VULTURE – Part III – Airborne

Hang on, ’cause we’re airborne

“It was the silences, the long smooth silences which were the most scaring parts of the 80 mph speedboat ride. Because when it went quiet like that, the 17ft, clinker built racer was airborne, completely airborne”.

VULTURE Part III – ‘Airborne’– By Bindy Lewis (an extract from a 1970 publication )
VULTURE – owner/driver: John Lewis
VULTURE HULL – boat builder/design & modifications: David Gill (GILFLITE)
ARTICLE CREDIT: De Fraga, C., 1970, ‘Hang on, cause we’re airborne’, The Age, Saturday, Sept. 12, p. 66.
The fuel injected 580 bhp racer, Vulture, was only travelling at about 60 mph here (pictured) – but while owner/driver John Lewis is unconcerned, I’m having trouble with the wind trying to lift off my face visor and crash hat.

IT WAS the silences, the long smooth silences which were the most scaring parts of the 80 mph speedboat ride along Albert Park Lake past the Carousal Restaurant.
Because when it went quiet like that, the 17 ft. clinker built racer was airborne, completely airborne.

And when it came down, it usually came down at an angle because there was a strong north wind blowing. So one side would almost bury itself into the steep chop and the boat would skid before launching itself again.

Another two or three of those tall poplars would go past (along the banks of Albert Park Lake) before the boat touched down again. My view of the water and waves rushing up was blurred by the vibration shaking the visor on my crash hat, the wind trying to tear the visor off, the weight of the crash hat jerking my head at each hound.

There was no windshield on the boat because this would have increased aerodynamic drag.

Behind, the 353 cu. in. Corvette V8 motor – all fuel injection and fury – churned out its 580 bhp with straight exhausts bellowing news of the power over at least two suburbs. There was a passenger’s grab handle on the dashboard of John Lewis’ Vulture and forever it will bear my fingerprints.

At more than 80 mph, the boat thudded, thumped and crashed its way down the lake with those short, terrifying flights in between. Part of the problem was my own 147lbs. In the cockpit with Lewis. He’s used to racing alone and my weight was causing too much of a nose down attitude.

After the first long run down the lake, Lewis said, “It’s misfiring a little. That was only about 85 mph.” He’s driven it at more than 90 mph.

For last week’s ride the boat had a new propeller and this wasn’t as good as expected.

With the form moulded fibreglass seats in the cockpit the ride wasn’t too bad, certainly not as bad as it must have looked from the shore as the boat leapt and roared along.

Up around 60 mph, there was a little of the porpoising often seen in clinker speedboats at high speed. Then the hull shape of Lewis’ boat took over and the ride smoothed out for the run up to the 80’s. The boat handled in a rather similar fashion to touring car set up for racetrack work. There was either under or over-steer bends and there was always plenty of response to the helm.

Lifting off the accelerator killed speed faster that brakes on a car seem to and the boat could be slid round corners in the Albert Park Lake speedboat racing course.

The wind greatly affected the boat’s cornering since an exposed hull at those speeds created considerable lift and reduced stability. But on a straight run the boat ran so true it hadn’t felt like more than 80 mph. Just the same when I climbed out I was exhausted from holding my self in the seat.

Lewis now holds three Australian and five Victorian records with the boat apart from several championships. And all these have come in just one year’s racing.

The boat was to have made an attempt on the kilo records again at Eppalock last weekend but only reached 88.5 mph due to weather. “She should do about 96 mph flat out at 6000 rpm” said the 28-year-old who has been driving speedboats for 10 years. Vulture will be the boat to beat at thee opening of the speedboat racing season next Sunday. More than 25 speedboats are expected at Albert Park Lake for the 1 p.m. opening of the Victorian Speed boat Association’s 1970-71 racing season.

The opening should provide thrills, for it will be the first time that the course has been raced anti-clock wise. The field should be bunched on the first turn at the end of the main straight, the tightest turn of the course.
Anti-clockwise racing will be the rule in Australia for the coming season.
“Wake piece: Suits me, the boat turns left naturally,” said Lewis.

(De Fraga, C., 1970, ‘Hang on, cause we’re airborne’, The Age, Saturday, Sept. 12, p. 66.)
VULTURE holds three Australian and five Victorian records
VULTURE – airborne on Albert Park Lake (Melbourne) circa 1970

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