cigarettes. Got talking to the person running the shop, Mr Scarnell, about model making and he introduced me to his son Dave. We became friendly and he persuaded me to build my first boat. Dave then ran it at the Fleetwood Club's, Easter Regatta. That trip to the Club and seeing people like Tom Dalziel and Doc English running their boats got me completely hooked. I will always remember Dave doing castings in the back kitchen, they had one of those coke burners, ideal for melting the alloy, but there used to be hell to pay if he was caught doing it. 

What made you choose the class you are competing in?
I chose the C Class, now A3 because one evening Dave Scarnell asked me if I would like to go with him to see Tom Dalziel. I accepted and during the evening Tom had a doctor friend call to see him and during the conversation I said I would have to save until I could afford an engine. Upon that Tom’s friend said he would give us a 8cc McCoy if we promised to use it, which we did. That is how I decided on the 10cc C Class, and also for the last 15 years I have been running a 6.5cc OPS in A2.

What engines do you run?
In the early days it was McCoys, then the Rossi, which did the first 100mph run, then several years using OPS and currently Picco EXR.

Apart from the hull do you make any other parts of the boat?
I have made the last two pipes for the 10cc and 6.5cc hydro’s from sections turned from solid mild steel bar and then brazed together. Also props for the 6.5cc from cut down props and for the 10cc they are made from machining out of solid bar. The engine bearers and skeg are made from aluminium bar, the skeg shaft and drive couplings are made from steel bar and case hardened.

Do you have an engineering background?
I was a toolmaker. When I went into the army I was asked where I came from and I said I lived in Birmingham, the sergeant then said ‘you must be in engineering then’. Anybody that came from the Midlands was assumed to be in engineering. I served with R.E.M.E for two years and served time in Egypt. When I was demobbed I returned to the pump makers Tangye Ltd of Birmingham. Finally settling with lock makers C. W. Cheney & Sons Ltd, doing optical profile grinding in the tool room until I retired.  

What Clubs have you been a member of?
I joined Coventry M.E.S along with Dave Scarnell and after running at Naul's Mill Park, Coventry for two or three years, we decided to move to North Birmingham. By then I was using a 10cc Rossi (a present from my wife) I then moved to Bournville M.Y.P.B.C eventually I was voted in as Commodore and alternating years as Vice Commodore. Eventually I moved to the Kingsbury Club (my present club) in which I now hold the post of Tethered Hydro Secretary.

You’ve competed abroad as well as here in England?
I’ve been to Czechoslovakia, Ostend and of course Amiens and Poitiers. My wife Brenda always accompanies me and we have made so many friends over the years on these trips. The American, Bob Palmer used to stay with us when he was over here on a visit. He was a wonderful guy and I have some really happy memories of his trips over here.

What do you consider to be the most crucial element in getting a boat to run quickly?
There is not just one element; you have to have a good engine. The boat has to be as light as it practically can be, bearing in mind the stress that is put on the hull if it does get to a high speed. A more important thing is to get help from someone with more experience than you. (And a bit of luck)

Is there any boat or person from the past you would have liked to have seen running?
I was very lucky and met that person, the Italian, Carlo Fontanesi. I met him and his wife Dora when they came to Payre in France. I had heard so much about the round aluminium hull he had made in three sections that he screwed together. It was powered with the original vintage 10cc McCoy, I am glad I was there to see it.                       Right: Carlo Fontanesi's hydroplane

Landmark achievement: On the 1st of October at Woburn, Arthur made a run at 98.33 mph. Just three weeks later, on the 28th of October 1972, again at Woburn, Arthur achieved the first official run at over 100 mph in the UK, with his Rossi engined hydroplane ‘Petit Chat’ covering 500yds at 100.52mph.

Right: The Rossi motor that powered the A3 hydroplane 'Petit Chat' (above) to the first 100mph run recorded in the UK.

Left: MPBA Technical Certificate for 'Petit Chat'

Arthur in non racing guise with
straight running steam yacht

Arthur and the British team
 in Amiens in 1968

Arthur launching A3 boat
at Rowden regatta 09