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Reproduced courtesy of Graeme Andrews


Date: c 1973
Medium: Silver gelatin print
Credit Line: ANMM Collection Gift from Graeme Andrews
Object Copyright: © Graeme Andrews
Object Name: Photograph
Object No: ANMS1163[256]

User Terms

    This photograph shows the slow progress of Ken Warby's dream of breaking the world water speed record.
    The photograph shows the unfinished hull of SPIRIT OF AUSTRALIA on a trailer with the Westinghouse J34 engine in place.

    SignificanceKen Warby, SPIRIT OF AUSTRALIA's designer, builder and driver, achieved his world water-speed records on a shoestring budget. The boat was built over two years in the backyard of his suburban Sydney home, using stringers, brackets, stock bits of timber, plywood, screws and epoxy, and launched in 1974.

    HistoryThe hull of SPIRIT OF AUSTRALIA was built from plywood over a frame made from spruce with four main "stringers" of straight grained oregon stiffened with an epoxy fibreglass.
    Warby wanted the hull to be timber not aluminium or fibreglass. He preferred what he called the 'flex' of timber and the simplicity it offered work with - an important consideration when Warby was building the hull himself at home in the backyard with basic tools and equipment.
    Warby also was guided by a remarkable instinct. He had a feel for what the boat needed and after years in speedboats and building his own, he used what he called 'eyeball engineering' and wood allowed him to use these natural skills and understanding.

    Warby first claimed the world record in 1977, taking his home-made hydroplane to a speed of 464.44 km/h and breaking American Lee Taylor's ten-year-old record of 458.98 km/h. But where Lee Taylor's record had cost close to $1 million in 1967, Warby built his boat in a suburban backyard with a military-surplus jet engine that cost $65. In 1978 he returned to Blowering Dam in the southern highlands of New South Wales and pushed his record to 511.11 km/h (317.68 m/h), where it still stands.

    Warby was awarded an MBE (Member of the British Empire) in recognition of his achievement. More information about SPIRIT OF AUSTRALIA's construction, configuration and condition can be found on the Australian Register of Historic Vessels

    Related People
    Photographer: Graeme Andrews

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