MPBA Interviews Zack Humphries

This is the first of a series of interviews with some of our most successful members in National and International competition. In this article we talk to FSR-Endurance (multi) racer Zack Humphries. Zack is the 2014 3.5cc World Champion, 2016 15cc Silver Medallist, 15cc winner at the 2016 van Marle International and 3.5cc winner in the last 2 iMBRA League races in Oudenaarde and Saulxures.
Zack at Peterborough 2017
MPBA: How did you get into model boating?
Zack: Through my Mum and Dad, they’ve been racing for about 27 years. They had a small break whilst my dad started the family business and the boats were put away under the stairs… then I for some reason was searching for something and saw them (yes they had blue roll and were inside bags) and said why don’t you both start doing it again!
MPBA: Have you tried any other forms of model boating?
Zack: No, but I have built a 3.5cc Hydro for my secondary school.
MPBA: Can you remember your first win and how did it feel?
Zack: I can’t remember my first win as such. But my first race was as a junior at the Naviga World Championships in Italy 2008. I made the A-Final and finished in 3rd place. So that for dad, mum and I was incredible! Mum was in tears…. there’s pictures of this!! Editors Note – Yes there are. Here’s one.
MPBA: How about your first big win?
Zack: My first big win was at the 2014 IMBRA World championships in 3.5cc at the age of 20. That’s the first one I really remember.
MPBA: First International win?
Zack: Besides the world championships in 2014, it would have been the British international in the 3.5cc 2014.
MPBA: What’s your proudest moment so far in your racing career?
Zack: Contrary to what most people would probably say; I’d have to go with the 2016 IMBRA World championships finishing 2nd to Sebastian Videmont. I gave absolutely everything I had in the last few laps and even though I crashed on the last corner attempting my only possible chance to pass, it was one of the greatest races I’ve had. Video (Watch from 10:46 for the incredible last throw of the dice attack from Zack).
The other choice is at the Naviga 2015 world championships, a 3.5cc Heat. The boat wasn’t running cleanly and we hadn’t got the speed. I was in 5th place and hadn’t been able to get past any of them for the full 20 minutes. Then the whistle went; and it was like I found a second gear and had the eye sight of an eagle. I over took all four boats in front of me between centre buoy and the transponder wire. Finishing 1st in that heat!!
MPBA: What’s your favourite class to race in? Why?
Zack: Difficult. 15cc is the blue ribbon class. However, the technical ability required for 3.5cc is immense.. I’d still have to choose 15cc though.
MPBA: Let’s talk about equipment. What ingredients make a successful multi boat?
Zack: Being well setup up on the day, with attention to detail during preparation.
MPBA: How much difference does the driver make? What about the pitman?
Zack: Let’s start with the pitman. I can’t really comment too much on this, I’ve always had my Dad and would choose him over anyone. He knows the way I think and drive. I’d say the pitman is about 40% of the final result. Without them your job would be very hard as a driver. Therefore we rate the driver as 40%, leaving 20% for luck. For us; it’s not him or her. It’s always been us, as a team.
MPBA: What equipment do you currently use?
Zack: We use an assortment of gear but the majority of our equipment is from OS Engines, Multiplex, and Prestwich Models.
MPBA: How do you get more performance out of an engine?
Zack: Contact Zack Humphries at Dynamometer World.
MPBA: Any new builds on the Horizon?
Zack: Typically we build a new boat every year alternating the classes. So not yet!
MPBA: Who do you consider your biggest rivals?
Zack: There are many big names and that’s too hard to choose. Editors note – See World Champions for our opinion.
MPBA: What is it with you and blue roll?
Zack: It’s probably a question that’s best answered by my Dad. It all started years ago, we used blue paper to cover the engine bay so that no dirt or contaminates would enter the boat. It seems to have been extrapolated into this secret hiding blanket…. or is it? I’m sure now someone’s inventing X-ray glasses specially for blue roll… but don’t worry, I’ve already designed a frequency jammer if such a problem arose.

Our thanks to Zack for taking his time to talk to us.

