MPBA Ship Handling Competition 2008

DAVE ALLEN reports on this event held at Balne Moor MBC

On Saturday 20th September, on the day before the 2008 MPBA Scale Nationals, was the event that the tug skippers love every year and Balne Moor is now regarded as the venue in the North where champions past and present show the skills required to compete at National level. Clubs represented included Ellesmere Port, Wirral, Goole, Huddersfield and of course the host club, Balne Moor MBC.

The venue is without a doubt one of the finest in the North of England with its course obstacles, i.e. docks and channels, permanently set out ready to link with the moveable course parts, such as buoys, oil rig and moored vessels to complete the full course. The committee and club members put in a lot of hours and work and deserve praise for this, so well done to you all.

The tug models are probably some of the most developed on the scale scene, with many varied propulsion systems including single screw, twin screw, paddles, Voith Schneider and Schottle drives, plus bow thrusters and in many cases working winches. All of this is very necessary to emulate the manoeuvrability of the real tug and to allow these skippers to complete the task of moving a large vessel round a course and dock it safely.

Balne Moor MBC has developed a system of using three man teams, but also incorporating single, two man and three man teams all on the course at the same time, which allows the event to progress quickly and everyone therefore has maximum time on the water during the day.

The tug towing skippers form a bond in their teams and it is fascinating to watch the experienced ones moving a large tow around without a word spoken. They seem to instinctively know what they need to do and when to do it, but their help and advice to the less experienced is always there and that spirit is very encouraging in these days of model boating.

There is always the unusual as was mentioned earlier, usually in the propulsion department and the tug towing fraternity seem to thrive on this. Some of you may have seen Steve Clubbes tug in the January 2008 edition of Model Boats, nose diving under power and quite spectacular. This can be the case with other users given the amount of voltage they pour into the drive systems in the quest to be more powerful and keep the edge on the competition.

Many of the models are powered by industrial style motors which need anything from 12 to 24 volts and even 36 volts in some cases. Although the operating voltage is high, this can help reduce the current required and gives long running times plus masses of torque at low revs. This comes about because of the quality of the build of these large motors (often ex-industrial) with strong magnets etc. So, the tug towing boys seem to have got to grips with this aspect of the sport now. John Pollitt of the host club was heard to say to Steve Clubbe of Ellesmere Port MBC that he thought he had more power! A silly statement and after the event off they went, hitched the tow up and away they went. You have to bear in mind that Johns Carousel tug can pull in any direction as the tow line can rotate through 360 degrees and can exert its bollard pull in any direction.

This was quite a spectacle and not for the faint hearted, but having said that after 20 minutes or so trying their hardest to out pull each other (we were not sure if the tow would take this kind of treatment or if we would have two smaller tows at the end of it all), John took the top off the carousel tug and there was less than a teaspoonful of water in the hull, so its all down to the quality of build.

I think that this was one of the finest and well executed scale handling competitions I have ever witnessed, and would like to thank all at Balne Moor for their efforts on making the day such a pleasant and enjoyable one and to the contestants for their skills and entertainment throughout the event.

Balne Moor MBC contact is Ian Wallett, tel: 01977 517172 and the clubs excellent private water facility is off the M62, Junction 32 near Doncaster. The MPBA have a website: or for membership inquiries and details of a club near you please contact: Peter Revill, tel: 01624 854765.

Results for the top three teams

First and the winner of the MPBA Ship Handling Shield was John Pollitt (Carousel tug), Steve Clubbe (Powerful), and Mike Ellis (Svitzer Mars).

Second was Mike Ellis (Stackgarth), Steve Clubbe (Powerful) and John Hughes (Forceful)l.

Third was Mark Butler (Flying Osprey), Mike Ellis (Svitzer Mars) and Steve Jones (Alexandra).