The Outright Water Speed Record

Before 1910, unofficial water speed records were recorded for boats that were steam-powered and propeller driven. In 1911, internal combustion engines took over, and in 1928, the first official water speed record ratified by the UIM (Union Internationale Motonautique) was set in 1928 by American George Wood.

The move to jet propulsion preceded the same move for the Land Speed Record when Malcolm Campbell replaced the R-Type piston engine in Bluebird K4 with a Goblin jet engine. Unsuccesful, the boat was inherited by his son Donald and reverted to piston power but still encountered difficulties. Donald took the brave step to start afresh with the outstanding Bluebird K7 jet hydroplane designed by the Norris brothers.

The first successful jet hydroplane was the Reid Railton designed Crusader of John Cobb. Against a record of 178mph he made the first run over 200mph but structural failure at the end of the run resulted in his death. Although not a record, the UIM acknowledged this as the first 200mph+ run.

The record passed between Britain and America until Australian Ken Warby upped it to 317.596mph in 1978 where it still stands today.


DateDriverNationalityCraftLocationSpeed (mph)
04 Sep 1928Gar WoodAmericanMiss America VIIDetroit River, USA92.838
23 Mar 1929Gar WoodAmericanMiss America VIIIndian River, USA93.123
13 Jun 1930Henry SegraveBritishMiss England IIWindermere, Great Britain98.76
20 Mar 1931Gar WoodAmericanMiss America IXIndian River, USA102.256
02 Apr 1931Kaye DonBritishMiss England IIParana River, Argentina103.49
09 Jul 1931Kaye DonBritishMiss England IILake Garda, Italy110.223
05 Feb 1932Gar WoodAmericanMiss America IXIndian River, USA111.712
18 Jul 1932Kaye DonBritishMiss England IIILoch Lomond, Scotland117.429
18 Jul 1932Kaye DonBritishMiss England IIILoch Lomond, Scotland119.81
20 Sep 1932Gar WoodAmericanMiss America XSt. Clair River, USA124.86
01 Sep 1937Malcolm CampbellBritishBlue Bird K3Lake Maggiore, Switzerland126.32
02 Sep 1937Malcolm CampbellBritishBlue Bird K3Lake Maggiore, Switzerland129.5
17 Aug 1938Malcolm CampbellBritishBlue Bird K3Hallwilersee, Switzerland130.91
19 Aug 1939Malcolm CampbellBritishBlue Bird K4Coniston Water, Great Britain141.74
26 Jun 1950Stanley SayresAmericanSlo-Mo-Shun IVLake Washington, USA160.323
07 Jul 1952Stanley SayresAmericanSlo-Mo-Shun IVLake Washington, USA178.497
23 Jul 1955Donald CampbellBritishBluebird K7Ullswater, Great Britain202.32
16 Nov 1955Donald CampbellBritishBluebird K7Lake Mead, USA216.2
19 Sep 1956Donald CampbellBritishBluebird K7Coniston Water, UK225.63
07 Nov 1957Donald CampbellBritishBluebird K7Coniston Water, UK239.07
10 Nov 1958Donald CampbellBritishBluebird K7Coniston Water, UK248.62
14 May 1959Donald CampbellBritishBluebird K7Coniston Water, UK260.35
31 Dec 1964Donald CampbellBritishBluebird K7Lake Dumbleyung, Australia276.33
30 Jun 1967Lee TaylorAmericanHustlerLake Guntersville, USA285.213
20 Nov 1977Ken WarbyAustralianSpirit of AustraliaBlowering Dam, Australia288.6
08 Oct 1978Ken WarbyAustralianSpirit of AustraliaBlowering Dam, Australia317.596
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