Last weekend’s test session of the 25-foot-long, turbine engine/jet-powered Spirit of Australia 2 boat designed to break the water speed record of 317 mph went well and showed progress. What follows is a day by-day-day look at the testing on the waters of Blowering Lake Dam in New South Wales, Australia, the site where the existing water-speed record was established in 1978.
Saturday, Sept. 1
It was a beautiful, still morning down at Blowering Dam on the majestic Tumut River about five hours south of Sydney Australia. Suddenly, you thought you were being invaded by the loudest jet plane you had ever heard. But it wasn’t a jet aircraft—it was a special boat built by the famous Warby family (father Ken set the current record, son David hopes to break it)—that shattered the peace. I have heard turbines in the United States in mighty offshore boats, but this? This was another degree of loud.
Remember the first time you went to the drag strip and saw a pass by one of those Top Fuel dragster guys? I put this experience on the same level as that—pure goosebumps. The jet starting up simply was awesome.
The boat was here to test out the latest modifications and get to a higher speed level than its last time out in Taree, another riverfront city about if hours North of Sydney. The team arrived Friday and had a successful fire-up of the engine on land. Then it was time to go over the boat and ensure that every bolt was tight and everything was ship shape for Saturday’s text runs .
Jet turbine power produces a sound like no other across the Blowering Dam waters.
Morning dawned a little overcast and grey and with the threat of a few showers—it had rained the week before breaking the areas drought of two years—but with this rain the water behind the dam because full of debris so the rescue boats and team boats spent most of the morning pulling trees and logs out of the water to ensure the track was clear and ready for a run. The last thing you want to hit at 200-plus-mph in a mostly wooden boat timber boat is a log.
The first run was delayed from 10 a.m. till noon so debris-clearing work could be done
And then it happened.
They craned Spirit of Australia 2 into the water and fired her up and wow, once again, goosebumps.
Once the boat is in the water, the entire process for a run happens quickly. In short, the fire her up and let her fly. And it’s awesome to see—and to hear.
The run to the south last a little more than 50 seconds and the boat reached almost 200 mph. But it was pulling to the left, so the crew fueled her up and made another pass from the other of the lake. This run was a little better but the boat was still pulling to the left, so they pulled it out of the water, adjusted the steering system, refueled and sent it out again. This time the Spirit Of Australia 2 reached 208.
That progress was good news. The deteriorating water conditions were not. The lake had blown up a bit, and in this type of high-speed pursuit anything over a ripple on the water could make for a very dangerous situation.
Sunday, Sept 2
Sunday was overcast but still. The plan was to do two runs similar to those accomplished on Saturday. Once the course was cleared again and checked by the team, the boat was placed on the water and the first run was a go.
The first run produced a top speed of 218 mph, but the boat was still pulling significantly to left. So the team pulled the boat out of the water checked the under of the hull.
The Spirit of Australia 2 is a hungry beast in need of constant feeding.
That turned out to be a wise decision because it appeared that the plate holding the ski fins had moved out of alignment thanks to the extreme water pressure created by running 218 mph—and they needed to be replaced. There also was a slight bit of damage to that must have come from the boat striking debris at high speed, so for the sake of safety the team decided to scrub the second run of the day.
Even with a minor mechanical setback, there’s no way to see last weekend’s testing as anything but a great success. Now it’s time for the team to go back to its workshop and fabricate some new stainless-steel plates, repair the hull and get the Spirit of Australia 2 ready for display at the Australian Offshore Superboat Championships Oct. 13-14 at Lake Macquarie.
David Warby is hoping to change the first name—and the top speed—on this plaque.
Editor’s Note: Australian Conn Saloumidis is a veteran offshore powerboat racer and contributor to speedonthewater.com Look for his reports on the Spirt of Australia 2 water speed-record project on the site as they become available.