The world class tennis courts at Devonshire Park in Eastbourne are host to six major tennis tournaments every year; it is home to the Devonshire Park Tennis Club and also has public grass courts for hire. All of the courts are maintained with Eclipse 100 series pedestrian mowers from Ransomes Jacobsen, which feature state-of-the-art technology to provide whisper quiet performance and a high quality of cut. Ransomes Jacobsen is a Textron Inc. (NYSE: TXT) company.
Since 2009, a new WTA and ATP Tour event, the AEGON International has taken place in June and is used by a majority of the world's finest women tennis players as a warm up for the Wimbledon championships.
Roy Charman is the turf manager at the complex and is responsible for all the playing surfaces at Devonshire Park. He has worked at the Eastbourne facility for almost 20 years and heads a team of four. From 1976 he spent four years as a groundsman before returning in 1995 in his present role.
Roy and his team use three Jacobsen Eclipse 122 electric-powered pedestrian mowers for preparing the courts, all of which can be used in their hybrid configuration, using a petrol engine attached to a 48 volt genset to provide electrical current to the traction and cylinder drive motor or, alternatively, with a battery pack providing the power source.
"We used to use Greens King pedestrian mowers, but these have now been 'retired' to our bowling greens," he said. "They have served us very well, but when it was time to change we contacted our local dealer Harper & Eede to see what was available. We have worked with them for over 12 years and they are second to none. They help us with tournament support machines and are excellent business partners.
"We had a demonstration and I liked the concept of Eclipse mowers, using electric motors instead of mechanical drives and I was particularly impressed with the all-electric version with the drop-in battery pack.
"We now have the ability to remove the petrol engine, which is just a case of removing four bolts and a single wiring connector, then drop-in the battery pack, reconnect to the wiring loom and then we can mow courts next to those being used, without play being affected."
Grounds manager Andy Bacon added, "Each of the mowers is individually set up for me and my two assistants. However, due to the frequency of cut (FOC) technology, all mowers can be set to exactly the same FOC, ensuring that each of the six show courts - Centre, No.1, No. 2, No. 3, No. 4 and No. 5 - are all cut to exactly the same specification and play consistently during tournaments.
"These are great machines and work brilliantly for us here in Eastbourne. The ability to switch from petrol engine to battery means we can prepare the courts when we want to, without disturbing the players. The other great feature is the frequency of cut control. However, quickly or slowly we mow and whoever is out there mowing, we have the satisfaction of knowing that every court is prepared to exactly the same standards; something we can never achieve with a conventional pedestrian mower."
Image: (l-r) Andy Bacon with the battery Eclipse and Roy Charman and Danny Negus with the hybrid versions on the Centre Court before the semi-finals of the AEGEON International.