The record for the fastest boat in the world belongs to the Spirit of Australia. She earned the title back in October 1978 when the late Ken Warby piloted the hydroplane on Blowering Dam Lake in New South Wales, Australia. Her official speed was 275.97 knots, or 317.58 miles per hour for all of you landlubbers out there.
What might be more amazing is the fact that Warby built the Spirit of Australia in his backyard in suburban Sydney, according to the Australian National Maritime Museum. With a little help from his friends and a few military jet engines he bought from a surplus supplier for $65 a piece, he crafted the record-setting boat from wood and fiberglass. For about six years, he tested and tinkered until he got it right.
The closest anyone has ever come to beating the record happened a few years ago when Warby helped his son Dave Warby make an attempt. Together, they and their company, Warby Watersports, built the Spirit of Australia II, but it only reached a top speed of 218 mph. Since then, Ken Warby passed away and they’ve been modifying the design to one-day make another attempt.
While the speed is an impressive accomplishment, it raises the question why hasn’t anyone broken it in the 45 years since it was set? Even though technology has gotten better, making boats more efficient and faster, the answer has more to do with the risk involved in attempting to break the speed boat record.
Since the 1940s, people all over the world have been trying to break it and many have died. In fact, some approximate that there’s an 85% fatality rate among those who attempt it. Experts say, more often than not, the ship is pulled apart because of the resistance of the wind and water. In other words, the water also plays a role in the record attempt.