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Rumble on the River

Carrollton’s Point Park site of
power boat racing, exhibitions

By Helen E. McKinney
Contributing Writer

CARROLLTON, Ky. (August 2002) – Australian Ken Warby knows speed first-hand. Since 1978, he has held the world’s water speed record of 317.60 mph, a mark he set in a specially designed speedboat, the “Spirit of Australia,” on Blowering Dam in New South Wales, Australia.
So what better person to center a speed boat event around than “the fastest man on water”? Promoters of the new “Rumble on the River” in Carrollton, Ky., are doing just that. Warby will be the featured guest among dozens of boating enthusiasts at the Aug. 2-4 event at Carrollton’s Point Park.
Now age 60 and living in Cincinnati, Warby said that he has been interested in speedboat racing since age 15. In the intervening years since winning the world title, he had periodically lived in Cincinnati and Sydney, Australia. By 1989, he had permanently moved to Cincinnati, having been lured there by car and truck jet-propelled drag racing. He opened his own business, Mini Mix, Inc., a cement company.

Rumble on the River Cover

In 1995, he started working on a new jet-powered hydroplane in his garage. This boat was unveiled in 2000 at the Cincinnati Travel, Sports & Boat Show.
Warby still lacks a name and sponsor for this 28-foot, 6-inch boat. It uses a Westinghouse J34-WE-34 turbojet engine, powered by a 9,000 horsepower engine when fitted with an afterburner. In comparison, a 6,000 horsepower unit powered the “Spirit of Australia.”
This engine is an internal combustion engine, which produces power by the controlled burning of fuel. When air is compressed and fuel added, the mixture is ignited. The resulting hot gas expands rapidly and is used to produce the power.
Warby said he built this boat himself because “I know what I’m looking for. I’m the only person in the world who has designed, built and piloted my own boat.” This is normally the work of three people.
Three people have tried to break Warby’s speed record, and two of them died in the process. Warby said his goal is to “go back and show it can be done again.”
Trials of the new boat will begin once a professional team and sponsors are organized, according to Warby’s website: www.kenwarby.com. Warby plans to bring his newly designed boat to Carrollton for the Rumble on the River.
“This event caters to owners of outboard powered boats and is one of only a few events in the country to do so,” said organizer Gary Williams of Columbus, Ohio.
Williams organized the first such speedboat exhibition last year at White Oak Marina in Ohio. He had little advertising but still attracted nearly 80 boats.
“This event started out as an idea between an acquaintance and me. We had boats show up from as far away as Canada, Florida and Maryland,” said Williams.
The only problem with the previous location was a lack of camping and overnight facilities, he said. Williams then decided to scout around for a new location for this event to be held on the Ohio River.

Spirit Run F3

Spirit Run F3

“I raced outboards for nine years when I was younger, and we raced quite a bit on the Ohio. The sponsoring-host towns always went way out of their way to accommodate us, and I never forgot that,” he said.
Williams located a new spot for the event at the suggestion of Carrollton resident Tony Wilson. Wilson and his wife, Kathy, had spent the weekend in Ohio at this first speedboat competition, where they met Williams.
Wilson said he suggested Point Park as “an absolutely perfect” location for future Rumbles. When compared with the previous location, Wilson said Point Park had “a more comfortable atmosphere. The river is in excellent shape. It’s clean and calmer at this time of the year.”
Williams then decided to visit Carrollton and liked what he saw. He said Wilson put him in touch with the right people to make this event happen.
Wilson said Carrollton Inn owner Bill Frederick suggested putting together a budget to present to the Tourism Commission Board, of which Frederick is a member.
Frederick said Rumble had a good first year track record, and Carrollton was “looking for an event like that. It’s a natural fit.”
“We’re lucky enough to be at the confluence of the Kentucky and Ohio rivers. And we’re fortunate to have a city park for this function,” Frederick said.
Point Park has camping and restroom facilities, docks and is close to the county’s six motels, several bed and breakfasts, and a state park. Frederick said Carrollton could well accommodate a large number of overnight guests for an event he emphatically labeled, “Good for tourism.”
Tourism director Robin Caldwell said she hopes Rumble will become an annual event. “There’s been a lot of interest and enthusiasm for it since we started promoting it.”
Williams said all boats are welcome and encouraged to attend, but the competition is for outboard powered boats only. Scheduled events include drag races, top speed contests, judged boat show and display, marine swap meet, a best overall performance contest and a cookout.

• For more information, call 1-800-325-4290 or visit: www.rumbleontheriver.com.

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