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Son continues father's legacy in push to become 'fastest man on water'



Father-and-son duo Ken and Dave Warby were getting set to break their world water speed record when Ken passed away in February

This weekend, Dave and his team will take their jet-powered speed boat the Spirit of Australia II back onto the water for the first time since Ken's passing, as they push to continue his legacy as the "fastest man on water".

Dave, alongside the Warby Motorsport team, will return to the site of the original world record runs in the NSW Snowy Mountains as they look to bring their jet-powered boat up to blistering speeds of 550km/h.

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A classic tale of Aussie ingenuity, Ken built the original Spirit of Australia in his backyard.

During his record-breaking motorsports career, he set the world speed record of 463km/h on Blowering Reservoir in southern NSW, in 1977.

He then broke his own record the next year, topping out the jet boat at an astonishing top speed of 511 km/h.

Before his passing in February 2023, Ken had been closely involved in the design and build of a new boat alongside his son.

Now, after eight years of development, the Spirit of Australia II is "the best it's going to be", according to the Warby motorsports team crew chief, former RAAF squadron leader Phillip Frawley.

"This is the final test for stability, if we get that sorted then we will press on," said the man once considered Australia's most experienced fighter pilot before his retirement."

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On Saturday and Sunday the team will take the boat out on Blowering Reservoir, a long, straight alpine river near the town of Tumut.

"It's the best waterway in Australia for us to do it at, and the Tumut council and surrounding people are so incredibly supportive," Frawley told

"It's also an emotional attachment because that's where Ken set the record, so Dave wants to do it there."

Spirit of Australia II

The team is confident about the boat's capabilities.

But Frawley stressed while they were keen to get their names in the history books, they wouldn't sacrifice their safety to do it.

Asked why nobody had been able to beat Ken's record since 1978, the veteran fighter pilot said: "Two or three people have tried, and they died."

"The reason being, is they succumbed to pressure rather than doing what we do, which is gradual testing," he said.

He referred to the two previous attempts at the official record in 1980 and 1989, which saw both pilots killed in the US.

"We're not in a rush. It's a massive undertaking and it's incredibly dangerous. If it goes wrong, it will be tragically wrong in a heartbeat," he said.

Spirit of Australia II

Instead of rushing into the record speed attempt, the team plans to "sneak up on it gradually".

The Spirit of Australia II has undergone extensive computerised testing and wind tunnel modelling with Newcastle University. The team knows the boat has a theoretical max-speed of more than 600 km/h, but the speed seekers will be content just to set a new record.

"Dave and his dad spoke about this many times, and Ken was very very keen for Dave to break the record," Frawley said.

"That's something that they've had between themselves.

"Ken put a lot of work into this boat but sadly he passed away before he was able to see it break the record."

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