Related Images:

1938 Steam!

Stand off scale Ben My Chree. Hull carved yellow pine, single cylinder steam engine driving contra rotating props, separate donkey pump. Launched 1937/38 as a straight runner, last run in straight running late 1970’s St Albans international, before converting to RC. Now run very occassionally. A2 class (7.5cc) tethered hydro in foreground


Tethered Hydro Speeds

As the Tethered Hydro section does not run a traditional Championship like the other racing sections, the following table shows best speeds achieved this year by members in each class. Click on an underlined members name for biographical info from On the Wire. Description of Classes and Records

= Improved PB = Record

NameA1A2A3AB/RBB1/SSport ESport 40Vintage
Steve Poyser105.2124.44
Tony Collins102.48138.2990.68
Rick Neal84.15135.4288.76
Norman Lara100.5699.85
Lynn Blowers116.3122.36-130.97
Jim Free128.4865.62101.62
Ron Hankins133.69120.24
John Underwood70.4116.6397.3981.61
Ray Cox107.34
Hugh Blowers87.46
Stuart Falconer83.92
Doug Ettridge77.46
Alan Greenfield67.99
Pete Dirs95.55-96.5188.59
Mark Hankins113.97-115.48
Bryn Colman86.93
Rick Benson
Joan Benson69.78
Dave Scamell86.08
Dave Smith108.79

MPBA Members conquer Europe!

It was a great weekend for several MPBA members at the iMBRA League multi race in Oudenaarde, Belgium.

Brits dominated the 3.5cc class with the top 2 qualifiers and a 1-2-3 finish in the final. Congratulations to 2014 World Champion Zack Humphries (1st) (Prestwich Ikarus 2.3), Andrew Aykroyd (2nd) (Prestwich Ikarus 2.3) and Mark Wraight (3rd) (Modell Marin Falcon)

In 7.5cc, 2014 World Champion Martin Fields of LM Racing took the win with his Prestwich Pegasus Evo after an incredible race against Erich Costa (France). Erich was breathing down Martins neck the whole 30 minutes, but Martin kept his cool to take a well earned win.

In 15cc, young gun Zack Humphries was determined to carry his form through to the bigger class, but a spectacular 1st corner crash effectively ended his chances although he was able to get back on the water. Fellow Brits Phill Fields and Sam Lincoln could not match the pace of eventual winner Erich Costa (France).

In 27cc, Ian Folkson had a tough task to beat current iMBRA 27cc World Champion Erich Costa (france) and super quick Steven Kindt (Belgium) and finished a creditable 3rd maintaining his great consistency at Internationals.

Our 2 Juniors dominated the 3.5cc class with a 1-3 finish, Thomas taking the win in his very first International!

The Belgian organisers did a top job on what is traditionally one of the best internationals and the weather was fantastic all weekend, making the event hugely enjoyable for both competitors and spectators alike.

Brits in Belgium

Racing Boat Photography

You go out on a clear day thinking you’ll get some great shots of the days racing and most of your pictures end up looking blurred or fuzzy even though you’re wielding a grands worth of DSLR. The camera must be useless right? Unfortunately it’s not so clear cut.
The main problem is light, or lack of it. What looks perfectly clear to the naked eye is like a candlelit room to the sensor on a digital camera. A typical overcast English Sunday is not a friend to your camera. Adding to this, the reflections off the lake pose a serious challenge to the (fairly) dumb mechanism inside the camera that decides what the ‘average’ light level is as it exposes a frame.

As the name implies, a racing boat is travelling pretty fast. In order to ‘freeze’ the action, the photographer can take one of two approaches : He can set a high shutter speed of 1/800th of a second or faster, or he can try to smoothly follow the boat and match it’s speed to his ‘panning’ action. Both of these methods present their own difficulties. Let’s look at the high shutter speed first.

In the ‘olden’ days of 35mm film, you could buy the little film canisters in different ‘speed’ (ISO) ratings, ranging from 100 to say 1,200. This number represented how fast the film reacted to light, with 100 being the slowest, 1,200 the fastest. The ISO speed also determined the size of the ‘grain’ in the film and had a big impact on the final quality of a picture. Fine grained 100 ISO film, would produce a much higher quality image than 1,200 ISO but at the expense of requiring a much longer exposure (Shutter speed). In a digital camera, the ISO number can be set manually or the camera can do it itself. When left to its own devices, there is nothing to stop the camera setting an insanely high ISO in order to get the correct exposure for an image and you’ll end up with a correctly lit, but fuzzy image. A modern DSLR will produce decent images up to about 400 ISO with only the very top (And very expensive) models producing acceptable results beyond 400. On an overcast day, you will need to use at least ISO 400 to achieve a fast shutter speed. ISO 100 will only allow you about 1/250th of a second and that is not fast enough to freeze a boat in motion. So you’re compromised by the light.

