We start off this update with a list of sad news beginning with earlier in the year Daniel Dehaemers, who had recently finished building his new jet hydroplane, SP600 to challenge the World Water Speed Record, losing his battle with cancer before he managed to trial the craft. Our condolences to his family.

In April the Longbow team also lost our dear friend and mentor, Chartered design engineer, Ken Wheeler. Prior to his retirement and his assistance with our project, Ken was head hunted by the designer of the Bluebirds, Ken Norris, to work as a Managing Director alongside another brilliant engineer Tony James for one of their companies Norcon Ltd. The following photographs taken in the 1960’s show Ken Norris, Henry Thwaites, Ken Wheeler and Ron Cahill, working on the design of a successor to the Bluebird CN7 Land Speed Record car.

(Courtesy Michael Ockenden)

Ken Wheeler is credited with the idea and design of a water brake for Bluebird K7 on the last attempt, when Donald Campbell feared the length of Coniston Water was becoming too short for an attempt at the 300mph Outright Water Speed Record.

Ken explained some of the engineering calculations to me regarding this in the following two sheets he did for me some time ago. The water brake being in essence a 2″ / 50mm diameter hydraulic ram located upon the transom of Bluebird K7 that when activated from the cockpit extended into the surface of the water. This being so effective in terms of applying increased drag and hence braking effect, given fresh water is in the order of around 800 times more dense than air.

It is of note that the UIM rules no longer permit the use of water brakes given their rules are primarily orientated around circuit racing rather than record breaking, where in the case of the former the disturbance of a water brake would be at risk of interfering with competing boats.

In considering the use of a water brake for use on Bluebird K7, Ken said there was also the issue of difficulty of surface water penetration of that type of water brake design as the speeds become higher, meaning there was an upper speed limit at which the water brake on Bluebird K7 was recommended not to be used.

Prior to working for the Norris Brothers Ken Wheeler was involved with many engineering projects, including design of aircraft wind tunnels and a simulator for the Comet aircraft which was so innovative for the day, it was later put into the Science Museum of which photos are shown as follows.

As one brilliant design engineer sadly passed away and left us, another in the form of Paul Martin stumbled across our venture and decided to come on board to assist the Project.

Paul used to live just down the road from us, so we instantly had a lot in common and from that have formed a good friendship. Paul’s credentials make very impressive reading with him previously working for McLaren and currently assisting the Aussie Invader Land Speed Record car. Paul specialises in the design, development and manufacturing of advanced lightweight and high performance structures such that he has already undertaken some brilliant analysis for us in relation to the driver capsule within Longbow.

Further sad news has been the passing of Graham Pool this month who very kindly taught myself and other members of the Longbow team a considerable amount about overhauling and running gas turbines during our time with him rebuilding the Orpheus engines on the Bluebird replica, K777. He also advised on engine choice for Longbow thereafter. Graham had been retired from Rolls Royce a good while where he had previously held positions of Deputy Service Manager for the Spey and Service Manager for the Adour. He was treasurer and part owner of the Buccaneer Aviation Group at Bruntingthorpe, in addition to helping restore and maintain several locomotives including the Duchess of Sutherland. The following photo shows him working on the Orpheus for K777 back in 2010:

However on a brighter note a welcome addition to our venture has been AeroDOT Ltd headed by Tim Paget who take up the role of our resident gas turbine experts to manage the installation, maintenance and appropriate running of our twin Viper engines for Longbow. Tim is a former RAF Aircraft Propulsion Engineer going on to lecture as a teacher in Aerospace Engineering. He runs courses worldwide including for the Red Arrows and was involved in the procurement of the late Daniel Dehaemers Adour engine for his jet hydroplane SP600. Further details for AeroDOT Ltd will be going up on the sponsor’s page of our website.

Whilst mentioning other projects we could not publish a diary update without including and congratulating the first trials of Bluebird K7 upon Loch Fad on the island of Bute in Scotland.

