Sunday, 29 January 2017


It was on 4 January 1967 when Donald Campbell tried to achieve 300mph average on the lake Coniston with his beloved Bluebird speed boat.

Donald Campbell was born in 1921 as an only son of Malcolm Donald a famous racing driver who achieved land and water speed records. Donald adored his father but Malcolm was a rather distant family man, interested only in his speed records.

Malcolm discouraged his son, whether it was for the  known danger or selfishness, we will never know but Donald was bitten by the seed bug and could not resist the temptation.

Between 1955 and 1959 he broke the water speed record six times.
In 1964 in Australia he broke the water and land speed record. He achieved 276mph on water and 403mph on land.

At that time, the space race was on and Campbell felt he did not get the full recognition which he deserved.

Bluebird K7 speed boat, a veteran of earlier success, was improved with a RAF gnat training jet engine and by November 1966 she was ready.

Campbell planned to break the water speed record on Lake Coniston but the English weather played up. Donald was a great patriot and competing against the Americans.

The attempt was held up for weeks because of terrible weather. The water in the lake had to be perfectly calm. On Christmas Day Bluebird achieved 280mph.

On 4 January, 1967 bad weather went, the lake was absolutely calm and Bluebird was ready.

Donald Campbell knew it was now or never, Sponsorship’s money tried up, he also was obsessed by measuring up to his father’s standard and so the attempt went ahead.

Campbell arrived at 7,30am, looked at the mirror smooth water, Bluebird was launched and he climbed in at 8,10am. At 8.46am she was started up and he accelerated on the two times runs over one kilometre. It counted towards the record. His average speed was 297.9mph and the top speed was 315mph.

It happened on the return leg that Bluebird lifted off and was airborne several time and the flipped over and catapulted. The boat was broken in half and just behind the cockpit, smashed back into the water and sank.

In 2001 Bill Smith, as diver, located the wreck and Campbell’s body. Mr Smith is also behind the restoration of Bluebird.

Successful tests with 100mph and Bluebird 90 per cent body restored. Bill says: “It’s a bit of a history and I can’t help feeling the ghost of Donald Campbell is looking down on me.”

On the 4 January 2017 there was a great celebration at the Ruskin Museum and around the Lake Coniston with the RAF flying over.

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