Welcome to the December update of the building of our jet hydroplane Longbow. This month we are proud to announce another new product sponsor has come on board with our little venture by way of the Nadella Group, who specialise in precision linear motion worldwide. Many thanks to Adam Hoxey of Nadella for supplying us with engineering parts for the mounting supports of the twin jet engines within Longbow and we look forward to working with Nadella upon other aspects of the craft as the build continues.  

A jet hydroplane from the past that I have admired for many years was one originally named Hustler and which was built in 1963-64 in the USA by Rich Hallett for Lee Taylor. The boat features in our jet hydroplane history section of our website and it went on to achieve the Outright World Water Speed Record (fastest boat in the world at that time) with a two way average speed of 285.22mph in 1967. This was a traditional timber hull jet hydroplane that was built in a home workshop and worked / planed ‘straight out of the box’ then went on to beat the fastest record ever achieved by Donald Campbell’s all metal hull Bluebird K7. 

It is worth a moment to consider this really because Bluebird K7 was designed by gifted Chartered engineers but as we showed in last month’s update Bluebird didn’t work at all when first built and with the front of that craft underwater had to have a major structural redesign just to get her to plane. 

Following the tremendous achievement of Hustler, the craft was later sold and went through a number of different owners and drivers. When we were initially considering building Longbow I spoke at length with the late Jim Deist in the USA who owned the craft at the time and after Jim’s passing the whereabouts of the boat became unknown to the general public. 

My good friend aeronautical engineer and for a time H1 Unlimited Hydroplane Chief Engineer, then Director of Safety Technology and Competition in H1, Doug Ford, who worked with me upon Longbow’s design, wrote a book about boat builder Rich Hallett, Lee Taylor and Hustler. Indeed Doug was trying to discretely purchase the boat in order to restore it for public static display when he too sadly and unexpectedly died of a heart attack at the beginning of this year. 

It was therefore somewhat fitting that as we approach the end of the year and I am sure Doug would have been very pleased to know that Hustler has come back into the public arena having been saved and will be restored by the Hydroplane and Raceboat Museum in the USA. Thank you to Brad Haskin Deputy Director of the Museum for the following photos of the craft at the Museum looking a little sorry for itself prior to restoration: 

Speaking with Brad he says that once the Christmas and New Year festivities are over they will get their team together and are probably looking at around a two year project to restore the boat. They share their annex to the Museum with a gentleman who runs a Westinghouse J46 turbojet engine dragster and it is by coincidence a J46 that also powers Hustler so the gentleman has kindly volunteered to overhaul Hustler’s jet engine to running condition as part of the restoration. 

I knew from when Jim Deist owned the boat that the original cockpit had been completely stripped out of Hustler as Jim had wanted to put a modern drag boat capsule in there and actually run the craft at speed upon the water. 

However taking into account the age of the hull, even with restoration, the Museum has no intention of running the craft at speed out on the water. Accordingly the intention is to put back into place the cockpit area just as it was when Lee broke the World Water Speed Record back in 1967 as a tribute to both Rich and Lee. So although the boat when restored will be in running condition, the intention is to start the engine in Hustler upon her trailer for public enjoyment and if possible even have her sitting upon the water of Lake Guntersville in the USA. This being for a celebration of that achievement and a photo opportunity with the public where she achieved her World Record all those years ago.  

For those who would like a further bit of historic trivia about Hustler you might like to know that a large support boat used in her record attempt at Lake Guntersville was supplied by Werner von Braun, the famous rocket scientist who developed both the V2 rocket weapon for Germany in WW2, then after the War the Saturn V rocket that took men to the moon. The NASA Marshal Space Flight Centre where von Braun was based is about 40 miles away from where Lee was making his record attempt and in a spell of waiting for the weather to settle, Lee and his team went to visit the NASA facility. There they met von Braun who took a great interest in the record attempt, offered his engineering advice and went on to support the attempt by way of letting them have use of his large catamaran. 

Back with Longbow it has only been just over a fortnight since our last update but we wanted to get it issued this side of Christmas and I am currently waiting upon some parts for the boat to arrive. 

We have updated the profile upon this website for our driver of Longbow, affectionately known to his friends and colleagues as ‘DJ’ but officially as, Flt Lt David-John Gibbs of the RAF, with that update reflecting his latest role in his ongoing military career. 

Other than that I have made a start upon forming the tops of Longbow’s sponsons by first making a paper pattern, then transferring that to some thin ply to act as a more rigid pattern before transferring that in turn onto the marine plywood, very kindly supplied by our sponsor Robbins Timber of Bristol. I should have done more on the boat in the last fortnight but working for myself there is always a mad rush of client’s wanting to squeeze their job in with me before I stop work for the Christmas holidays and at the end of the day that is what puts food on the table, so has taken priority.

All that is left now is to wish you all a very happy Christmas from my cottage workshop, thank all of our sponsors, friends and family for their ongoing terrific support of the venture, which is so very much appreciated. As you know our little project simply wouldn’t happen without you and I am so very humbled by all your help and generosity in getting Longbow built so she can be out on the water for you to see and enjoy. 

Also to thank those of you following and supportive of our venture for putting up with reading my wittering of monthly updates, for your kind words of encouragement which spurs us on in the workshop during the coldest of nights. With the expected arrival of another granddaughter to us in the next two or three weeks, a very happy, successful and healthy New Year to you all.  

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