Chopper engine project both stupid and clever

Driver Regan Williamson (right) and navigator Blair Christmas with their Talley’s U777 jet-boat ...
Driver Regan Williamson (right) and navigator Blair Christmas with their Talley’s U777 jet-boat ahead of its departure for the United States. PHOTO: GREGOR RICHARDSON
There are boats. And then there are boats — like that of Queenstown engineer and jet-boat driver Regan Williamson.

Williamson and navigator Blair Christmas were in Dunedin yesterday putting their boat, Talley’s U777, into a shipping container to be sent to the United States.

The duo will fly over in May to line up in the world jet-boating championships on rivers across the US later that month.

It is going to be a tough competition - they are up against drivers and teams with million-dollar budgets.

But the Queenstown men have a boat which has some serious muscle. Some serious speed.

Powered by a Russian military Mi-28 gas turbine helicopter engine, the Talley’s U777 can motor - like really motor.

It can reach speeds of 250kmh with its 2500hp engine and chews through 5.5 litres of aviation gas every minute.

"It just sounds like a helicopter. We raced it on the Waitaki River a while ago and it is definitely at the top level. It took minutes out of the competition," Christmas said.

The scary thing was the engine was running at only 75% capacity so far.

The Talley's U777 jet-boat speeds on the Clutha River near Luggate recently. PHOTO: SUPPLIED
The Talley's U777 jet-boat speeds on the Clutha River near Luggate recently. PHOTO: SUPPLIED
Williamson owns an engineering business in Queenstown while Christmas is a helicopter mechanic.

They discovered the engine a few years ago in the United States and thought initially they were stupid to think about putting it in the back of a jet-boat.

"That had been the way the whole way through. We thought we were stupid to try it and then we thought we were clever to get it where we were.

"And then stupid again in what we had to do. Clever to come this far."

Kiwi ingenuity and assistance from others have finally got the boat ready and willing to make an impact at the championships.

Williamson declined to say how much it has cost but estimated 1000 man hours had been spent on its construction.

Williamson said the threat of Covid-19 was obviously in their thoughts but they were continuing as planned.

The championships will take place over 10 races in several states.

Williamson finished third at the world championships in the US in 2016 and second in New Zealand the following year.

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