We start off this month’s update with the brilliant news of Dave Warby and his Team undertaking successful development trials of his jet hydroplane Spirit of Australia II at Blowering Dam, New South Wales, Australia. 

It was great to see Dave back out on the water in his jet hydroplane with the goal to better his father Ken’s Outright World Water Speed Record (fastest boat in the world) target of 317mph average, through a timed kilometre trap in both directions within the hour. Exclusively for us in his own words Dave gives a fantastic insight into how it all went as follows.

After 12 months off the water due to modifications to the boat and then the covid-19 restrictions putting the brakes on our progress it was good to have the full team back together and back in the Snowy Valleys Region. We need to plan our test session at least 8 weeks in advance to ensure we are able to use the Dam and it doesn’t conflict with local events. We arrived on Thursday evening at the Talbingo workshop, its around 7-8 hours drive from our workshop in Newcastle, most of the team will come in Thursday evening and Friday.

Friday Morning our team conducted a safety briefing in Tumut which is headed by Wing Commander (retired) Dave Appleby (who was a member of dad’s 1978 wwsr team) & our crew Chief Squadron Leader (retired) Phil Frawley. The briefing includes services such as NSW Police, State Emergency Services (SES), Voluntary Rescue Service (VRA), Waterways, Tumut Rotary, Rescue Dive Team and the National Parks and Wildlife representatives. 

The purpose of the meeting is to go over the plan for the weekend, such as clearing the dam of surface debris on the course we intend to run, explaining what the modifications we have made to the boat are, what we hope to achieve that weekend, which on this set of tests is to get a feel for the new T-tail and get some practical feedback; then to fine tune the setup of the tailplane and balance of the boat. We discuss our divers plans in case of an emergency, the communications at the Dam, and the location of the safety boats down the course.

After our briefing we do some local media interviews, then back to our Talbingo workshop to prepare the boat for an engine ground run, then down to Blowering Dam to start setting up our base camp next to the dam at “The Pines” boat ramp. The level of the water within the reservoir fluctuates so as a consequence we rarely set up camp in the same location. For example our last test at the Dam was where the reservoir was at 25% water capacity, whereas this time it was at 85% capacity. So you will appreciate we were based further up the ramp.

Saturday morning at 7am the safety boats went out clearing the water of any debris. Our jet hydroplane ‘Spirit Of Australia II’ and service trailers are setup by 8.30am, then we do the usual safety brief at 9am. After that we work out a time when the Dam is clear and the dive and rescue boats are in place. At the same time the boat is being fuelled and prepared to run by the team.

We have the boat in place on the ramp at 9.30am with the crane in place. We are then just waiting for a course clearance call from the base camp. During this our Crew Chief Frawls helps me get strapped into the boat, ensure the air systems are on, and commissioning is tested and confirmed to be good. At 10am our jet hydroplane is craned into the water, with the start boat carrying batteries and starter leads for the electric start of the gas turbine set up next to it ready to go. Soon after that we get the course clearance call, the water conditions at launch are calm and smooth.

Then I start the jet hydroplane, a smooth fast start, low exhaust gas temperature (EGT) reading on the gauge in the cockpit. All the gauge readings on the dash are good and no warning lights showing. 

The purpose of this run is purely to get familiar with the boat again as I haven’t driven it for 12 month, but also gradually getting the feel of the boat with the new T-tail. Off we go and the first few runs were around the 150mph mark. The boat feels really good, the Orpheus jet engine is running great, nothing of concern. I then shut down the engine and refuel at the turnaround boat at the far end of the Dam. Then restarted and did another 150mph run back to the top end of the Dam. At  this point I’m really pleased with the jet hydroplane and very comfortable driving her again.

We then take Spirit of Australia II out of the water and inspect the hull for any damage. After that we prepare her for another run at midday. We are back on the water by 12.30 pm but by this time the winds picked up coming across the Dam. It is nothing we haven’t run in before, so we get a course clearance. The boat starts again easily, then I head her up towards the Dam wall. Once there I get her turned around nice and steady to come down the course. Spirit comes on the plane easily then builds speed to 150mph without any problem at all, then we are up to 180mph. 

