The world water speed record has stood for more than forty years, ever since an Australian build a boat out of wood in his backyard and strapped a jet engine on its back.
“Fastest” is a coveted title, and one of the more difficult and dangerous for humans to achieve. Fortunately there are a lot of fastest titles out there: the land speed record (1227.985 km/h), the land speed record on ice (335.7 km/h), and the land speed record on the Moon (18.0 km/h). Since 1978, two people have died pursuing the water speed record set by the boat the Spirit of Australia.
A chap by the name of Ken Warby designed this boat in the early 1970s. He built it too, in his Sydney backyard out of wood and fibreglass. Oh, and there was the matter of the propulsion: a surplus jet engine that had been designed in the 1940s and was obsolete pretty much as soon as it entered production. Obsolete for jets, that is, but evidently not boats.
The Spirit of Australia first broke the water speed record in 1977, and then topped its own record the next year to set the current fastest speed: 511 kilometres per hour. As with all official record times, that’s an average of two runs; apparently the top speed got as fast at 552 km/h.
Since 1978, two attempts to break Warby’s record – one on Lake Tahoe and one on Lake Jackson in the US – have ended in the destruction of the boat and the death of the pilot. That hasn’t stopped other people from planning their own attempts. As of today (July 5, 2020) none of them have succeeded.