This is the story of how private foreign enterprise in the form of Swedish Lloyd and Swedish America Line, who formed a British company called 'Hoverlloyd', galvanised the British Government in to supporting this new concept in transport through the formation of a British Rail subsidiary called 'Seaspeed'. It is a story, told by those who were there, of how young adventurous men and women, most of whom were in their twenties and early thirties, took on the exciting challenge of getting an operation, in which they all believed had a great future, off the ground. It tells of the difficulties and near disasters, through lack of experience, that nearly wrote off the industry in the early days; the clashes of cultures between the free enterprise and Government operations; and why, after so much early promise, the great adventure with the giant car and passenger carrying hovercraft came to an end. The story begins with the history of Saunders Roe and their involvement as a result of the discovery by Christopher Cockerell in 1953 that big weights could be supported on a cushion of low pressure air and that the concept could be practically applied. Much has already been written about Christopher Cockerell, later Sir Christopher, and the development of the hovercraft by Saunders Roe, as well as the hovercraft industry to the present day. Those relevant parts showing the frustrations and disappointments they too suffered are repeated in this book, together with new material that has come to light, to provide a comprehensive narrative of the hovercraft industry and the giant SR.N4 cross-Channel operations.
ABOUT AUTHORS Robin Paine was born in the USA in 1942 and went to prep school in Tonbridge, before entering the Nautical College Pangbourne, following which he joined the British India Steam Navigation Company in 1959 as a cadet serving in cargo and passenger ships to India, Ceylon, the Persian Gulf, East Africa, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Australia and New Zealand. After nearly six years with the company he joined Cunard with a First Mate's Certificate as Second Officer on the trans-Atlantic cargo ships, one of which lost its rudder in a storm 600 miles from Newfoundland resulting in an SOS and a seventeen day tow back to Southampton. After obtaining his Master's Foreign Going Certificate in 1967, he decided to look to a life closer to home. He joined Townsend Ferries on their new roll-on roll-off ship, 'Free Enterprise III', on the Dover Zeebrugge service and within a week found himself as Chief Officer. But the lure of the hovercraft was too great and he managed to get in more or less on the ground floor with Hoverlloyd's new operation with the giant SR.N4 out of Ramsgate. A Private Pilot's licence, combined with his Master's Certificate may have helped to secure his position and he was also fortunate enough to have been given a few hours training in the smaller SR.N6 before formally joining the company on 2nd January 1969 as Second Officer, helping to develop the techniques for high speed navigation on the larger hovercraft. Within a year he was promoted to Captain and then Safety Captain in 1972. He remained with Hoverlloyd until 1979, before moving on to peruse his business interests, but has always maintained a keen interest in the concept of hover transport. Roger Syms After 11 years at sea, with BP Tankers and the Royal Fleet Auxiliary, the stores arm of the British Navy, carrying everything from cases of beer to nuclear devices, Roger came ashore to study for a degree in nautical science. By 1969 when Hoverlloyd's cross-Channel service commenced, he was beginning to realise that he was studying for a qualification which rendered him suitable for the very thing he didn't want to do, most of which would involve working in a London office, just the sort of employment he had originally gone to sea to avoid. An offer of a Navigator's job with Hoverlloyd, just for the season, came as a life-saver. As a further bonus, halfway through the summer, he was offered permanency. Roger was made Captain in 1972 and then went on to be Flight Manager in Hoverlloyd at the time of the expansion to four craft in 1977. At the merger, and the creation of Hoverspeed, he took up the position of Flight Manager in the merged company. Unable to settle into the new company's culture Roger left in 1982. He now lives in Launceston, Tasmania after a successful second career as an academic starting with the Australian Maritime College and then moving on to run his own training company in Australia and overseas, mainly India and Pakistan. He, like most other Hoverlloyders, looks back on his 13 years spent with the big machines as the most exciting and rewarding time of his life.