They do say a lot can happen within a short period of time, such as an attempt upon the Outright World Water Speed Record but in this case, here we are in March during the midst of a rapidly spreading global pandemic, that last month I never imagined having to write about within our jet hydroplane diary update. However the reality is that here in the U.K. like so many countries we are in a state of lockdown taking in the daily news relating to how this is all unfolding, with as yet no sight of when normality will resume. 

When you know that this virus has tragically taken the life of a teenage girl with no underlying health conditions, then everyone must appreciate that we are all at risk from exposure to this deadly virus, until and if a vaccine for it can be found, then distributed to everyone. At present there is no ‘It’ll fix’ because heartbreakingly thousands of people young and old both here in the UK and across the world on a daily basis are losing their lives to this virus, that by no means have we seen the worst of as yet. The death toll, coming to terms with the loss of loved ones and after effects of this virus will be with everyone that does survive it for the rest of their lives. 

On our jet hydroplane website we are often talking about our past heroes who attempted a speed record but right now we give thanks to the heroes on the frontline including members of our own families and team who are putting their lives at risk for the welfare of others. As an indication of the seriousness of the situation the driver and head of our project for our jet hydroplane Longbow, Lt. David-John Gibbs RN, being a serving military pilot has been put on standby for assistance to the civil powers as and when required. 

With our own jobs on hold, my wife Gill being at higher risk with diabetes and I along with some of our children confined to home, there is now a surreal routine of shopping being deposited outside the cottage gate by other family members who then step back to allow us to pick it up, then clean it down before storing; that probably echoes a scene across so many homes at the moment. 

Not surprisingly this virus means that until we are told otherwise and it is safe to do so, we have had to stop friends coming round who would normally be working upon building our jet hydroplane Longbow in the cottage workshop. On the plus side the workshop is at my home so personally I am not barred from continuing to work on Longbow. I now only have to clear up after myself and the biscuits for brew time are also lasting longer. 

This month there has been the public resurrection of a jet hydroplane project in Belgium. The craft is called SP600 that had been designed and was not too far away from completion by the late Daniel Dehaemers when he sadly passed away in 2018 aged 68. Daniel was the Union Internationale Motonautique (UIM) medical & safety commission and safety cockpit commission member with the UIM who historically have been the governing body for Outright World Water Speed Record attempts. Daniel also trained deep sea divers, designed submarine anchoring tanks and drafted safety procedures for both aircraft pilots and the Belgian army.

(Credit: Jos Alençon)

(Credit: Jos Alençon)

The SP600 was originally designed by Daniel to be powered by a single pure thrust Rolls Royce Avon turbojet of which he bought a number of such engines from the UK. However part way through the build he changed his mind and opted for a single lighter smaller engine by way of a reheated Rolls Royce Adour Mk104 from the Sepecat Jaguar aircraft shown below with Jos:

(Credit: Jos Alençon)

With the passing of Daniel just before static engine trials could begin, the fate of the SP600 was publicly uncertain. Then Daniel’s friend Jos Alençon who had been involved with the project since 2011 took up the mantle and continued with the build, forming the air intake tract to the engine, sorting out the means of air starting the Adour, etc such that it is hoped the static engine trials will be able to go ahead in the not too distant future subject to this pandemic being addressed. 

Jos has previously designed and built a fully composite speedboat prior to taking over Daniel’s project. Although not a formally trained engineer, he is clearly skilled with his hands and is passionate about his Belgian attempt upon the Outright World Water Speed Record using Daniel’s legacy the SP600 if it can be made to work for the speeds required. We will endeavour to keep you posted with news of his testing of the craft and in the meantime you may wish to visit his websites: 

This month we also had contact with Sergeant Dean Hart, a military aircraft technician in the Royal New Zealand Air Force, who over the past 10 years has designed and built his pure thrust land speed record car and who has also been following our venture. This car is powered by a single reheated Rolls Royce Viper 535 engine from the BAC Strikemaster which allowed Dean to recently achieve the New Zealand Land Speed Record of 355.485km/h, reaching a peak speed of 458.2km/h.

Dean’s car is of particular interest to ourselves given it is powered by the same jet engine that we will be using two of side by side within our jet hydroplane Longbow. 

Dean’s knowledge and experience of running these specific engines both within the aircraft and his own land speed record car, along with his fellow kiwi and Viper expert ex RNZAF, Rene Redmond (who we spoke about in previous updates) has and continues to be a great help with our approach to safely starting, running and maintaining our Viper jet engines. 

In other news this month our good friend Dave Warby in Australia has had his seventh operation on his hand that became seriously infected following it being injured back in July 2019 whilst working on his jet hydroplane Spirit of Australia II. Unfortunately the infection was so severe it has resulted in Dave having to undergo final surgery to remove a finger joint with the remaining bones being fused together at an angle. We wish him a speedy recovery as no doubt he will be itching to get back working on his beloved jet hydroplane along with his other boats. 

As a further update on Dave’s venture Newcastle University in Australia have been doing Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) on Spirit of Australia II and this in conjunction with their data logging of previous runs of the boat, means she is currently having a revised tailfin built for her at an eye watering cost by those skilled in aircraft fabrication. Of note this is being done at the same airport that Dave’s father Ken Warby MBE, had his tailfin built for the current Outright World Water Speed Record jet hydroplane Spirit of Australia to achieve both of its Records of 288mph in 1977 and then on to the current Record of 317mph in the following year. 

This new T tail follows the previous successful testing of the Spirit of Australia II up to 250mph and Dave says the new tailfin should be in place within the next few weeks. Further testing was due to be undertaken towards the end of May this year but that has had to be postponed until the pandemic situation is under control. The following photos show the original tailfin of Spirit of Australia II being removed earlier this month and Dave tells us that the old fin will be auctioned off to raise money for an animal shelter in Tumult that was wiped out by the recent fires there. 

(Credit Warby Motorsport)

(Credit Warby Motorsport)

Back with Longbow you may appreciate that we have had more important issues going on this month with regards to this terrible pandemic as we began our lockdown here. Gill and I working for ourselves, we have had to shut our businesses down for a length of time that we do not yet know and how these businesses like so many others will recover when it is safe to resume is currently uncertain. 

Nevertheless I managed to cut the patterns for the sponson frames this month and we have made a start upon forming the actual frame laminations which I hope to get properly into next month for the April update as we settle to being on lockdown 24/7. 

If you can stay at home then please do so as it is the safest place from this virus and if you are one of the heroes who are on the frontline helping us all get through this, then we pray you stay well. Thank you for tuning in and please do so again at the end of next month to keep in touch with the venture. 

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