The true story of the world’s fastest boat (275 knots)


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Forty years after the famous water speed record of 511.11 km/h set by the legendary Ken Warby, sons Dave and David built a new hydroplane “Spirit of Australia II” to attempt to beat dad’s record.

Being a child of art can sometimes be a burden and a responsibility. But also a wonderful adventure. Especially when it travels on the edge of a passion, indeed a true obsession. In the case of Dave and David Warby, sons of the legendary Ken, that obsession is called speed on water. An overwhelming, technological dimension fueled by an epic spirit, an uncommon sense of challenge, guts in packs, adrenaline, craftsmanship and extreme attention to detail.

The fastest boat in the world

In this 2024 the celebrated Ken Warby, Australian mechanical engineer, powerboat racer and builder, would have been 85 years old. Instead, he passed away last February 20, after a long career and an entire life feverishly devoted to the realization of a great dream: to become the fastest man on the water. A historic milestone reached on October 8, 1978 on the Tumut River near Blowering Dam in New South Wales, Australia, when Ken at the helm of “Spirit of Australia” touched 511.11 kilometers per hour. Crazy speed.

Warby celebrates. His is the fastest boat in the world

Ken Warby, dreamer beyond the limits

The record boat, a turbojet powerboat, was powered by a Westinghouse J34 jet engine, developed by the Westinghouse Electric Company in the late 1940s and previously used on fighter jets. But the most extraordinary note is that that sort of “water missile” Ken Warby had built with his own hands in his backyard. An added satisfaction for this indomitable pioneer who has sparked the enthusiasm and admiration of the entire global boating community for decades.

Today the “Spirit of Australia” is on display in the National Maritime Museum in Darling Harbour, Sydney, but the speed-on-water disease Ken passed on to his sons David and Dave. In spite of two unsuccessful official challenges and many riders who have tried their hand at this crazy adventure over time, Ken Warby’s record is still there, stoically undefeated.


Ken’s children also “nailed” to speed on water

Forty years later it is Ken’s own children who will attempt to surpass him along with the family team, the Warby Motorsport Team. Starring in the project is another outstanding boat. It is called the “Spirit of Australia II” and is a new and updated version of the original boat with which Ken Warby set the world record. Improvements include a slightly longer hull, various modifications to the so-called “sponsons,” i.e., aerodynamic stabilizers, and also to the rudder, thruster balance, and boat and pilot safety. Just on the safety front, the boat features a reinforced cockpit, a pilot harness with 6 attachment points, a Hans (Head And Neck Support) device, a Gps tracking system, a two-way radio, a 3-stage firefighting apparatus, and an onboard flotation system. To think that when Ken set the world record he wasn’t even wearing a seatbelt….


Toward a new fastest boat in the world

In terms of power, however, “Spirit of Australia II” has nearly 50 percent more engine horsepower than the original vessel and is powered by Rolls Royce Orpheus 803 jet thrusters that belonged to the Italian Air Force and were removed from a Fiat Gina G-91 jet fighter. The construction of Spirit of Australia II was led by Dave Warby, along with the Warby Motorsport Team and took more than 5 years to complete.

At the helm of “Spirit of Australia II” in the next record attempt to be held on May 11 and 12, 2024 also at the same location, Blowering Dam, will be Dave himself, the eldest of Ken Warby‘s sons. His is an important and extraordinary mission, just like his father’s dream.



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