After 17 years of work by many volunteers, including assistance in recovering wreckage and with stripping the craft down for renovation by members of the Longbow team, back in 2006-2007, the completed craft took to the water once again with great success, other than having a canopy to the cockpit disintegrate and a minor collision with a support boat.

Drivers Ted Walsh and Stew Campbell did a sterling job of coaxing the craft to plane on the relatively short Loch Fad under what must have been considerable pressure, much to the enjoyment of those attending and following their project.

Returning to our venture we commenced construction of Longbow in late April after Steve completed his work on his major bungalow alterations as highlighted within previous updates and the specialist materials we were seeking arrived from the USA. The latter being courtesy of Richard and Ben Bagnall from Robbins who very kindly are supplying all the specialist timber for Longbow.

The first task of the build was to construct the main bearers for the craft, for which the steel grillage Longbow is being built upon was set to a narrow width to allow this process to commence.

In the following photographs you can see one of the scarf joints being formed using router bits kindly supplied by Trend. Then in the second photo with the scarf joints being assembled using using WEST SYSTEM Epoxy Products.

As you can see in the following photos we needed to use a mammoth amount of clamps to keep assemblies of the main bearers together whilst the WEST SYSTEM Epoxy cured and for which we are grateful to our sponsor Sealey for providing.

We are very lucky to have David Johnson along with Hamish Cook on behalf of Wessex Resins advising us on the use of their WEST SYSTEM Products they are supplying as product sponsor for the entire build of Longbow. Having now used their products for a few months we have been very impressed indeed with just how strong they actually are at bonding wood on the samples and then craft components we have undertaken.

By May with the hull main bearers assembled in raw form, it was time to open up the width of the steel grillage bed upon which Longbow is being built.

To assist with ensuring everything was as level as level could be, Philip Knowlson of Manchester Metrology, one of our sponsors, came to visit us with their very special piece of measuring equipment. This being a Faro Vantage laser tracker, which follows the trackball three dimensionally with an accuracy of 16μm + 0.8μm/m, or in our terms ‘absolutely spot on’. As Phil moved the trackball about, the laser on the tripod follows it automatically and displays where the trackball is mathematically upon a laptop which was interesting to see as we altered the legs and clamps to suit Phil’s instructions. Apparently if you have a spare £75K you can always buy one for levelling up those shelves at home.

With the steel grillage nicely levelled up we could then fit the plywood decking that would sit on top and then re-level.

A big thank you also goes out to ESAB who have provided a welder and some PPE, as well as SGS who have provided gases for welding since our last update.

One of the really nice things about the venture is the kindness of people we have met along the way, not just the larger company sponsors but the guys who have sat at home and picked up on us building this jet hydroplane and thought ‘how can I help in any way?’. One such chap is Jesse Little who runs a small engineering company / garage making bespoke vehicles in Devon, which is hundreds of miles from us, but who very kindly donated to the project a rare metre high engineer’s height gauge, along with an offer to assist with machine work as and when needed. Now that is what this project is all about and will make it happen, so if you would like to get involved just let us know.

We hope that you have enjoyed this update as much as we have enjoyed actually getting on with the build phase. We really will do diary updates more frequently now there is actually something to see and can photograph. As Longbow begins to take her shape we can begin to appreciate just how big she is going to be, completely filling the workshop.

Our good friends at Warby Motorsport return to Blowering Dam in NSW, Australia with their jet hydroplane SOAII at the beginning of September, for further testing for which we wish them every success and will report how they get on with that in our next update. Yes that is a promise of further updates from us next month as we progress with the build of Longbow.

Dave Warby of Warby Motorsport has very kindly stated on social media the other day “I hope Britain gets behind this project (Longbow), as it is a breath of fresh air for the WWSR (World Water Speed Record) in Britain.. so many projects talked and talked about. This is well under construction…the WWSR needs a SERIOUS challenger…I feel this is it. No big bucks, but work is continuing and a very good approach“.

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We had best put the brews down and carry on building Longbow in the workshop then !

Stay tuned folks….

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