Jetboating: Kiwis hopeful Russian chopper engine can lead to world champs glory

Put together a couple of Queenstown engineers who have a mutual love for speedboats with a Russian military helicopter engine, and you might just have the recipe for the world's fastest jetboat.

The title isn't theirs just yet, but Regan Williamson and Blair Christmas have what they think will do the business at May's jetboat world championships in Idaho, United States.

While a world title has so far proved elusive for the pair, they have won silver and bronze medals from the 2016 and 2017 championships. 

The difference this time is a piece of Russian engineering gold. They came across the military Mi-28 gas-turbine helicopter engine, while speaking with one of their suppliers in the States several years ago.

Williamson owns a Queenstown engineering business, while Christmas is a helicopter mechanic.

Christmas told Newshub the idea felt ridiculous at the time, but he slowly warmed to it.

"At the time, we thought 'no'," he explained. "We think we're pretty smart, but we don't think we are that smart. 

"Then we decided that we were that smart... and then we figured we weren't that smart again.

"Now it's here and it's running, and we think we are smart again."

The 2500-horsepowered engine has the boat reaching speeds of 250kph, a 20 percent increase on its former engine, while chewing through 5.5 litres of fuel every minute.

"It's a matter of tricking the engine into thinking it is still in a helicopter," Christmas adds. "A lot of people have said we are stupid for trying this."

The engine was originally built for the Cold War and is one of three engines that fit into the original helicopter. The engine would have once been worth more than $500,000. 

"They still serve in Afghanistan and places like that," says Christmas. "They’re a monster, they're a war machine."

That status has proved difficult at Customs too.

"Regan had to explain to them that we were just some muppets from New Zealand, who were putting it into a boat and we weren't going to do anything sinister with it."

The self-confessed bogan from Palmerston North says the pair have spent hundreds of man-hours on the boat, which they originally thought would take just a few months to get up to speed.

“I'm a bogan, I like engines," says Williamson. "The old Kiwi way isn't it, the old No.8 wire... make it work." 

And the speed of the boat has become an addiction for the pair.

Both with young families, they admit they have some making up to do, after the selfish hobby turned in to part-time job, gaining precious extra speed that could take them past a second place.

"We've ticked those other boxes now and we want that No.1 spot," says Williamson.

The threat of COVID-19 was at the back of their minds, as they packed up the boat to be shipped on Friday, but they will continue as planned.

The championships will take place over 10 races in mid-May,

And the prizemoney for their hard work?

"No prizemoney, she's all a perspex trophy, pretty much, for bragging rights."