When I found out we were going to have a go at Hover crafting at the Max Events centre in Bristol, I really didn’t know what to expect. After all, the only hovercraft I had been on was a huge one across the English channel! The ones we were to have a goo on were just 600cc though!
Arriving at the centre we got kitted up in a fetching helmet (which didn’t do us any favours in the ‘cool’ department) and a pair of safety glasses. We then got the safety briefing about where we had to stand to avoid any out of control hovercraft pilots – sounded ominous!
The controls were explained to us but until you get in you couldn’t quite get your head around it. It all sounded a little weird. For a start you had to be on your knees and in an upright position, using your balance as the main steering force. So as you went around a right had corner you had to lean your body weight on to your right knee, whilst turning the handle bars the same direction. By turning the handle bars to the right too, the vents behind the fan would angle the air flow to aid turning. The accelerator was on the handlebars and controlled the fan behind you.
We were warned that the only thing you didn’t want to do was to take your finger straight off the accelerator whilst moving at speed, this apparently would bring the hovercraft to a direct stop, allowing you to leave the craft in a superman motion! None of us wanted to be the first to do that!!!
So after watching two friends going round first, which was hilarious because not only did it look tricky to control but you look pretty funny kneeling down trying your hardest to go around corners, it was then my turn.
Kneeling in position and gripping the lever, I was off down the first straight of the course. I approached the first right hand corner and knelt all my weight over and turned the handle bars, but unfortunately I over cooked it and instead of gliding around the corner I was sliding left into longer grass and off the course! OK first lesson learned, start leaning and turning way before the corner! This was, as every mistake was, cheered by the others in the group! Nothing like team support.
The other thing you become aware of early on is as you approached a few dips and holes in the course how easily you just glide over them with no real knowledge you had done. The cushion of air makes you glide along amazingly smoothly and efficiently. At speed though I soon found out why we had the safety glasses on as I got my first of many face-fuls of grass.
You could really pick up speed on the straights and you could get over zealous on the turns, but after a few time in the long grass or scraping along the edge of a ditch which was on one corner, you soon started to get the idea of how to line them up and the more I leaned in to the turns, the better I was turning. When you get the hang of it and pull of the first complete turn without stopping or sliding off it was a great feeling! Once the confidence started to come I found myself really enjoying planning the corners ahead of time and holding down the throttle on full on the straights. Unfortunately just as you get the hang of it we had to swap with others in our group.
We laughed from the moment we arrived at the course to the moment we left and I personally would like another go, maybe over water next time too!
To find out more about the Hovercrafts take a visit to the Flying fish website: Flying fish