Despite a few mechincal headaches and glitches, last weekend’s testing of Spirit of Australia 2—a jet-engine-powered vessel built for an assault on the longstanding world water speed record of 318 mph set by Aussie Ken Warby in 1978—on Blowering Dam reservoir near Tumut in New South Wales, Australia, moved the team closer to its objective. More than 2,000 people turned out to watch the Saturday morning test session, not bad considering that Blowering Dam is six hours by car west of Sydney and, frankly, in the middle of nowhere.
Despite mechanical and weather challenges, the Spirit of Australia 2 team continued to move forward last weekend.
The boat was equipped with a new rudder and front fins made from Australian Bisalloy, the strongest steel known to man. In testing two months ago, the 10mm stainless-steel front fins ended up folding like pieces of fresh bread, so the test team was keen to run the boat with its new stronger additions.
Once the boat was craned into the water, the team fired its engine and thunderous sound ricocheted off the steep walls of the hills surrounding the dam, The first test produced a speed of 150 mph, but the boat was pulling hard to the right. After some fiddling on the water, they made another test run but the pull to the right was still there. So they craned the boat out of the water and the team went to work cutting down the rudder to see if that helped the situation. They also checked the new fins before relaunching the boat for another test run.
They towed the boat way from the crane. The engine exhaust was, for the first time, facing toward the pit area. The jet engine fired up, but it didn’t fire in the main turbine area. The exhaust caught and a massive flame came out the back, which was quite a sight to see. Then came the hurried calls to “shut her down.”
Testing will resume in early 2019.
I suspected that the cause of the problem was the starter motor not spinning fast enough to get the turbine up to speed to start and that led to unburnt fuel being ignited at the exhaust. A team member confirmed my hunch and told me that the starter motor would be repaired for Sunday’s testing.
Unfortunately, Sunday turned out to be a huge letdown for the team and spectators. The team worked all night to repair the starter motor and get the batteries sorted out. But you can’t control the weather. A big storm rolled in from the Western Plains, first bringing massive amounts of dust followed by violent lightning, rain and thunderstorms. By 9 a.m, the team decided to scrub testing for the day. The conditions for everyone involved, from the test team to the rescue crews, were simply too dangerous.
The Spirit of Australia 2 will resume testing in the New Year and I will be there to cover it. So stay tuned.
Editor’s Note: A veteran offshore racer, Australian Conn Saloumidis is a frequent contributor to speedonthewater.com.