Regan Williamson and Peter Reid cross Frankton Arm, Lake
Wakatipu, in their gas turbine jet-boat. Photos by Mark
Take a lean aluminium jet-boat hull designed for racing;
swap its heavyweight V8 engine for the gas turbine from a
helicopter and you have what Regan Williamson (35), of
Queenstown, has - a jet-boat that just might be the fastest in
Mr Williamson will know for sure after the seven-race Central
Rivers series on March 2 and 3, when he will go head to head
with John Derry, of Blenheim, who has also made the switch to
helicopter-style gas turbine power.
Mr Williamson demonstrated his boat for the Otago Daily
Times on the Frankton Arm of Lake Wakatipu and the
Kawarau River recently.
Two things impressed immediately. One was the sound - more
the swish of water on the boat's hull than engine noise. And
the other was the smell of kerosene as it passed.
But it is the speed that matters most to jet-boat racers
and Mr Williamson and his ''Daddy Cool Racing'' team navigator
Peter Reid have been to 206kmh so far, with potentially more to
His new 1400hp engine is a General Electric T58 out of an
American Sea Sprite helicopter used by the military and for
heavy lifting - but also used in the helicopter that flies US
President Barack Obama.
Mr Williamson bought the engine after having reliability
issues with previous big block engines, and with an eye
towards the world jet-boating championships being held in New
Zealand in October.
''This will sort of get us up with some of the fastest boats
in the world, really.''
The gas turbine engine is a lot lighter than a piston
engine, but that is balanced out by the boat having to carry
more fuel - kerosene used at the rate of 7 to 9 litres per
It has taken Mr Williamson 18 months to get the boat ready
for its first race and he says it is performing well.
''There's a big initial setup cost to put them together, but
your maintenance side of it is pretty much not there.''
Mr Williamson said it was easy to misjudge the boat's speed
and more than 160kmh could seem like 90kmh.
He was reluctant to say how much he had spent on the boat.
''You can't ask me that. It's a bit like asking the age of a
young lady, isn't it?''The Central Rivers series begins on
Saturday, March 2, on the Dart River and moves to the
Matukituki and Clutha Rivers near Wanaka on Sunday, March 3,
finishing at Cromwell.
The boats start at minute intervals.
The world championships are run on the same rivers in
October, and while Mr Williamson said other jet-boat racers
were looking at gas turbine engines, they would not have time
to get them running before the world champs.