'The ultimate challenge' - The man building a boat to beat a world record

Alan Sabberton with a scale model of his hydroplane, ready for testing.

Alan Sabberton with a scale model of his hydroplane, ready for testing. - Credit: Maurice Gray

A Norfolk man with a need for speed is taking on his biggest challenge yet in a bid to beat the world’s water speed record.

Alan Sabberton, from Wroxham and in his late 50s, has already built a 36ft family cruiser which took him 18 months, and a 5.7 litre speedboat.

Alan Sabberton his dad Peter with the house, car, speedboat and model, all of which he built.

Alan Sabberton his dad Peter with the house, car, speedboat and model, all of which he built. - Credit: Maurice Gray

When he was 30, he also built a state-of-the-art V8 car before single-handedly constructing a riverside house for his mum and dads' retirement which took four years.

The former Hoveton Secondary Modern school pupil, who left education at the age of 15, said he learnt most of his skills from his dad, Peter, and still enjoys working with him.

Alan Sabberton with a scale model of his hydroplane.

Alan Sabberton with a scale model of his hydroplane. - Credit: Maurice Gray

Within a few weeks of leaving school he converted a Vauxhall car into a towing vehicle and adapted an old baker's van engine to use diesel fuel.


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Peter said: “Since Alan was at a very young age he gained skills in construction building and mechanics and built a rowing boat when he was 16, learning these skills at the boatyard and boatbuilding business, Sabena Marine."

Alan Sabberton working on the speed machine.

Alan Sabberton working on the speed machine. - Credit: Maurice Gray

Now Mr Sabberton is building a boat to beat the world water speed record of 317mph.  

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He started by making a scale model for testing purposes before starting on the full size, 34ft, three point, hydroplane design, powered by two engines with 4,000 lb thrust from each, giving a total of 16,000  horsepower.

He said he hoped the project would be finished within three years.

Alan Sabberton with his father, Peter, by the cruiser and house he built.

Alan Sabberton with his father, Peter, by the cruiser and house he built. - Credit: Maurice Gray

Mr Sabberton said: “Unfortunately the Covid-19 situation has caused a delay, but we hope to catch up."

“It takes patience to create a machine made of steel, aluminium and carbon fibre to be strong enough to hold two extremely heavy and, of course, powerful engines."

Mr Sabberton is planning a world-record attempt in the Lake District, in a tribute to speed record breaker Donald Campbell, who died in an accident on the Coniston Water in 1967.

Library filer 25/9/1958 of Sir Donald Campbell. Human remains were Monday May 28, 2001, discovered

Sir Donald Campbell who died in an accident on the Coniston Water, Cumbria, in 1967. - Credit: PA

Mr Sabberton has experience racing Chevrolet V8 speedboats and regularly raced at Oulton Broad in Suffolk. But he has now stopped racing so he can spend more time on the hydroplane project.

He added: “I will be finding some sponsors to help with the ultimate challenge eventually."

On the record: Norfolk's world-beaters

Mr Sabberton would certainly not be the first Norfolk person to set a world-record if his attempt is successful. 

In 2019 five drummers from Dereham's JDT Music Academy made it into the Guinness World Records book for the longest drumming session - over 80 hours. 

JDT Music Academy in Dereham after their successful world record attempt. Picture: Ian Burt

JDT Music Academy in Dereham after their successful world record attempt. - Credit: Ian Burt

Lee Cook, from Upwell, achieved the world record for 'most professional boxing matches refereed' in 2020, with 665 contests under his belt. 

Lee Cook with his Guinness certificate Picture: Lee Cook

Lee Cook with his Guinness certificate. - Credit: Lee Cook

Drayton's David Tavernor broke a Guinness World Record for skateboard tricks earlier this year, despite being diagnosed with arthritis

Skateboarder David Tavernor who has arthritis at the Delta Four Skatepark where he has broken a skat

Skateboarder David Tavernor who has arthritis at the Delta Four Skatepark where he has broken a skateboarding world record. - Credit: DENISE BRADLEY/Archant2021

And Norfolk astronomer Mark Thompson is currently attempting to break the Guinness World Record for world's longest lecture at the University of East Anglia.

The current water speed record was set by Australian Ken Warby in 1978. He reached 318 mph (511 km/h) in a wooden speed boat called Spirit of Australia at Blowering Dam in New South Wales.

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