Welcome to the May update for Longbow and it has been a mixture of highs and lows over the last four weeks. On the one hand it was great to see our good friend Dave Warby and his team back at Blowering Dam, NSW, Australia this month with his jet hydroplane, for what was supposed to be high speed development tests. Not so good was the weekend they were there was ruined by strong winds whipping up the surface of the water making such runs impossible. 

It should be appreciated that the Dam has to be booked at least 10 weeks in advance for Dave and his team to have sole use of it and accordingly just like here in the U.K. it is something of pot luck as to what the weather will be like so far in advance. Such are the trials and tribulations of running these sort of craft. Dave did take his jet hydroplane Spirit of Australia II out onto the water at the Dam for a relatively low speed run so those folk that had attended could get some photos and video of the boat out on the water and it is a credit to how well she is designed and built that she was able to weather such rough water conditions without any damage at all. The team photographer and my friend Jeff Barnett kindly sent me the following photos and you can see SOA2 was in a new livery as a thank you to one of its many sponsors for their ongoing support with the venture:

Back here with our jet hydroplane Longbow the word of the month has been ‘cockpit’ and whilst we are a good way off physically producing this for the craft, what I will say is that for the critics outside looking in at the project this is certainly no Heath Robinson venture given the amount of analysis and engineering calculations that are going into Longbow that are an eye opener, even for myself. 

At the centre of all that is design engineer Dr. Paul Martin who is so kindly giving us his time and considerable expertise in order to make Longbow a success. Paul is in my view for Longbow, what Professor Tom Fink was for the jet hydroplanes Bluebird K7 and then later Spirit of Australia, providing the engineering analysis for Donald Campbell CBE and later Ken Warby MBE to achieve their goals of being the fastest boats in the world at their respective times.  

Paul who lived for a while in Australia before moving back to the U.K. has an enviable résumé of providing engineering analysis to help Rosco McGlashan with his rocket powered land speed record car Aussie Invader 2 in his quest for achieving 1000mph. Paul has previously worked for the British land speed car Bloodhound that aimed to be the fastest car in the world, he has worked at McLaren F1, was head of group manufacturing at Lola Cars, been the former General Manager at Technical Resin Bonders and was the chief composite engineer at Leyton House Racing.  

This month I have been Paul’s gofer in respect of him requiring certain information to help with his analysis of the forces involved when high speed hydroplanes have had an accident for whatever reason and how Longbow’s unique design with her twin jet engines and construction would relate to that for the design speeds envisaged. 

Many thanks goes out to those that have assisted us to date in providing that historic information for example from those that been involved with or who have driven Unlimited hydroplanes and drag boats in the USA. Also thank you to those that have recently or historically provided us with engineering analysis relating to previous jet hydroplanes attempting Outright World Water Speed Records.  

From what Paul has sent me to date of his work in progress I am not so sure such technical engineering analysis over this wide a range of different hydroplanes has ever been done before. What I do know is it is a privilege to marvel at the pages after pages of his mathematical formulas, graphs and engineering calculations that he is putting into this analysis of which it is by no means yet concluded. 

Whilst I appreciate there are a lot of folk out there who would love to see the work that Paul is so very kindly putting into this on our behalf, you must likewise appreciate that it is Paul’s and our intellectual property and hence this is one of the elements of Longbow’s path to completion that are not for public consumption, though should he wish to do so at some point in the future as a help to others that would be a joint decision. 

As so much of the build of Longbow such as engine air intakes, steering layout, position of fuel tanks, etc, interact with the final design of her cockpit we are in something of a holding pattern whilst Paul does his calculations in his spare time. Obviously there are bits of the boat I could be getting on with in the meantime but there is no rush for those to be done at present so this month we took the opportunity of a little downtime to visit Lancashire Powerboat Racing Club at Carr Mill Dam in St. Helens this month to have a look at a racing event there. 

A good days racing was had by all the competitors and it was interesting to see first hand how the event was organised, the attending safety divers and medical assistance, course control, timekeeping, boat launching / recovery, hospitality, pit area ,etc. Everyone I chatted with were very friendly and welcoming with a good selection of various types of craft attending the meeting. With Longbow never being far from my thoughts I was obviously interested in matters such as the steering arrangements, inbuilt buoyancy / floatation methods and where applicable various types of enclosed cockpit design that all varied between one craft present and another. A big thank you to all the teams and drivers who allowed me to look over their boats, take photos and helpfully chat with them about their hydroplanes on the day.  

I had not visited the venue before but having done so I can now report that we had a wonderful day out and I highly recommend for anyone interested in the sport be that as a spectator or who may actually want to get more involved to look upon the Clubs website and speak with them especially since they apparently offer a program of various powerboat experience / training courses for people starting out and advancing their skills. 

Moving on with what has to be the lowest point of the month was my conversation with DJ our driver for Longbow who is a serving RAF pilot currently doing aerobatic displays for the public away from his day to day job as flight examiner for military pilots. The reason it was something of a sobering conversation was the tragic Spitfire accident resulting in the loss of fellow pilot the much loved Sqn Ldr Mark Long of the RAF and Battle of Britain Memorial Flight who DJ being a fellow RAF display pilot apparently knew. There are for the most part very enviable lives of being a military or indeed any aircraft pilot but there are also some inherent lows and our sincere condolences go out to Mark’s family and friends at this sad time. 

Finally to round up a photo of an interesting puzzle comprising a pair of horse shoes, chain and metal ring where you have to work out how to remove the ring from the rest of the assembly. It was made and given to me by Alan ‘Doddy’ Dodds a time served sheet metal worker from Carlisle who recently passed away. 

So what did ‘Doddy’ and this puzzle have to do with jet hydroplanes? Well back in the 1950’s Doddy worked as a young apprentice along with others for a company that were brought in as local sheet metal workers by Donald Campbell and his team at Glenridding, Ullswater in order to substantially alter the bodywork and position of the front spar of Bluebird K7 at the lakeside, when initially they could not get the boat up on to her planing shoes. That major hiccup resulted in a major re-design of the craft being required. 

Doddy in his later years like so many others came as a volunteer giving freely of his time and effort to assist with some of the sheet metal work during the restoration of Bluebird K7 and this was whilst I was also there and hence Doddy’s very kind gift of the horseshoe puzzle to me that he thought quite rightly would amuse my children and indeed still does along with their friends now they are adults. So as we say farewell to Doddy for a life well lived, it is nice to look at that cherished small gift of his and the part a good craftsman played in the iconic Bluebird’s history. 

Well that is our news up to date folks and sorry that there has not been much by way of physical progress on Longbow for you to see this month. However on the other hand that should not be construed as suggesting nothing has been happening when actually there has been a considerable amount of very necessary engineering analysis currently being undertaken by Paul that will be needed for the design of Longbow’s cockpit. For myself I do promise to not be so lazy and to get on with some more physical elements of the boat but it has been nice to have a bit of time out of the workshop to spend with the family this last four weeks.     

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This