Ken Warby Improves Record
By a Special Correspondent
9 October 1978 The Canberra Times
Sydney engineer Ken Warby improved his world water-speed record by 50km/h in a history-making run on Blowering Dam, near Tumut, yesterday.
Warby became the first man in the world to break through the 500km/h (300mph) barrier on water when he drove his Spirit of Australia at an average speed of 510km/h (317mph).
The Sydney speed king achieved the new world mark after four hours' sleep and with a boat with a ruptured fuel tank.
The Spirit of Australia's tail assembly, badly cracked in an unsuccessful record attempt the previous day, was finally repaired in a Tumut garage at midnight on Saturday, after six hours' work.
It was back in the water at 9am and with conditions near perfect, Warby decided it was time to beat his record of 460km/h (288mph), set at Blowering Dam in November last year.
He flew through the measured kilometre at 492km/h (306mph) and, after a short delay because of fuel-line trouble, made the return trip in a staggering 529km/h (328.96mph).
Even before learning of his first-leg time Warby told his control centre by radio-telephone: "I don't think the referees are going to believe this... what brand of champagne have you got back there?"
Yesterday's times are provisional, but officials are confident they will be confirmed next week.
Spirit of Australia normally races with twin side fuel tanks filled to provide even ballast. Because one had been ruptured in the previous day's run, it was decided to tackle the record "lopsided".
"It made absolutely no difference to her", Warby said. "She rode beautifully.
On the first run, the water was a bit lumpy, but coming back it was the best I have ever encountered so I gave her plenty".
Warby, who designed and built his jet-powered hydroplane, said he still had power in reserve, even during the second run, but would not be drawn on his ultimate speed goal.
"I have made a promise that the Spirit will never reach 350mph [563km/h] so maybe I'll have to settle for 349mph in the future", he said.
He said he planned to make exhibition runs throughout Australia during the next few months and added there had been some interest in his boat in Russia, and in the US and England.
"Perhaps after today there will be a lot more people overseas interested in Spirit of Australia and Ken Warby", he said.