Or you could try panning.

Panning is an art. Thank heavens for digital cameras with their ability to delete poor quality images without having to go through the time and expense of ‘developing’ the film. Panning takes a lot of practice. In attempting this technique, you’ll end up throwing away more images than you keep. Panning allows you to use a much slower shutter speed as the camera is swept from left to right matching the speed of the boat. Sounds easy? Nope. You have to do this in a very smooth motion and release the shutter mid-sweep, following through to get the most stable pan effect. Getting this right is rewarded by sometimes stunning images with the boat in sharp focus and the background blurred, enhancing the impression of speed.

1. High Shutter speed stops the action. This incredible shot of Filip Tin Pazins 15cc boat at the 2016 iMBRA World Championships even captures the detail of the broken rudder falling into the water (Bottom right of shot).

2. Slow Shutter speed conveys the impression of motion. This is a great panned shot of Ian Folksons 27cc boat at Peterborough 2017 in the National Drivers Championship. It has an almost dreamlike quality to it.

3. Burst Shooting is another technique you can use to tell the story of particularly dramatic incidents during a race. This involves setting the camera to continuously capture shots as long as the shutter button is held down. Burst shooting is dependent on your cameras specs. A mid-level DSLR can be expected to have a burst rate of around 5 frames per second, with the more expensive models able to shoot 7 frames per second or more. A pro sports journalist camera like the Canon 1DX can do 14 frames per second, but it costs 5 grand without a lens! Burst shooting can be a bit hit and miss. You need to know your subject. Watch for several boats all approaching a turn together, or know who the particularly crash-prone drivers are!
7 frame burst on Canon 70D DSLR showing Martin Hillsteads spectacular crash at Billing GB International 2016

Multi Racing World Champions

Chart of World Championships by Country

A look at the history of FSR Endurance shows Germany have dominated the World Championships since records began. But is this the whole picture? Germanys total has been bolstered by Rudi Hoffman’s and Ronny Riedel’s largely unchallenged 5 and 3 wins in 35cc respectively. The German team is still strong though, spearheaded by the amazingly consistent Hof Family.
Since CMB have been producing a 35cc engine, the picture has changed, with CMB owner Mauro Braghieri from Italy now setting the standard in the 35cc class. Mauro is, at the time of writing, the most successful individual racer with 8 titles to his name (3 x 15cc, 2 x 27cc and 3 x 35cc). Mauro was unable to attend the 2016 iMBRA World Championships due to ill health, but we expect him to be back to his best in 2018.
In the 27cc class, Mauro leads with 2 titles, but iMBRA Vice-President Erich Costa will be looking to grab the honours in 2018, with Steven Kindt (Belgium), top boat designer Valter Seljak (Italy) and Ian Folkson (Great Britain) also amongst the contenders.
In the Blue Riband 15cc class, the lions share of success has been split between the 2 top French racers Erich Costa and Sebastien Videmont with 4 titles apiece, although Mauro claimed the 2014 FSR-World title in a controversy-filled 15cc final. Brit Zack Humphries will undoubtedly want a slice of the action in 2018.
The 7.5cc and 3.5cc classes are less clear cut. In 7.5cc, the leader is Frederick Cederberg of Sweden with 3 titles. Freddie races less these days although he still produces the Falcon, Titan and Boudiccca boats from his Modell Marin business. Hot on his heels is Ludo Smeets from Belgium with 2 titles. 2016 iMBRA Champion Andras Berta from Hungary is currently the ‘in-form’ driver. Can he be stopped in 2018? Martin Fields (Great Britain), Ludo and Dieter Smeets (Belgium) and Evert de Ronde Jr (Netherlands) will all certainly be trying to do so!
The 3.5cc class is pretty even with Sebastien Videmont (France), Andras Berta (Hungary), Christoph Schneider (Germany) and Dave Marles (Great Britain) all on 2 titles each. We expect the 2018 Championship to be closely fought, with Brit Zack Humphries and Germany’s Winnie Ott also having a say in the outcome.

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