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In the long history of insane people

trying to one-up another in stupidly dangerous world records,

one of these records stands above all the others

as being the most dangerous. That record is the

water speed world record. How fast you can make yourself move while

on the water. The current world record was set in 1978,

and every official attempt to beat it since has

resulted in the person attempting it getting themselves killed.

But what makes the attempt so dangerous?

It should be pretty obvious if you watch a video of one of these attempts.

Traveling at insanely fast speeds of several hundred miles

per hour, on flimsy boats on a lake is a

recipe for disaster waiting to happen. But before the current

world record in 1978 was set, the record was

already an elusive and deadly prize.

Going fast on the water for most of history wasn't really

an exciting feat, until we figured out how to put gasoline

engines on boats. In the 1930s, the competition for the

water speed record was in a tight race that kept going back

and forth between an American and British team of idiot

geniuses. The first casualty in pursuit of the

record was perhaps the ironically named Englishman Sir Henry

Seagrave, who in 1930 set the world record

at 99 mph (159 kph). Apparently unsatisfied

with not breaking past 100 mph (160 kph), he set out

immediately afterwards on the same day to try again, but

this time his boat struck an object in the water, which

caused it to capsize and killed both him

and his co-pilot. The record continued to go

back and forth between the

Americans and the British, until a guy named Malcolm Campbell

(bet you'll never guess which of the countries he belonged to), locked the

record in place in 1939, before that

big global war kind of stopped people from trying

for a while. Once the 1950s came around though, and

people started figuring out how to put jet engines on their boats.

The fatalities of people trying REALLY

began to skyrocket. An Englishman named John Cobb

wanted to be the first person to break the 200 mph (320 kph)

speed barrier, and built a jet-powered boat called Crusader

to do it. In 1952, out on Loch Ness,

he managed to get up to 210 mph (337 kph), and

achieved his goal and the record. But the boat's front plane

unfortunately collapsed, which caused the boat to

instantly disintegrate, causing Cobb to die from

shock. Two years later, in 1954, the pursuit

of the record would claim its next life. The Italian

Motorboat Federation was offering a 5,000,000 lira

price to any Italian that could beat the record. So, two Italian

businessmen built a piston engine hydroplane named

Laura 3. Traveling across a lake in Northern Italy,

the boat was going fast at 190 mph (306 kph),

but ultimately became unstable and the pilots lost

control of it. The boat somersaulted through the water and

threw one of the pilots out, which

didn't result in him surviving. Following these disasters,

a guy named Donald Campbell, son of the previously mentioned

Malcolm Campbell, decide to break the record himself.

Learning many lessons from Cobb and the Italian designers,

he created a new craft called K7 that returned

to the classic 3-pointer design that was built entirely out of

metal to increase rigidity. Over the next 9 years,

Campbell and K7 went on to break the world record

7 times! Finally getting up to a speed of

276 mph (445 kph) in 1967.

He became the most prolific water speed

record breaker of all time,

and he could have retired then. But for whatever sad reason he didn't. He wanted to go even further

and equipped K7 with even more powerful

engines to try and beat his own record for an 8th time!

He sped across the lake at an average speed of

295 mph (475 kph), and whether he got

cocky or just reckless, he decided to go

back across the lake immediately before the water had settled down.

On this return run, K7 began to lose stability and

Just 400 meters short of the finish line,

K7's nose lifted beyond it's critical pitch,

took off, somersaulted, and smashed into

the water, nose first, breaking up as it cartwheeled across

the surface. It took two weeks of searching

just to discover the wreckage. But it wasn't until

33 YEARS later in 2001 that Campbell's

body was actually discovered!

The world record that I mentioned at the beginning of this video was finally set in

1978 by the Australian Ken Warby.

He managed to get an average speed of 317.6 mph (511 kph)

during his run. He survived to talk about it.

But the next two attempts to beat his record did not.

The first was by an American name Lee Taylor who had already

gotten himself into a horrible crash that nearly killed him over a decade

previously. Determined to take the record from Warby though,

he scheduled his attempt for November 13, 1980 but when

the day arrived he found the conditions on the lake unfavorable

and cancelled. Not wanting to disappoint the spectators

and media though, he went on a test run anyway and

hit a swell which caused the boat to start violently shaking at the

high speeds. The boat ended up collapsing into the water

which claimed Taylor's life in front of everybody who had

gathered to watch him. The final official attempt at breaking

the record was in 1989, when Craig Arfons

raced in his fiberglass Kevlar boat that's probably

an Xbox Live gamer tag somewhere named Rain X Challenger.

But like so many before him, his boat

somersaulted at 300 mph (483 kph)

and killed him. Ever since those two disasters,

no official attempts have been made to break Ken Warby's record

set back in 1978. But despite the high

accident and fatality rate, the water speed record remains

highly coveted, by both boat enthusiasts and racers.

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