Weekend Review : Do I Look Hovered?

They can glide over land and sea, but is a weekend of hovercrafting a inflating experience?  Mark Southern found out.

As first published in The Exchange Magazine, 2011

It’s the question no-one is asking – is hovering cool?

Helicopters hover, and they’re cool.  But then the office bore hovers around you at the work Christmas party, and that definitely isn’t cool.

Michael J Fox had a hoverboard in Back to the Future, and I think we can all agree that was cool.  But then mosquitoes hover over you when you’re innocently going about your holiday, and having your shoulders covered in insect bites is the antithesis of cool.

But hovercrafts?  Er, we’re not so certain.

Sure, if you were watching an episode of Tomorrow’s World in the Eighties and you saw a hovercraft, you’d be absolutely certain you were witnessing the transport of the future.  And, let’s face it, the transport of the future is inherently cool whatever era you might live in.

However, last time you checked that luxury car you’ve got in the garage has wheels, and no inflatable bottom.  And, strictly speaking, if you were to meet a Tomorrow’s World presenter propelled through time, then you actually do live in the future, and you’re still not going to work in your 21st Century hovercraft.

So, the answer to the question no-one is answering is “we don’t know”.

This being the most unsatisfactory of answers, I decided to find out more with a adrenalin-fuelled hovercraft weekend in Kent.

Arriving at the outdoor venue in Sandwich, I was struck by the scale of the ‘track’.  It’s vast, and encompasses a variety of terrain (thus proving those Tomorrow’s World assertions that the transport of the future would be able to cross water and land – useless luxury cars and their pathetic roadiness).

After a safety briefing we were kitted up, and were taken to our Hovercraft School, where I am pleased to report all twelve riders passed with flying colours, no doubt leaving twelve mothers bursting with pride.

Then, it was competition time, in a series of racing events, culminating in the ‘Top Gun Shootout’ to find the fastest driver of the day (albeit without an accompanying Eighties soft rock soundtrack).

The first thing that really strikes you when saddled up is the thrill of the ride.  When watching others the speed seems pedestrian, but inside the cockpit of the Flying Fish hovercraft, the 3,800 rpm of the engine forces the vehicle forward at genuine pace.  When you really get to grips with it, the experience is utterly exhilarating.

A creditable, but ultimately losing fifth place was gained after the day of racing, but the experience completely snapped me out of ‘City mode’ and into a different world, where my instinct and reactions were everything.

To make the weekend complete, I headed to the nearby Eastwell Manor luxury spa hotel, and had the surprisingly high number of slight bumps and bruises ironed out with their award-winning treatments.

So, in summary, Tomorrow’s World were right after all and hovercrafts are cool.  They’re probably not the transport of the future, but they do make for a brilliantly fun weekend retreat.

Hovercraft weekend experiences are available from www.flyingfishhovercraft.co.uk.  Stay at Eastwell Manor (www.eastwellmanor.co.uk).

 

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