HPV World Championship 2012 - Great Britain
World Human Powered Vehicle Association
The HPV World Championship 2012, 8-10 June, was hosted by the British Human Power
Club at Fowlmead Park, Deal, Kent, a 200-acre park and wildlife sanctuary with miles
of walking and cycling trails and a 2.17-mile tarmac cycle racing circuit rated by
British Cycling as the best in the country. The event had 72 entrants, and in the
words of organiser Mike Burrows, “was small but perfectly formed”. The racing was
wonderful, 200-acres gave plenty of room for camping, and a central administration
building provided a café, plus toilets and showers.
Annual championships for modern HPVs began with the first IHPVA speed competition in 1975 and initially were dedicated to speed record attempts. Racing was incidental. The focus was on winning a $25,000 DuPont prize for the first HPV to reach 65 MPH in a 200m sprint.
However, when Fast Freddy Markham riding Gardiner Martin’s Easy Racer Gold Rush attained the magic 65, it was not at a championship, but a solo ride high in the Colorado Mountains. Running in thinner air increases speed, and this took record attempts in a new direction. HPV teams looked for venues with environmental and geographic advantage. One team claiming a record wanted to keep the site location a secret. Another team travelled at considerable expense from Europe to Bolivia, in order to set records at 12,000 feet.
Meanwhile, at annual championships, mass start circuit racing, practical vehicle competitions, open road races, and fun events became increasingly important. This reflected the growing popularity of HPVs as transport and general sport machines. Conversely, the importance of record attempts decreased.
With HPVs gone to the mountains, top record-setting teams stopped going to championships, because it was impossible to set a record. (Even today, no HPV has gone over 62.5 MPH at sea level.) Yet setting up and running a speed record event is a lot of work, and requires technical expertise and precise equipment.
At the WC2001 hosted by the BHPC in Brighton, a sprint course was set up along the promenade. Of course for public safety there had to be extensive crowd control barriers. The cost in both finance and physical labour was high. On the day, the wind blew so fiercely, some cyclists (not competitors!) were using sails. The BHPC lost around €6000 on the event.
Yet WC2001 did make a positive showing. On the following day competitors raced at Goodwood GP motor racing circuit. The course was for speed rather than agility, but still, life was lots easier competing on proper track with crowd control and safety facilities already in place.
The WC2002 in Canada reputedly cost the HPVA $5000 and was the last championship held in North America. In Europe, the championships continued, sometimes on the back of other events, such as Velovision. Persuading a club to host a championship was always difficult. The task was seen as likely to drive an organiser mad, and ruin a club’s finances.
The WC2008 at Bentwaters, England hosted by the BHPC signalled a change. In truth, the Brits hoped for some record-setting. However, even with a huge airport runway to play on, not even competitive HPVs could get up to speed. What did work, and very well, was having races and other events at a big venue well out in the countryside, requiring few crowd control or safety barriers.
Playing with HPVs is fun, and when Mike Burrows proposed having the BHPC host WC2012 at Fowlmead and said he would do the organising, many club members were enthusiastic and volunteered to help. The project was AGM-approved and what happened next was both funny, and instructive.
All the souls volunteering to help became the ‘race committee’. Mike produced a single piece of tattered paper with a few hand-written scribbles describing the event, and a breakdown of responsibilities, some assigned to volunteers, others not.
“It shall be as written”, commanded Mike. “If the committee decide differently, then that is what shall be. Whatever, each person is responsible for their own job, and for organising whatever further resources or help they need. They are to come back to me or the committee only if they cannot do it.” Whereupon Mike disappeared within his no-internet workshop, as a warrior monk might retreat to a sanctuary or cave.
The faithful gathered to help bring WC2012 into being looked at each other, scratched their heads, and wondered each and severally, how exactly to go about organising the event? There was chatter back and forth, lament for lack of hand-holding – and then one by one, these willing and able people said: “OK, I’m simply going to do it, best as I see fit”.
As ever, much work was done, and some club members did not race in order to be on duty during the event. However, many were also out on the track.
“Many hands make light work”. Rather than assigning all responsibility to one organiser and praying they do not overload and fail, better to delegate to a number of people, instructed to call for help if necessary. This spreads responsibility, because no one wants, or needs, to fail their team. Equally, if someone has a way of getting a job done, they must be allowed to proceed. The responsibility of the committee is to ensure the overall event works, not micro-manage each individual task.
In the course of setting up WC2012, the BHPC team encountered problems, including people unable to do jobs for reasons beyond their control. The team reformed and adapted as necessary. The amount of work performed should not be minimised. Plenty of midnight oil was burned. Some sacrifice is necessary. But still, putting on a championship event is a job that can be done – by you and me!
When the event was over, someone asked: “ How did we do? Did we break even financially?”
The accountant answered: “Haven’t totted up all the sums yet, but we won!”
Hooray Team BHPC!
Men's World Champion 2012 - Steve Slade in the Beano
Women's World Champion - Clair King in Number 50
Women's Champion, Part-faired - Denise Wilson Ratracer
Junior Champion - Tim Parker Faired Ice Monster