Sport Motorsport Speed addict Donald Campbell’s lethal, rebuilt Bluebird returns to the water after 50 years

Speed addict Donald Campbell’s lethal, rebuilt Bluebird returns to the water after 50 years

Salvaged from the watery depths and painstakingly rebuilt, Campbell's sleek Bluebird re-enters the water. Photo: EPA/David Cheskin
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Fifty years after it disintegrated in a spectacular crash, the jet-powered Bluebird hydroplane that claimed the life of record-setting speed addict Donald Campbell has been rebuilt and re-launched.

The sleek craft was successfully launched on a loch on the Isle of Bute in Scotland on Saturday as his daughter, Gina, looked on.

Campbell, 45, died on Coniston Water in January 1967 when the boat, travelling at more than 300mph, flipped into the air and disintegrated as he attempted to beat his own record.

Scenes were tense as the team struggled to get the Bluebird K7 into the water at Loch Fad, but the renovated craft was afloat before 4pm local time.

Project manager Bill Smith, who has worked on bringing up the wreck and restoring it for 22 years, hailed the achievement.

“It was like someone was making a Donald Campbell movie and they’d left a prop bobbing around – it was pretty good,” he said.

Donald Campbell wears a confident smile just minutes before his beloved Bluebird claimed his life in 1967. Photo: EPA

“I had a big jump up and down, a clap on the back, but I wasn’t going to burst into tears or any silliness like that.”

Campbell’s body, with his race suit still intact, was pulled from the lake’s depths in Cumbria, north west England, in 2001.

Volunteers have worked to restore the boat to near its original state, but they said the engine had to be replaced.

The team hopes to make full displays in a fully-completed vessel a year later following Saturday’s flotation test.

Having broken eight world speed records on water and land in the 1950s and 1960s, Campbell was attempting to break his own water speed record of 276mph when he was killed.

Campbell, the son of speed record breaker Sir Malcolm Campbell, was posthumously awarded the Queen’s Commendation for Brave Conduct.

-with AAP