09/05/1939 – 21/02/2023
The Sport Australia Hall of Fame is mourning esteemed Member Ken Warby MBE after he passed away following a recent decline in his health. Ken was 83 years old.
Warby was a gifted Mechanical engineer from Newcastle with a passion for boat racing. He started building boats in his parent’s backyard and raced them at Toronto RMYC, on Lake Macquarie. He won three state championship in Monte Cristo, and raced limited hydroplanes & outboards with success. With an urge to go faster, and inspired by Donald Campbell’s World Water Speed Records in Bluebird K7, Warby set out to become the fastest man on water and with a young family supporting him, designed & built Spirit of Australia in the family backyard over a period of 4 years.
Warby made sporting history in November 1977 after he had designed and built his boat – Spirit of Australia – before driving her to the water speed record. In doing so he had not only become the fastest man on water, but the first person to complete all three tasks and take a somewhat complete ownership of the record. On his record-breaking run at Blowering Dam, near Tumut, Warby averaged 464 km/h (288.6mph) to eclipse the standing record of American Lee Taylor’s record. Then, less than 12 months later, in October 1978, Warby lowered his own record even further when he averaged a whopping 511.11km/h (317.5mph) and reached a max speed of 529 km/h (328.9mph) on the return run, again at Blowering Dam – a record than still stands today.
In the 1980’s, he turned to land records and in 1984 in Epping, New Hampshire broke the land speed record for the standing quarter mile. He also became the first man to break the 500km/h (300mph) barrier and was the first Australian to hold an unlimited speed record on land, water or air.
Sport Australia Hall of Fame Chair John Bertrand AO said,
“It is with deep sadness that we say goodbye to Ken Warby, the fastest man on water. Ken was a man of passion and innovation and had a sense of humour that was quintessentially Australian.
The knowledge he brought to power boating as an engineer was immense and, especially through his son, David, with whom he built Spirit of Australia II, his legacy will be long lasting.
Our thoughts are with Ken’s family and friends and the many lives he touched throughout his decorated life.”
Read Ken Warby’s full biography here.