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Warby ready for tilt at record

Ken and Dave Warby with the Spirit of Australia II.
Ken and Dave Warby with the Spirit of Australia II.

Last Saturday marked the 38-year anniversary of Ken Warby’s world water speed record on Blowering Dam, which is still standing today.

Now his son Dave is coming to claim the throne.

Dave’s been working on a new boat with his father and some of the original team from 1978: bringing some members out of retirement, and recruiting a now-expert who was a 17-year-old apprentice on the first effort. Dave said it’s having that experienced team – including his father – that is likely to secure him the world record.

“Dad’s the only person on the planet that’s held a world water speed record that’s alive. So we’ve got the most experienced person in the world,” he said.

“It’s basically dad’s retirement fund to build another boat to break his record. The older I get the more I really appreciate what he’s done.”

There have only been two official attempts to break Ken’s record in the past 38 years, and they both resulted in the death of the driver. However, Dave said he’s confident he’ll come out of his world record attempt alive.

“[People] take a look at what dad did and think if a guy can build a boat in his backyard with three power tools that they can do it too. But they don’t take into account his determination and experience, and that’s how they get killed,” he said.

“If I was jumping in a boat that I hadn’t built I’d be very nervous, but I’ve put every nut and bolt in and know where it is, and that gives you confidence. That’s the best thing you can do to keep yourself alive, do your homework.”

The Warbys have finished building the boat – the Spirit of Australia II – and are in the process of applying a coat of paint before they begin testing it on the water and bringing it up to speed.

Ken is based in America and flies home every three months or so to work on the boat, and Dave lives in Newcastle – but he said they wouldn’t do the attempt anywhere other than Blowering Dam.

“If you had to build a place to do a world water speed record it’d be Blowering Dam,” he said.

“Dad says it’s holy water down there.

“It’s got good wind conditions – it’s hidden in a valley – it’s a good length, the area’s fantastic. Dad loves it down there, I don’t know why he hasn’t retired down there. 40 years later he still has friendships and a good relationship with the community.

“It’ll bring a lot of world media and it’ll be good for the area as well.”

The Warbys aim to undertake Dave’s world record attempt in November next year. They are currently looking for sponsorship to help them bring the boat down to the dam and begin the testing phase.

The original world record saw Ken Warby travelling at 522 kilometres an hour across the water.