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Monday, 18 March, 2002, 17:38 GMT
Water speed record bid goes online
Nigel Macknight with model of Quicksilver
Nigel Macknight aims to bring record back to Britain
By BBC News Online's Peter Gould

A British man hoping to break the world water speed record says people around the world will be able to watch his attempt live on the internet.

Nigel Macknight, from Lincolnshire, aims to reach a speed of well over 300 mph (480 km/h) to bring the record back to Britain.

And he is planning to fit cameras to his boat, Quicksilver, when he makes his bid on Coniston Water in the Lake District.


It will be a totally unique experience

Nigel Macknight

The pictures will be streamed live on a special website, during the trial runs and the actual attempt on the record.

"It will be an incredible internet event," says Mr Macknight.

"There will be five cameras on the boat...three on the outside, giving spectacular views of the lake rushing past, and two in the cockpit.

"One will be looking forward, giving my view, and the second will be in the instrument panel, pointing back towards me.

"It will be a unique experience for people to travel with me and witness the outcome at first hand."

Sponsors

Donald Campbell was the last Briton to hold the water speed record. He was killed at Coniston in 1967 trying to push his boat Bluebird through the 300mph mark (480 km/h).

Nigel Macknight in boat
Nigel Macknight tries the cockpit for size
The craft became airborne and somersaulted, before plunging back into the lake.

Last year, 34 years after the accident, Bluebird was raised from the depths. Mr Campbell's body was also recovered.

Ken Norris, a member of the Bluebird team, is now the chief designer for the Quicksilver project.

Mr Macknight says they have "unfinished business" on Coniston.

More than 30 companies, British and multi-national, are sponsoring the record attempt. Between them they have pledged materials and expertise worth 1.5m.

Sensors

The skeleton of the new boat has already been constructed from high tensile tubing specially made by British Steel.

A new welding technique had to be developed to join the sections together.

Donald Campbell
Donald Campbell died in 300 mph crash
Quicksilver's design is the result of many hours of computer simulations to check the flow of air over the boat, and water under the hull.

The team is confident there will be no repeat of the accident that killed Mr Campbell.

Quicksilver will be fitted with electronic sensors that will allow "smart trimming" of the boat.

"This level of science did not exist in Donald Campbell's day," says Mr Macknight.

Tests on scale models have been carried out in a wind tunnel at Southampton University, used by Formula One racing teams, and in a giant water tank at a government defence agency.

Quicksilver design concept
Speed: 400 mph
Engine: Rolls-Royce Spey 101 turbofan
Thrust: 11,030 lbs
Construction: high tensile steel tubing, honeycomb panels

Pushing Quicksilver across the water will be a Rolls-Royce Spey jet engine.

That has meant an outlay of 20,000...the cost of buying a retired Buccaneer bomber from the Ministry of Defence

"It was an important step for our credibility," says Nigel Macknight.

"Buying the aircraft showed that we were serious about breaking the record."

Contest

After Mr Campbell's death, the record passed to Australia. In 1978, Ken Warby reached a speed of 317.6 mph (511.1 km/h) and that is now the mark to beat.

Warby is following the progress of the British challenge, and says that if Mr Macknight is successful, he will return to the water with a new boat to get his record back.

Quicksilver
Artist's impression of Quicksilver
But also planning an attempt on the record is the American racer Russ Wicks. He is adapting techniques used to build jet fighters to design a boat capable of 400 mph (640 km/h).

It raises the prospect of a three-way contest for the title of the fastest person on water.

But the British contender needs further sponsorship if he is to take his boat to Coniston and try for the record.

"You need more than just a dream, you need resources," says Mr Macknight, who has been working on the project for ten years.

"I am confident we can complete the building of the boat, but it is a large leap beyond that to fund a record campaign.

"If we had the money we would be able to do it faster, and I am hoping that providing the internet experience will open things up commercially and provide the finance."

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