- Ken Warby
Ken Warby (born 9 May 1939) is an
Australian motorboatracer, who currently holds the Water speed recordof 317.60 miles per hour(511.13 kilometres per hour). This was set in Blowering Dam, part of the Snowy Mountains hydro-electric scheme, near Tumut, New South Wales, roughly 250 miles (400 km) south-south west of Sydney, on 8 October 1978.
As a child, Warby's hero was
Donald Campbell, who died attempting to break the record in 1967.
Warby designed the hull of his record-breaking boat, "
Spirit of Australia", himself and built it in his backyard. He started the project as a Makitasalesman who happened to team up with two Leading Aircraft Men at RAAF Base Richmondin the early 1970s. Crandall and Cox were instrumental in installing and engineering the Westinghouse engine that was not in working order when first obtained. The "Spirit" was covered with a canvas tarpaulin when it rained and was made of wood and fibreglass. Warby was able to obtain the jet enginehimself as military surplus; obtained from an auction for only $69.
On 20 November 1977, he set the world water speed record of 288.60 mph (464.46 km/h), breaking the record of
Lee Taylorby a little over 3 mph. With his 317.60 mph run, he was the first and only person to exceed 300 mph (482 km/h) on water and live to tell the tale; Donald Campbelldied on his attempt after his hydroplane crashed at over 320 mph on his return run in his 1967 record attempt. Warby's record still stands, and the 300 mph barrier has never again been exceeded.
By 2003 Warby had designed and built another vessel, which he has called "Aussie Spirit", and with which he planned to increase his own record. It is of similar dimensions to "Spirit of Australia" and also is powered by a
Westinghouse J34jet engine. The rudder alone on this new boat cost more than the $10,000 all-up cost of the original "Spirit". Again, Warby designed, built, self financed and piloted his own boat.
In recent years, Warby has been associated with offshore power boat racing in the US with the AMF team. It was at such an event with AMF at
Chattanooga, Tennesseeon 16 October 2007 that he officially ran his jetboat for the last time. On the 30th anniversary of the 1977 record, Warby announced his retirement from further record attempts.
Warby has commented "This date is the one that is most important to me as it was the realisation of a lifetime dream of holding the record for Australia. The 317.60 mph, though important, was only the icing on a wonderful cake. I intend to do some celebrating on that November 20th evening and have a toast to my departed team members, Prof Fink and Major Bob Apathy, who are sadly missed" Actual text from an email sent by Ken Warby 11 November 2007
30th Anniversary Celebration
The fastest man on water, Australia's Ken Warby, made a special presentation to the Australian National Maritime Museum on 8 October to mark the 30th anniversary of his setting the world water speed record at a still unconquered 511.11 km/hr.
He travelled to Sydney from his adopted home near Cincinnati in Ohio, USA, to be with his hydroplane Spirit of Australia on the anniversary and to give the National Maritime Museum a wind tunnel test model used in the development of the boat.
Warby designed and built the jet-powered Spirit of Australia himself and drove it to two successive world records on NSW's Blowering Dam: 464.44 km/hr on 20 November 1977 and then the astounding 511.11 km/hr on 8 October 1978.
Spirit of Australia, 8.2 metres long, built of plywood on a timber frame and powered by an ex-RAAF Lockheed-Neptune jet engine, is now a permanent exhibit at the Australian National maritime Museum.
Warby, 69, says as a boy he idolised Donald Campbell, the British motorboat racer. In a remarkable career Campbell set seven world records between 1955 and 1964 in the jet hydroplane BluebirdÂ K7, raising the world mark from 287.26 to 444.71 km/hr.
Campbell was killed trying to set yet another world record and break through the so-called 300 mph (483 km/hr) barrier in the process. He died on 4 January 1967 when Bluebird K7 flipped and disintegrated travelling at speeds certainly in excess of 480 km/hr on Lake Coniston in the north of England.
Warby raced speedboats from an early age, and applied his practical experience to designing and then building his own boats. In 1970, working on the kitchen table of his Sydney suburban home, he sketched the boat the would become world famous as Spirit of Australia, and started to build it in the confined space of his backyard.
Working with a shoestring budget he assembled the components himself, including the ex-RAAF surplus jet engine for which he paid less than $100.
Well into the construction stage, in 1975, he approached Professor Tom Fink, Dean of the Faculty of Engineering at the University of NSW whom he learned had earlier assisted Donald Campbell with the design of Bluebird.
Fink asked him to make a wind tunnel test model of Spirit of Australia from balsawood at the scale of 1:12 - which Warby did "in a couple of nights."
After carrying out wind tests, Fink congratulated Warby on his design work. Where earlier tests had shown Bluebird's lift-off (and crash) speed was around 400 km/hr, his new tests showed Spirit of Australia's lift-off speed was around 725 km/hr.
"This result gave me a lot of confidence to keep going," Warby says.
In November 1977 Warby smashed American Lee Taylor's existing world record, raising it by 5.42 km/hr to 464.44 km/hr, then raised his own record by a further 46.67 km/hr the following year.
After realising this great ambition Warby moved to the USA to race jet-powered trucks and compete on other speed circuits. With time he established a ready-mix concrete business near Cincinnati and put down roots in his new homeland.
In the 1990s the reigning world champion, still passionately Australian despite his American address, built another jet-powered hydroplane Aussie Spirit with a view to attacking his own world mark. The bid has now come to a halt, engulfed in a dispute with officials over required design specifications.
Warby however still spends a lot of his time with fast boats. He has a collection of five vintage Australian speedboats which he takes to wooden boat regattas right across the USA, often giving demonstration runs.
The Australian spends some of his leisure time, as well, as a consultant to one of America's biggest and most successful offshore powerboat racing teams.
He has also taken a close interest in the recent salvaging of the wreckage of Campbell's Bluebird K7 from the floor of Lake Coniston and the refurbishment of the boat to working condition.
But Spirit of Australia he says, is never far from his mind.
"Whenever I talk about the World Water Speed Record, I find myself talking about what 'we' did, Spirit and me. It wasn't just me, it was the two of us... and Spirit always held up its side of the bargain"
title=Ken Warby web site
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