Kenneth Warby currently holds the Water speed record of 317.60 miles per hour (511.13 kilometres per hour) and so is the fastest man on water. Born on 9 May 1939, he is an Australian motorboat racer and set this record in Blowering Dam near Tumut, New South Wales on 8 October 1978. Becoming the first man in history to break the 300MPH (500KMH) barriers, Ken Warby is the first and only Australian to hold an unlimited speed record, the first man in history to design-build and drive a boat to an unlimited speed record, which he still holds today.
As a child, Warby's hero was Donald Campbell. Campbell set Australian's first national record of 166 m.p.h. He made regular record runs in Bluebird, establishing seven boat speed marks between 1955 and 1964, the year he became the only man to set speed records in both a jet-powered boat on water at 273.33 m.p.h. and jet-powered car on land at 403.1. He died attempting to break the record in 1967.
"Spirit of Australia" is the name of his record breaking boat. Warby himself designed the hull of the boat in his backyard. He happened to team up with two Leading Aircraft Men at RAAF Base Richmond in the early 1970s and started the project as a Makita salesman. When first obtained, the Westinghouse engine was not in working order and Crandall and Cox were instrumental in installing and engineering the engine. The boat was made of wood and fibreglass and canvas tarpaulin covered the boat when it rains. The Jet engine was obtained for only $69 from an auction. Warby had designed and built another vessel called "Aussie Spirit" by 2003. He planned to increase his own record with this boat. Aussie spirit is powered by a Westinghouse J34 jet engine and its dimensions are similar to Spirit of Australia. More than $10,000 was the cost of rudder of this new boat which was more than the cost of the original spirit. Warby, again like his earlier boat, designed, built, financed and piloted his own boat.
Since Warby's record run, there have been two serious attempts to break it, by Americans Lee Taylor in 1980 and Craig Arfons in 1989. Both died when their boats came apart at 300 miles and hour.
In recent years, Warby has been associated with offshore powerboat racing in the US with the AMF team. On the 30th anniversary of the 1977 record, Warby announced his retirement from further record attempts. He said that This date is the one that is most important to me as it was the realisation of a lifetime dream of holding the record for Australia. The 317.60 mph, though important, was only the icing on a wonderful cake. I intend to do some celebrating on that November 20th evening and have a toast to my departed team members, Prof Fink and Major Bob Apathy, who are sadly missed.