Welcome to the May diary update and this month it was great to see our good friend Dave Warby back at Blowering Dam in Australia with his team undertaking a weekend of further testing of his jet hydroplane Spirit of Australia II. The winds there were fortunately kind on this occasion allowing acceptably calm water for runs to commence on the Saturday of their visit. 

During routine inspection following these initial runs of the craft it was discovered that a weld on a fuel tank within the boat had fractured requiring repair before tests could be allowed to continue. With that typical ‘can do’ approach the Aussie’s are so famous for this was thankfully able to be sorted locally by folk willing to help out. 

After re-fitting the repaired tank and bleeding air from the fuel system the pure thrust Orpheus jet engine powering SOAII was re-started the following day and checked over by the team. Once they were satisfied everything was running as it should and with the weather remaining good, Dave recommenced testing. Working the craft up to speed, feeling his way with the latest set up to trim and other modifications of the craft, he clearly felt the changes were an improvement over the previous arrangement and was able to do an incredible sustained run of 235mph through the start and finish markers for the measured kilometre. 

Dave reports he is very happy with the way the craft is now running after this latest round of tests and will therefore move on to the next stage of development for which we wish him every success. 

Linking Dave in with other news this month is the release of our good friend Steve Holter’s latest book about a British jet hydroplane built nearly 70 years ago for which Dave was asked by Steve if he would kindly write the Forward. The book is titled ‘Crusader – John Cobb’s ill fated quest for speed on water‘ (reference ISBN-13: 9781910505618) and as detailed in the following cover photo with the title front design by the superbly gifted renowned artist Arthur Benjamins: 

Having read one of Steve’s previous books titled ‘Leap Into Legend – Donald Campbell and the complete story of the world speed records‘ (reference ISBN-13 978-1850597941) where Arthur also did the front cover, I cannot recommend this latest one from Steve highly enough. His research into the subject matter has taken many years to compile and he has gone to extraordinary lengths to ensure it is both technically and historically accurate. Anyone interested in the Outright World Water Speed Record should have both of these books by Steve for reference and the fantastic stories they tell.

Back with our jet hydroplane Longbow and this month saw Lt. David-John Gibbs RN (DJ) undergoing (and passing) his annual driver dunk (not drunk) test for powerboat racing. This involves the driver with diving support in attendance having to escape from a mock up enclosed cockpit that is rotated into a swimming pool until it is fully submerged upside down beneath the water whilst the driver in full racing suit and helmet with blacked out goggles so they are unable to see, feeling their way to remove the steering wheel, open the hatch and escape whilst on support air. 

For anyone doing this for the first time it can be a daunting experience but it is essential for this and other parts of the test be undertaken regularly, so that the escape techniques in training become second nature for the drivers should it be required for real. In the case of DJ he also has to do a similar exercise for escape from helicopters underwater as part of his military pilot career. 

For my part this month has been taken up with the far less glamorous and laborious job of sanding the fairing coat that I applied last month to the underside of the hull of Longbow. The task was made a lot easier by Steve Buckle of our sponsor Sealey Tools very kindly sending us one of their twin piston in-line air sanders which is a fantastic piece of kit and helped considerably with the job, though inevitably there is no escaping the many hours of additional hand sanding required as part of the process. 

Sanding on this scale is not one of my favourite jobs not just because of the graft involved but the dust simply gets everywhere in the workshop and hence makes one hell of a mess that will take an age to clean down. Thankfully the Air Mask Pro supplied by our sponsor Trend at least prevented me from inhaling any of it and again is a superb piece of kit that I highly recommend.

It is just one of those jobs that takes time and effort that nobody appreciates but the person actually doing it. I have sprayed enough classic cars over the years to know success is all in the preparation and if you don’t get it looking right at this stage, then you are simply wasting your time moving on to applying the paint. 

During this work it was nice to have a visit from Colin Fletcher, Area Sales Manager for Wessex Resins who are very kindly sponsoring the supply of WEST SYSTEM EPOXY and related product for the entire build of Longbow. I was very pleased to have Colin cast his knowledgeable eye over the build of the hull to date and breathed a sigh of relief when he gave his approval of both the standard of work I am undertaking and the amount of progress we are making especially during these difficult times for all. 

We were also contacted this month by John Fenton, Director of British paint manufacturer HMG Ltd based just down the road from us at Manchester. HMG have provided paint for many interesting and high profile projects including Aston Martin Le Mans racing cars, Team Lotus F1 cars and even the specialised coatings on the animated puppets for the film Pirates of the Caribbean! As a young lad John told me that he had been present with his father walking on the hills surrounding Coniston Water when Donald Campbell was killed in his jet hydroplane Bluebird over 50 years ago. Learning of our venture to build and run Longbow John was very keen for HMG to assist in some way if at all possible. With such enthusiasm we are therefore very grateful to have them on board with the project and their paint with associated product organised by Gracienne Ikin, is on its way to us at time of writing this update. 

We are pleased to welcome another sponsor this month and that is TDP Ltd, manufactures of outdoor furniture from recycled plastic, who specialise in the manufacture and supply of environmentally friendly products. In this case Rob Barlow of TDP has very kindly donated some of their inert recycled plastic boards for us to use upon the trailer for Longbow in the area of the support bunks that run the full length of the trailer for the craft itself to rest upon once they themselves are covered by cushioning material. Using plastic rather than wood for this particular application eliminates the risk of the more traditional timber bunks decaying from exposure to water both during transport and when launching / recovering Longbow at the lakeside. 

Well that is all the news that I have for you this month folks. Please drop by towards the end of June for the next diary update of the venture and if you have not done so yet then please take a moment to like our Facebook page as a means of keeping in touch with our little project. 

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