Force 10, Drayton Manor
a little experiment for you to try. Go out and grab someone from
anywhere in Britain. Next, ask them about the old TV game show, “Bullseye”.
I guarantee that within one minute, they will mention the contestants
who would “Win a speedboat, despite living in Tamworth”. The point
of this joke was that Tamworth is officially the furthest town in
Britain from the sea. Nowhere is more “midlands” than Tamworth.
Thank goodness that someone at nearby Drayton Manor Park thought to give
the good people of the town a taste of the coast. Not just any old
coast, oh no, but the exotic and tropical climes of... Cornwall.
Storm Force 10 was announced, it marked something of a change of
direction of direction for Drayton Manor. It would be the first time the
park attempted real theming for anything other than a dark ride, and
would be the first ride ever built by BEAR, a Swiss firm started by
ex-Intamin staff. It would be the first time the park claimed a “world
first”, although rumours of this being some sort of inversion were
swiftly dashed when it was revealed that Storm Force 10 would be the
first ever ride to be (drum roll please) endorsed by a charity. Not
exactly Earth-shattering, admittedly, but at least it’s a nice change
from rides being sponsored by big business. The charity in question was
the Royal National Lifeboat Institution, or RNLI, which obviously lent
itself very nicely to the concept of the ride.
a park that had never gone OTT with theming, Storm Force 10 came as a
very nice surprise. Built by Farmer Studios, the station and queue line
form a quaint Cornish village, complete with red and white lighthouse
and all sorts of artefacts relating to the RNLI. The entrance is buried
away slightly, and not the kind of grandiose lobby that first timers
would be looking for. Once inside, a very detailed recreation of a
nautical service hut reveals itself. Squeezing through this tight
pathway, you get your first hint of the ride’s blend of authenticity,
information, and subtle humour. A mournful voice on the radio endless
recites a pessimistic shipping forecast (“Storm Force 9, rising”),
while all around are rusty artefacts, and mouldy mugs of tea that all
look like they’ve been in service for decades. Over the years, this
scene, like all the others, has been well maintained, ensuring that the
only things that seem run-down are the ones that are supposed to.
we enter a much larger room, where portholes in the wall provide
detailed information about the RNLI, its work, and its history. The path
takes us to meet a long-serving animatronic lifeboatman. This old-timer
really has seen it all, and proceeds to prove it by reeling off endless
stories of danger and peril, involving countless references to fire,
floods, and fish. This kind of detail really is excellent, as it means
that, between reading the information on the wall, and listening to the
stories, you have plenty to do while you’re waiting to board your
quick trip up the lighthouse stairs exhibits the same kind of attentions
to detail as the maintenance hut. Again, the park’s signature brand of
subtle humour is there for those who take the time to look, while in the
background, the RNLI radio relays a crew’s horror at how bad the
conditions are, with a general agreement that things are almost up to
Storm Force 10. Heavens above, who would have expected such a thing?
you leave the lighthouse, the theming dries up, and you pass around the
lifeboat station to a platform, from which almost the entire ride is
visible. The overriding thought here is likely to focus on the water,
which doesn’t exactly seem clean. Indeed, the final drop seems to
throw up almost a solid curtain of dark green lake water. Just keep
telling yourself it’s all a perfectly authentic simulation of what the
RNLI lifeboats go through. It’s not true, but it’s a comfort.
inside the station, the theming resumes, with ride information set out
on old fashioned blackboards, and posters showing the different type of
craft used by the RNLI over the years, while the shelves offer an
insight into what lifeboatmen do when they’re waiting for a callout -
eat biscuits and drink tea, by the look of it. Particularly useful is
the poster that advises us on how to spot the differences between the
hammerhead shark, spannerhead shark, and the notoriously versatile
a row of bright orange eight-seat lifeboats await your captaincy, the
staff point you to your vessel. If you have any choice in the matter,
sit as far forward as possible. I’ll reveal the reason later. Like
many flume-type rides, the boats have no restraints, which is
unfortunately taken by some as an invitation to stand up and even climb
over the seats in mid-ride. Unfortunately, you have to just trust to
luck that you won’t be setting sail with such idiotic land-lubbers.
you, a shutter thoughtfully conceals the first surprise of the day,
before rising to allow you into the launch area. Once in position, a
cheerful lifeboatman pulls the lever to begin your mission.
Unfortunately, this is one point where the theme breaks down. What
exactly is your mission? Nobody has said anything about going to rescue
anyone, so why are we being sent out?