At this point I feel the back of the boat move left, so a bit of steering correction needed to counter it and keep her straight. I didn’t see any purpose of trying to push on with so much steering input needed to keep it straight and it was obvious to me that the cross wind was pushing the new tailplane sideways at the back of the boat as it has got more surface area than the old one.

Once I’d shut down coming back off the plane and come to a stop the wind had picked up even more. At our debrief I said I felt the rear of the boat was lighter than our last visit to the Dam and we needed to fine tune the tailplane which was the purpose of the tests we were doing this visit. We tried another test run in the late afternoon but this was aborted due to the cross wind so we then called it a day. Saturday night at base we put a bit more pressure on the horizontal stabilizer.

Sunday morning we were back at the Dam and to our relief it looked really calm. No wind, so we had our usual safety briefing, prepared the boat to try and be on the water a bit earlier by 9am. Frawls got me into the boat strapped in and ready to go. The team craned the boat onto the water awaiting course clearance.

However the clearance was taking a long time as there was a wake board boat at the far end of the Dam running around making a mess of the surface so Waterways had to go down to get him off the reservoir. As we do on every run on Blowering we had our Waterways Permit to have exclusive use of the Dam. Notices are put on every launch ramp around the reservoir, plus local media and the Waterways website has the exclusion notices posted for our runs. However sadly there’s always someone who can’t read. 

A wakeboard boat obviously throws a nice amount of surf behind it, so we waited another 30 minutes before starting the jet engine and heading out onto the course. However even with leaving it 30 minutes while accelerating that wake from the other boat was still out there moving around and I hit the surf of it at 182mph. 

As a result the run was aborted and we then did a quick turnaround to get the boat back on the water. 

As the conditions other than that wake were still very smooth, the boat again was under the crane, Frawls got me strapped in, while the boat was on the crane and turned around facing the water I could see the wind coming across the Dam, changing the colour of the water.

I told Frawls I’d still go out to see what it was like and what feedback I could get out of her. However once I was started at the top of the course, as I turned her around I could see the water surface by this time was whipped up by the wind so much it was actually white capping. Conditions at this point were easily the roughest water our jet hydroplane had ever been in, so I gently brought her back in.

Following that we had a meeting with the Safety Team and there it was agreed we’d  wait until 2pm to see what the wind was going to do. However it just got stronger, and settled in for the day. Whilst I’ve been out on the Dam with the wind going up and down the course and that’s okay, I can still get what I need by way of feedback from the boat with the wind on your nose or tail, but this was the first test session that we have had with a high cross wind to contend with.

At first I was disappointed with the weekend but upon reflection I got enough out of the boat to tell me what I need to do as far as setting ‘Spirit of Australia II’ up. We know now what needs to be done and it’s about getting the practical to match the theory with the boat setup and thankfully it’s nothing drastic that is needed. It is just fine tuning now, which is so so important in this jet hydroplane. I called Dad on Sunday night and we discussed boat setup…. and ski boats on Blowering Dam the same as he had to contend with when he was there….lol..

Another good thing from the weekend was the head of the Australian Defence Force Marine Engineers coming down for the weekend from Canberra to see us. As a result they have now offered their assistance to our Project and will be coming on board in the near future. Obviously we are extremely pleased about that as the Defence Force were involved in Dad’s second and current Outright World Water Speed Record, it will be good to have that connection again.

As it’s now summer down here in Australia, we stay away from Blowering Dam as the locals use it over the Christmas and New year period. We’ll be back on the Dam at the end of Feb or early March. We now plan to do a few tests within 8 weeks of each other next year to make up for lost time as a result of the pandemic this year.

Thank you so very much for that great insight Dave and I am sure everyone reading this update will have enjoyed such a personal insight into what running a jet hydroplane at high speed is like. Not to mention all the hard work by everyone on the Team and support that has to be undertaken when running these development tests, along with some of the frustrations that weather and indeed wakeboard boats in the hands of idiots can cause!

