Bluebird takes float: Record-breaking speed boat that flipped and killed Donald Campbell in 300mph tragedy is back on water after more than 50 years
- Donald Campbell, 45, was killed in 1967 when the Bluebird K7 flipped over while travelling 300mph
- The high speed boat lay at the bottom of Coniston Water in the Lake District for more than 30 years
- Engineer Bill Smith rescued the boat from the depths in 2001 and has been working to rebuild it ever since
- After 17 years Bluebird has finally made it back to water and will be undergoing testing throughout August
Donald Campbell’s record breaking speed boat Bluebird has been fully restored and has taken to water again for the first time in more than 50 years.
Bluebird spent 34 years beneath 150ft of water after Campbell, 45, was killed when it flipped and broke in half on Coniston Water on January 4, 1967.
Today the rebuilt jet-powered boat successfully floated in a loch on the Isle of Bute in Scotland on Saturday, an operation watched by his daughter Gina Campbell.
Scenes were tense as the team struggled to get the Bluebird K7 into the water at Loch Fad, but the renovated craft was afloat before 4pm.
The team hopes to make full displays in a fully-completed vessel a year later following Saturday’s test.
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Gina Campbell with the restored Bluebird K7 before it takes to the water for the first time in more than 50 years off the Isle of Bute on the west coast of Scotland
Bill Smith (pictured far right) who restored the Bluebird K7 with a team of engineers next to a smiling Gina Campbell. Ted Walsh (left) is the nominated lead driver
The team make the first attempt at re-floating Donald Campbell’s iconic Bluebird on the waters of Loch Fad, on the Isle of Bute
Bluebird about to enter the water today for the first time in more than 50 years. The successful floating of the vessel was watched by a crowd of people and poignantly Mr Campbell’s daughter Gina Campbell
Pilot Ted Walsh sits in the cockpit of the iconic Bluebird prior to it being floated on the waters of Loch Fad for the first time in more than fifty years
Donald Campbell (pictured) remains the only person to set both world land and water speed records in the same year
Having broken eight world speed records on water and land in the 1950s and 1960s, Campbell was attempting to break his own water speed record of 276mph when he was killed.
In the pictures Gina Campbell can be seen clutching Mr Whoppit, the teddy bear mascot of Mr Campbell.
It was found floating free in the water after Campbell’s world record attempt in 1967, and has been adopted by his daughter ever since.
Gina Campbell previously said: ‘It will be quite an extraordinary feeling for me to see this boat after so many years. I don’t know quite how my heart will react. I’m sure it will be with great jubilation because the restoration project has been an amazing feat and I’m sure she will look absolutely fantastic.
‘But for me, it’s going to be bittersweet to see somebody else sitting in the pilot’s seat.’
Yesterday Bill Smith spoke of his hopes in re-launching the vessel, he said: ‘As long it doesn’t fill up with water or sink, I’ll be pleased. I can’t get too emotional – I’m looking at it from an engineering point of view.
‘We have never launched the boat before. We’re up in Scotland for two weeks and we will learn how to launch it, how to fuel it, how to use the fire extinguishers and the radio. It will be driven once we’re happy and confident we can operate it safely.’
The restoration project, involving 14 engineers, began with five years of taking Bluebird apart and cataloguing its parts. About 98 per cent of the original materials have been saved or melted down and welded back on to the boat in other forms.
Donald Campbell was killed in Bluebird after attempting to beat his own world record. was killed when it flipped and broke in half on Coniston Water on January 4, 1967
Mr Smith, 51, the joint leader of the restoration project, said: ‘We took it apart back down to the nuts and bolts, to every component part. Then every part has been cleaned, repaired and put back together. It’s been completely without compromise, we wouldn’t use the wrong material, we wouldn’t use the wrong screw, we wouldn’t use the wrong gauge. It is absolutely as it ought to be.’
Campbell set a world water speed record of 276.33mph in Bluebird in at Lake Dumbleyung in Australia three years before his death. The current record is 318mph.
While Bluebird’s engines will again be heard roaring soon, there will be no attempt to break any records.
Miss Campbell said: ‘After 17 years of really hard work and dedication wouldn’t it just be too sad and too silly if, by some dreadful fact, something went wrong?’
Initially, Bluebird will simply be dropped by a cradle to float in the water. ‘It will be driven once we’re happy and confident we can operate it safely,’ Mr Smith said.
A father and son who spent their lives breaking records
Sir Malcolm Campbell was born on March 11, 1885, in Chislehurst, Kent
He broke the land speed record in 1924, hitting 146.16 mph, before breaking another eight between then and 1935.
Sir Malcolm went on to win the 1927 and 1928 Grand Prix de Boulogne in France driving a Bugatti T37A.
Sir Malcolm Campbell broke the land speed record in 1924, hitting 146.16mph, before breaking another eight between then and 1935
In 1935 he set his final land record, hitting 301.337 mph at Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah, America.
When war broke out in 1939, he built his own vast bomb shelter at his Headley Hall home in Epsom, Surrey.
He also installed a fortified trophy cabinet in his cellar after winning the Segrave Trophy in both 1933 and 1939.
Sir Malcolm died aged 63 after a series of strokes in 1948 and was inducted into the International Motorsports Hall of Fame in 1990 and the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America in 1994.
His son, Donald Campbell, followed in his footsteps to break eight world speed records on water and land in the 1950s and 1960s.
Donald Campbell with the Bluebird K7 on Ullswater, in Cumbria. He was posthumously awarded the Queen’s Commendation for Brave Conduct
He remains the only person to set both world land and water speed records in the same year.
Donald died on January 4 1967 aged just 45 when his jet-powered boat, Bluebird K7, flipped into the air and disintegrated as he attempted a new water speed record on Coniston Water in Cumbria.
It later emerged that the speed ace was decapitated by Bluebird’s windscreen exploding at 300 mph.
He was posthumously awarded the Queen’s Commendation for Brave Conduct.
In 2001 Campbell’s body – with his race suit intact – and the wreckage of Bluebird were recovered from the depths of the lake and he was buried later that year in the village of Coniston.
In 2010 an English Heritage blue plaque was installed to commemorate Sir Malcolm and his son at Canbury School, Kingston Hill, Kingston upon Thames, where Donald was born in March 1921 and the Campbells lived until late 1922.
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