Islander witnesses return of Bluebird

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Mike Slous, who lives in St Brelade, has been helping a 20-strong team rebuild the Bluebird K7 as part of a 17-year restoration project after the craft was salvaged from the bottom of Coniston Water in Cumbria in 2001.

It was refloated in front of cheering crowds – among them Mr Slous – on Loch Fad on the Isle of Bute in Scotland on Saturday.

The craft was wrecked during an attempt to break the world water speed record in 1967 after it flipped and crashed, killing its pilot Donald Campbell. It had been travelling at around 320 mph trying to break Mr Campbell’s own 276 mph record set two years earlier.

Mr Slous described the moment that the Bluebird took to the water again on Loch Fad, leaving his team in an emotional state.

‘There was not a dry eye in the house – it was just beautiful,’ he said.

‘It is impressive when you see it on its trolley but to see it in the water is just incredible – there is nothing like it. It looks like a spaceship.

‘Whether you like fast boats, fast planes or fast cars, this thing is the holy grail.’

The former mechanic added that the team hoped to eventually take the Bluebird back up to high speeds.

‘We are hoping to eventually take it to 150 mph on a three-mile course on Conniston Water,’ he said.

‘Once it gets over 70 mph there is not a lot stopping it as it is essentially riding on three knife edges.

‘150 mph might not sound like a lot in a car but on a boat that is really shifting. We do not want to go any faster than that.’

And Mr Slous is not the only Islander with strong connections to the Bluebird.

Billy Butlin, the entrepreneur behind Butlin’s holiday camps who retired to Jersey, used to provide the prize money for beating the world water speed record, which Bluebird broke seven times during the 1950s and 1960.

Mr Butlin, who was influential in establishing St John’s Recreation Centre, moved to Jersey in 1968 and lived in the Island until he passed away in 1980.

And the late Jersey collector David Gainsborough Roberts once owned the mangled steering wheel of the hydroplane, taken from the craft after it crashed.

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