For those who may wonder what happened to the previous solely vertical tailplane fitted to Spirit of Australia II now that the T tailplane is fitted, you will be delighted to hear that it is being auctioned off on behalf of the Smart Animal Sanctuary & Re-homing Centre in Kunama NSW Australia, for their work in animal rescue and looking after the many animals that suffered in the recent bushfires that swept across the area. So typical of Dave and what a terrific gesture I am sure you will agree. 

Back here with our jet hydroplane Longbow, the apprentices at the WEC Group in Darwen, under the expert guidance of Kris Mercer, Inspector, Examiner and Master Welding Instructor, have continued to fabricate the trailer upon which Longbow will spend most of her times when not out on the water. The following photograph shows the fantastic progress and workmanship of the apprentices who have worked so very hard on the project and we cannot thank them enough, along with Kris and all the staff at WEC for making the venture happen, and with John W. Laycock for supplying all the metalwork.

Luke Matthews of Peak Dynamics has now kindly sent their running gear including suspension, wheels and axles (the latter specially built for our trailer), to WEC for fitting out once the build is complete. Unfortunately for the apprentices who have worked on this project to date at WEC they have now finished their training, so it will be the new intake of apprentices at WEC in January 2021 who will complete the build under Kris’ watchful eye on our behalf.

In my cottage workshop we were able to continue with the work on the sponsons attached to the main hull located forward and either side of the main air trap. These sponsons being hollow provide added buoyancy to the hull as a whole and they also provide two of the three planing shoes the craft rides upon, with the third shoe to be sited central towards the transom. 

The lower sides of the sponsons are called non-trip chines because they assist in preventing the hydroplane from catching on the water during a run, or tripping up especially when turning. These chines were the first area of the sponsons that we had to cover using the marine grade plywood supplied by our sponsor Robbins Timber. This being fixed into place with the WEST SYSTEM EPOXY supplied from our sponsor Wessex Resins and for good measure, marine grade stainless steel screws from our sponsor Avon Stainless Fasteners. Keeping that in shape during the epoxy curing was the many superb ‘F’ clamps kindly supplied by our sponsor Sealey (Jack Sealey Tools Ltd).

Once both of the chine outer skins were fixed into place we could then begin laminating the underside planing wedge of the sponsons. As this again involved not only the WEST SYSTEM EPOXY but also screwing each layer down, we had to be careful not to clash putting screws into one layer of laminate with those already put into the wood from the layer below. In order to assist with this fixing location I pinned through the countersunk holes of one laminate layer into another layer and so on if that makes sense. Countersink bits being supplied by our sponsor Trend Machinery & Cutting Tools Ltd.

To further complicate matters the length of the sponson exceeds the length of sheet plywood in the thickness that we required. The phrase ‘never mind the length feel the width’ seemed to apply in that we could obtain the plywood in the desired lengths but only at minimal thickness. If we wanted the thickness of ply then the sheets were too short. Each laminate layer inevitably brings with it undulations and the thinner the plywood layer the greater the risk of those undulations. 

Lots of thin layers of plywood of the correct length on the sponson shoes was hence going to play havoc with the planing shoe angles and for this reason I went with the thicker but shorter lengths requiring it to be joined at some point. The best place to do this was on the nose of the sponson which is clear out of the water when the craft is running at speed and beneath which is solid timber upon which to make that joint without fear of deflection under load. This being hand cut with the pull saw to scarf it in on the direction of travel.

Once everything was clamped screwed and coated with epoxy it could be left to cure. The next job will be to remove the clamps and shape the nose of the sponson and dress the planing shoe to the correct width. Fill the screw holes with epoxy, clean the surfaces down, clean the clamps of epoxy down and then do it all again on the opposing sponson! So whilst you are wrapping your Christmas presents you can guess where I will be.

Finally as people took an interest in the photo I included last moth of Elsa with her newborn puppies, here they are at six weeks old. Mum has had enough of them now they have grown teeth and they are feeding mostly on their own. Another couple of weeks and they will be independent enough to go to their forever homes. 

That’s it for this month folks, thank you for dropping by for a catch up with our little venture and if I have not bored you too much, then please tune in next month to see how things are getting along. If you have not done so already please like the jet-hydroplane Facebook page to keep in touch and stay as safe as you can in these most challenging of times. 

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