Well this turned out to be rather an eventful month in the jet hydroplane world and whilst they were somewhat expected by those close to these things, they still came as quite a shock to many.
After writing about the passing of Doug Ford in last month’s diary update, the last thing I expected to be doing for this update was trying to find the right words to express another sad loss by way of the Outright World Water Speed Record holder Ken Warby MBE. This being especially so since as those following our venture will be aware, Ken’s son David who is currently attempting to better his father’s record is a very good friend of ours, so to us it has been far more personal than just a news item.
They say never meet your heroes as they are sure to disappoint in person but thankfully not a bit of it with Ken and it was for me an honour to shake his hand, the guy who had been there, done it and got the tee shirt. He was the real deal and to just listen to him on the other end of the phone when he called me up a couple of times to talk about boats and other stuff just blew me away. He was and will always be my inspiration for designing, building and running Longbow. Anyone who thinks Ken was just some guy with a hand built boat who was a risk taker and lucky to get the record of being the fastest boat in the world in 1977, then better that speed in 1978 quite frankly hasn’t got a clue about his journey to those achievements, nor the real world behaviour of jet hydroplanes at very high speed.
Ken was a very talented mechanical engineer who having raced boats from an early age instinctively knew exactly what it would take to get that record and crucially he also knew he could not get there on his own and therefore did his homework long before the internet, for example exchanging tapes of information with Leo Villa, mechanic to the record breaking Campbells. He brought in Professor Tom Fink, who had worked upon the design of Bluebird K7 before becoming Dean of the Faculty of Engineering at the University of NSW, Australia along with Major Bob Apathy to run the venture along with surrounding himself with a dedicated highly skilled team, some of whom are now helping Dave in his quest to better his father’s achievements.
Ken had charisma in spades and as we know after the water speed records he went on to achieve records in jet cars, jet trucks, competed and won a host of boat races. He packed so much fun and adventure into his life, along with having the love of his family and friends, who could ask for anything more.
I am sure Dave will take comfort that from all the great times he had with his dad, but standing out from that must be with Ken by his side whilst building Dave’s jet hydroplane Spirit of Australia II and he was proudly there passing on the baton, seeing his son running it at Blowering Dam on the same reservoir where he had achieved his fantastic records all those years before.
Of the many tributes to Ken that have been on the internet and television around the world, the following is probably one of the best and our sincere condolences to Dave and his family at this sad time.
The other news that shocked many folk this month was that the Ruskin Museum in Coniston have issued proceedings in the High Court, apparently primarily they say in order to gain possession of their property Bluebird K7. The Museum issued a public statement on their website and social media in 2019 within which it was revealed that they would no longer work with Bill Smith and The Bluebird Project Ltd and that this decision was final. Accordingly for those who have followed this protracted dispute, the fact that it has now gone before the Courts to make a judgement upon the matter, perhaps should come as no surprise. A link to the recent statement by the Ruskin Museum is as follows:
Back with Longbow and on a somewhat happier note, after our welding guru Steve Charlesworth had welded the front mounting points to a stage he was happy with, our jet engine cradle was ready for collection. So here comes an illustration of the adage ‘what gets measured gets managed’ as my wife Gill and I drove over to Huddersfield in our spacious people carrier car to collect the engine cradle from Steve. Just as we drove down Steve’s farm track Gill said ‘You have measured this car to make sure the cradle will fit in it haven’t you?’ to which I assured her that we had carried a settee and a bed in the car without issue so the cradle should easily slot right in the back…
So after a brew and a natter with Steve and his wife Jenny we manhandled the cradle to the back of the car and guess what? As the women would say apparently an inch does make all the difference! Short of getting the hacksaw out the cradle wasn’t going in the back of the car but hey ho, who doesn’t mind a three hour round trip for coffee and cake….
After that embarrassment a proper van was going to be the answer so another brew and catch up with my pal Steve and he passed me the keys to his trusted workhorse. Laughing I said I better just measure it to see the cradle would go in it before setting off and a good job I did as it was shelved out inside for his tools making it again just an inch too narrow to accommodate our cradle. Thankfully it pays to have more than one pal with a van and so my good friend Fred came to my rescue with his transit for us to go and collect the cradle without further hassle.
Now at last we had the engine cradle in the workshop, the first job was to check whether I had got my measurements correct and that it would actually fit between the main vertical timber stringers in the hull of Longbow. With the help of my eldest lad Tom and my future son-in-law Kieran, thankfully it appears I can read a tape measure after all and the cradle just slipped into place between the widest point of the opposing curved vertical timber stringers as intended.
The next task was to fix into place the laminated timber noggins into place within the bottom of the hull using our sponsor Wessex Resins, brilliant WEST SYSTEM EPOXY.
Whilst the epoxy cured we held the timber noggins in place using our sponsor Sealey’s superb rugged ‘F’ clamps that have served us so well throughout the build.
Once the epoxy had set there was the usual sanding down to clean the surfaces up and to ensure we had the right PPE for the job Darren Spinage of our sponsor Trend topped us up with a box of their superb Air Stealth Lite Pro FFP3 R dust masks. I cannot recommend these highly enough they one of the best disposable dust masks on the market for this type of use in my experience.
Once the cleaning down of the wood was done we could then lower the engine cradle into place for a trial fit as shown below. There is still a lot of work to do on the cradle but with it in place I can now measure and shape the steel plate fittings that will attach it to the main stringers of the hull for Steve our fabricator to weld into place.
In amongst all of that was a visit from Howard Bryan of the Blackpool Thunder Car Club who are one of our sponsors of the venture, with Howard presenting us with a lovely advertising placard for the Club to mount upon our workshop wall.
Through our contacts at UCLAN we received a call this month from Mike Newman, with Mike being founder of the charity ‘Speed of Sight’, an organisation that runs track events with vehicles to allow a disabled child or adult a chance to forget, if only for a little while that they have a disability. Mike has just been awarded the British Empire Medal by King Charles and coincidentally record breaker Gina Campbell QSO is one of Mike’s charity patrons.
Mike who has been blind since birth and has himself become a record breaker with a variety of cars, trucks, motorbikes, aircraft and boats. If our little venture going forward can help in promoting Mike and his very worthwhile charity in any way, then obviously we will be very pleased to do so.
Before signing off for this month the following photos from the recent ‘Straightliners’ event at Elvington this month were kindly sent to me for inclusion in this month’s update, as I was unable to attend due to a family party and work commitments. By all accounts the show was very well attended and there were clearly some terrific vehicles on display, for example record breaking jet vehicles of four and two wheeled varieties, including Guy Martin’s 52 Express streamliner, as well as some old friends as shown below:
So that is all for this month folks, thank you for putting up with my wittering through to the end of the update. If you have not already liked our Facebook page then please do so, as it is an easy way of keeping up to date with our little venture and see you towards the end of March for a further progress report.