We were all a little shipwrecked come Monday morning.
We’d hit a wall with the fuel situation and couldn’t do much of anything until we got fresh supplies but ‘Paraffin Pete’ was on the case and he’d made the necessary arrangements for a supplier in Glasgow to bring a healthy few gallons to the island for us. The problem was that it wasn’t arriving until lunchtime so we were at a loose end.
We still had some spanner work to do though so we set about that instead.
Racelogic had loaned us a data logger so we could capture speeds and distances as well as video and we’d not had a chance to install it or even think about it in the mad dash to the finish but now we had a whole morning off so we got it out of the box and gave it a coat of looking at.
We knew we had a big empty space behind the headrest. This was originally used to house radio equipment and is designated an ‘equipment bay’ on the early drawings but in 66 the radio was down in the cockpit so we had this space free. The first problem was getting power to it. Getting past the air intakes, fuel tank and main spar is especially tricky because it’s completely closed in with no access for a distance of about four feet. Had we thought things through during the build for Bute we’d have run some cables into there before the intakes went on but we hadn’t and as we couldn’t just go drilling holes where there weren’t any we had to fiddle and jiggle and poke wires until we had what we needed but it was all in vain because once in there it had no GPS signal so we may as well have used a toaster. We had thought of this, of course, but we had to give it a go. The difficulty we faced was having nowhere else to put it and no means to run a cable from the inside to the outside for a remote antenna or, for that matter, the camera, which wouldn’t mount anywhere inside the cockpit either without getting in the way of something.
All of these problems were perfectly surmountable but not at the side of the loch without major work to get to places we’d properly bricked up. We eventually gave up on the camera and tried the Racelogic box down in the tray put there in 66 for the radio but the GPS signal was very intermittent so we gave up on the whole data logging idea for the moment. There was nothing wrong with the kit. We’d used it on a racing car the year before and it was brilliant, we just couldn’t properly install it in Bluebird without a great deal of forward planning and we’d completely run out of forward in our planning.
We left it on board to see how it would fare in real life then got on with sitting about waiting for things to happen.
Many of the crew just lounged about. Notice Jordan’s ‘Bluebird Blue’ boots.
When we first took delivery of our Perfection-Pro paint we wanted to try it on something to see how sticky and hard wearing it was so, seeing as Jordan had foolishly left his boots in the workshop, we chose those and promptly gave them two coats of shiny blue paint. But the joke was on us because no matter what he’s thrown at them they have remained shiny blue to this day with no flaking or noticeable wear.
While everyone was lolling about, Malcolm and me had a meeting on how we were going to run Bluebird at speed later on.
Ted, meanwhile, reviewed archive video and that of the previous day’s near-planing experience. He remained convinced that the extra lead ballast in the back of the hull was something of a red herring and that we had enough grunt to simply power through the problem but had to concede that they must have had a reason to put it there in the first place and nor could we easily get it out to try the theory but we did enjoy some good debate on it. Ted would later report that the back of the boat would pop up more readily than the front leading us to speculate whether this was the reason for the ballast – the back coming up first and taking the angles off the front surfaces thus preventing the boat from planing but it remains unanswered.
Even our friends from the media were temporarily halted, our Tyneside reporter, ITV’s Amy Lea spent the morning under an umbrella asking us periodically when the fuel was coming.
But we did have a couple of fun interludes. At one point, Jimmy brought in a huge cake for us with photos on the top, no less.
So we wasted no time hacking that to bits and scoffing the lot.
Then we read about ourselves in the papers, albeit with our stuff interspersed amongst some rather interesting other headlines.
And then, to our great delight, ‘Paraffin Pete’ ran through the camp to say the fuel was on its way and we had to go down to the ferry to collect it. Our Thrifty van once more lived the dream and, crewed by Pete and Rob, whizzed away to the port to fetch our eagerly awaited premium paraffin. We’d soon be back in business.
All hands sprang into action to get K7 rolled out and ready and in a now reasonably understood procedure we soon had the AA van hitched and many willing helpers to get us out and onto the slipway.
Soon as our van returned, Jersey Mike rolled a barrel to where it was needed and carried over a truck battery. We had no idea where this was going.
But all was soon revealed and we put away our siphon and pouring jug to make way for his electric fuel pump that filled the tank in no time flat.
Now that was clever as a clever thing!
Word had got about by now too and the crowds began to eagerly assemble. We were all too busy to pay much attention, but word kept filtering down about how many thousands of people had arrived on the island yet from where we stood it didn’t seem that many. It wasn’t until weeks later that we became fully aware of the scale of the influx we’d caused and that was to a small island in the Clyde that many had never heard of when we first announced our plans and, on top of that, those who travelled had no idea what, if anything, they were going to see. It was amazing. Our news crews joined the fray by whipping out their cameras and capturing it all for teatime.
The launch went off without a hitch and soon Bluebird was afloat, the crew fussing around her like anxious parents.
Rich took the inlet blanks out while Sal pushed and pulled but there was virtually no wind that afternoon. The obligatory safety brief hadn’t thrown up any major issues and the run profile had been thoroughly learned by everyone.
Jordan would take the safety boat up to the halfway point on the loch where it narrows and hide behind the promontory just to be safe. Because of their position they wouldn’t see Bluebird until she was almost upon them, which would lead to an especially memorable encounter for those aboard.
We would start the engine as we had last time but with one important difference – Jimmy and John in the start boat would set off in the same direction as K7 and peel away to the right in order to not get dragged into the efflux and blown off the water a second time – hysterically funny as it was – then they would scoot off to the north to try and grab some footage of the boat setting off. Ted was briefed to not exceed 120mph according to the small GPS he used whilst racing his hydroplanes and, most vitally, to get out of the throttle in plenty of time to explore the slowing down and stopping characteristics of the boat.
We needed to learn as much as we could about this as early as possible because we didn’t know whether the water brake was going to be a factor or not and we needed to know because it had issues.
The water brake was the brainchild of Lew Norris who knew just how difficult it was to persuade Bluebird back down off her planing points once she’d been persuaded up there in the first place. It was designed for Coniston Water, which was deemed just a little too short for a 300mph bid so the brake was built to get the speed off in quite violent fashion.
At this point we didn’t know how much loch we needed to get up onto the plane and then back down again and it might be that we needed that brake in order to achieve our objectives.
It’s a very simple two-inch diameter ram that just gets shoved down into the water immediately behind the rear planing wedge. A hyd pump on the engine delivers the pressure and a selector valve controlled by a switch in the cockpit determines whether it goes up or down. There is, however, another element in the system and that’s the accumulator.
The accumulator serves two purposes. In the first instance it stores a volume of oil under pressure so when you select the brake it thumps it down in an instant rather than waiting for the small-volume pump to shove oil relatively slowly down the pipe. The other thing it does is make sure that pressurised oil is always on tap even if the engine stops and with it the pump.