Spirit of Australia is a hydroplane designed and built by Ken Warby in Australia between 1972 – 1974. This vessel holds the current world record of 317.596m/h (511.11km/h) averaged over 2 runs on Blowering Dam, near Tumut, New South Wales in 1978. ANMM Collection 00000003.

Date of Event: 1978

Vessel type: Hydroplane

Location: Tumut

Suggested title: Ken Warby, fastest man in the world


Backyard built boats are part of Australia’s sailing life. But few have reached the record setting highs of Ken Warby and his Spirit of Australia.

On 8th October 1978, Warby set the current world water speed record, piloting his wooden hydroplane, Spirit of Australia, into the history books. The home-made vessel broke reached speeds of 511.aa km/h breaking the previous ten-year-old record held by American Lee Taylor.

For years Warby had gone his own way, deifying critics, family and neighbours by building an 8.2-metre boat in his backyard. The engine was a second hand jet engine that he purchased for $65 and had originally planned to use for spare parts.

What was not understood by the critics, was the technical ingenuity. While the plans may have been drawn up on the kitchen table, they were extraordinary in their precision and the perfection of Warby’s design has literary never been beaten.

Interesting anecdote

Warby had to find new ways to fund his dream including taking up landscape painting to sell in shopping centres.

Spirit of Australia driven by Ken Warby on Blowering Dam, 1977. ANMM Collection ANMS1163[291], reproduced courtesy of Graeme Andrews.

Ken Warby standing on Spirit of Australia. ANMM Collection ANMS1163[267], reproduced courtesy of Graeme Andrews.




Name of person submitting the story

Sabina Escobar


AMMC Member Institution

Australian National Maritime Museum

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