29th June: Hovercraft off Lepe

While the Southsea to Isle of Wight Hovertravel service is a regular sight in the eastern Solent, to see a hovercraft in the western Solent is very unusual. On Thursday, 29th June 2023, Watchkeepers at our NCI Stone Point station received many questions from visitors about the hovercraft which made several passes close to the shores of Lepe Country Park.

According to Griffon Hoverworks these were part of the sea trials for…

‘Baien’, the first of three hovercraft for the Oita Prefecture in Japan. The 12000TD craft was launched from Griffon’s Portchester shipyard and will be based in Ryde for the remainder of the sea trials. Oita Prefecture plan to operate a hovercraft service across Beppu Bay to improve access between Oita Airport in Kunisaki City and Oita City.

Griffon’s usual factory is on the east bank of the River Itchen a little way upstream of the Itchen Toll Bridge but it seems they have taken over the big industrial shed at Porchester specially to build these hovercraft for export to Japan.

At Lepe we have seen Baien on several days since, but eventually it seems that she will be bound for far away shores!