Does someone need us, or are we
just heading down the shore to replenish the station’s supply of tea
bags? No time to stop and think about that, as the first drop provides a
very enjoyable start to the ride. The ramp doesn’t reach the same
angle as the drop, and so there’s a great moment where the drop seems
to suddenly steepen. At the bottom, there is a good splashdown that
sends water flying into over unsuspecting spectators near the ride
entrance, while giving riders nothing worse than a little spray. We then
head off between two large waterfalls, which helps to maintain the sense
of drama, if only because of the sheer noise of the great torrents
falling either side of the trough.
comes the wasteland. After such great theming in the station area, it is
unfortunate that this doesn’t extend to the rest of the ride. Instead,
we take a fairly uneventful wander around a relatively austere piece of
land, before turning back and climbing a lift hill that takes the boat
up and into an oilrig. If there was anyone working there, they’ve
already been rescued, and so we turn back, in every sense of the word. A
turntable slides across, and we’re pushed backwards into the second
drop. This drop is the reason for me saying you should sit as close to
the front of the boat as possible. Of the four rows, the first stays
fairly dry, the second gets a bit wet, the third gets a bit of a
soaking, and the fourth gets utterly saturated. Even on hot days, the
magnitude of the drenching given to back seat riders is well in excess
of anything you could describe as remotely enjoyable.
second turntable is placed near the bottom of the first drop, and bad
timing might mean that back seat riders have insult added in injury, as
they catch another wave from a boat leaving the station. For everyone
else, things remain very jolly, as the boat winds its way beneath the
station, and the theming resumes. A man-shaped float is labelled “life
boy”, and hand painted warnings about strong tides remain unfinished
as the sign writer gets swept out to sea. Emerging from the shadows, the
large lift hill takes us slowly to the ride’s highest point, offering
a tremendous view of the park. Again, this won’t be much fun for back
seat riders, as they’ll find themselves shivering in the ever-present
wind. Although the trough is still water-filled, the boat slowly rumbles
along, powered by submerged tyres, creeping leisurely toward the final
double-drop into the lake.
the final drop is good, it lacks the grace of the similar drop on Thorpe
Park’s Loggers Leap, and feels slightly clumsy in comparison.
Nevertheless, it brings the ride to a good climax, and provides an
excellent splashdown, the boat skimming the water briefly before sinking
down slightly to give a more spectacular wave. A short amble takes us
back to the station, passing a coin-operated model boat game that uses
some natty models of the Storm Force 10 station and oilrig. A final lift
hill hauls us back into the station, from which a set of stairs lead
back to the ground, via the obligatory photo stall, offering
bog-standard montages of you and your shipmates navigating the final
brilliant. My first visit to Drayton Manor in 2000 was highlighted by
this wonderful ride, everything is just perfect on it
for criticisms, minor niggles come in the fact that the boat tends to
“drive” along between drops, rather than floating, while the seats
could so with some form of restraint just to stop the occasional moron
from ruining others’ enjoyment. Sadly, the ride has one major flaw,
and that is the over-drenching of back seat riders on the backward drop.
Even in a heat wave, it would take far too long to dry out after such a
comprehensive soaking. In the art of saturation, the back seats of Storm
Force 10 can even out-soak grand masters like Thorpe Park’s Tidal Wave
and Oakwood’s Hydro. The difference, crucially, is that people go on
those rides expecting to come off sopping wet, and prepare accordingly.
People board Storm Force 10 expecting a relatively gentle log flume-type
affair, which makes the drenching a very unwelcome surprise.
Furthermore, neither Tidal Wave or Hydro rub salt into the wound by
soaking their riders and then taking them back into the air to freeze
them half to death. For goodness sake, if you’re going to ride Storm
Force 10, make sure you have a poncho, or a complete change of clothes,
even if there’s only a 25% chance of you needing them.
such criticisms, Storm Force 10 proves that even relatively small parks
can combine excellent family rides with good quality theming. The fact
that the theming is based on something real adds immensely to the ride,
particularly as it manages to combine genuine information about the RNLI
with an understated form of humour. The only flaws in the theming are
the lack of a progressing storyline, and the absence of theming in the
section leading to the first lift hill.
spectators, Storm Force 10 is highly impressive, combining the
impressive village scene on one side, and a spectacular view of the ride
from across the lake. For those in the queue, it is a masterclass in how
to make theming both informative and entertaining, while remaining
totally immersive. For those on the ride, it is arguably the best
flume-type ride around, with plenty of tricks up its sleeve to
distinguish itself from the rest of the genre. In fact, the ride manages
to keep everybody happy. Well, everyone who hasn’t found themselves in
a back seat, at least.
the final forecast: Drayton; Storm Force 10; becoming wetter; good.
▪ One of the most
original flume rides in the UK with 3 excellent drops
▪ Gets off to a great
start with a drop out of the station
▪ Original lifeboat
▪ Entertaining queue
▪ The water is
▪ You get far too wet on
the backwards drop
▪ Final drop isn't as
forceful as it could be