Back with a blast

Coming in May 2023 the legendary Bluebird K3 will roar back into life when it races at Bewl Water resevoir in Lamberhurst.  Molly Miller finds out more about this must-see event….

Having set three world records in her glory years, the Bluebird K3 will be put through her paces on May 2023 at Bewl Water near Lamberhurst, Kent, after four years in hibernation.

The momentous celebration comes as no surprise to the reservoir who marked the very place where the vessel made her comeback in 2012 after being retired for over 70 years. Now back up and running after a pandemic fueled step back, spectators can once again see her engine roar back into life as they celebrate the 85th anniversary of the world water speed record set by Sir Malcolm Campbell in 1937.



Need for speed

Sir Malcolm Campbell started racing cars in 1910 and in 1912 suffered the first of many near-fatal accidents at the famous Brooklands racetrack. This car was christened ‘Blue Bird’, a name that was later used for all his subsequent vehicles and those raced by his son, Donald in years to come.

Campbell’s first land speed record was set in September 1924 and in the following July, he became the first man to ever exceed 150mph. His fortune and success were followed by nine triumphant years of victory, setting a new land high speed of 300 mph in 1935 shortly after receiving a knighthood. But his love affair for speed didn’t stop there.

After defeating land, the British motorist set sights on a new challenge and very soon after announced his intentions to conquer the world water speed record, to which he broke four times in the Blue Bird hydroplane before passing away on New Year’s Eve in 1948.

His son Donald continued his legacy, setting many more land and water speed records as he made history, but on January 4, 1967, Campbell’s life was cut short when he was killed in an attempt to take the water speed record over 300mph.

A labour of love

Despite the K3’s spectacular history she spent the next 21 years left to rot before being bought by Paul Foulkes-Halbard – a Campbell memorabilia collector who ran the Filching Manor Motor Museum in Sussex. Sold by a theme park who used the iconic powerboat as a children’s attraction, Bluebird K3 was in desperate need of restoration as years of exposure to the elements had seriously damaged the interior.

Paul had big plans to restore the boat back to its former glory, and in 1989 his labor of love in a converted chicken shed began. After decades of extensive work that was taken over by son Karl upon the death of his father, the dream to getting Bluebird K3 back on the water would soon become a reality.



Bluebird flies again

Powered by a 27 Litre Rolls Royce V12 Meteor engine, Bluebird K3 roared again for the first time since 1938 and in June 2012 she crossed the waters at Bewl Water.

The 23ft hydroplane has undergone a series of successful trials since, including the celebration of its 80th world record anniversary in 2017, also held at the reservoir, and the historic return one year later to Lago Maggiore in Switzerland for the first time in 80 years where the boat made 10 successful demonstration runs to celebrate the occasion.

The impressive restoration that took over seven decades to complete has left the historic vessel exactly as it was when Sir Malcolm broke the record all those years ago, and enthusiasts are being encouraged to come and watch Bluebird K3’s latest tests that are scheduled for 2.00pm at Bewl Water (weather and water dependant) on September 21 to mark the 85th anniversary of the boat’s 130.91 mph triumph.




Date: Wednesday May 2023

Location: Bewl Water, Bewlbridge Ln, Lamberhurst, Wadhurst TN3 8JH

Timings: 11.30am – 12.00pm: Bluebird K3 arrives and unloads, ready for launch

2.00pm Ð 4.00pm: Test runs

Tickets: No tickets are needed, and the event is free to attend, however parking onsite costs £6 for the day

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