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Forewords by Ken Warby and Sally Railton Joslin

The tale of Crusader, the jet-powered boat of 1952, appears to be a simple one about the ambition of John Cobb and Reid Railton, two unassuming but deeply gifted men, to break the water speed record on Loch Ness only for their efforts to end in tragedy. In fact the story behind that fateful outcome — Cobb’s death on his first high-speed run — is a complex web of clever design and inspirational endeavour mixed with personality clashes and errors of judgement. After many years of research, including access to a wealth of original documentation, Steve Holter unravels the entire saga of the ill-fated Crusader and presents a compelling detective story. 

  • John Cobb: the modest businessman with such a thirst for speed that he wanted to become the fastest man on water as well as on wheels after setting his land speed record of 394.196mph in 1947.
  • Reid Railton: inspired designer and long-time friend behind Cobb’s greatest speed accomplishments, notably with the Napier-Railton (holder of the lap record at Brooklands) and the Railton Mobil Special (land speed record car).
  • In-depth study of Railton’s innovative ‘three-point’ hull design for Crusader, with two rear sponsons and a single ‘planing shoe’ at the front — plus a De Havilland Ghost jet engine delivering 5,000lb of thrust.
  • Evolution of the design in parallel with testing of scale models, including a miniature jet-powered version evaluated near Portsmouth Harbour.
  • Assessment and description of boat-builder Vosper’s wooden construction, under Peter Du Cane’s direction.
  • An exhaustive account of proceedings at Loch Ness, where Cobb finally attempted a high-speed run on 29 September 1952 and achieved 206.89mph, faster than anyone had previously gone on water.
  • Analysis of the structural failure that destroyed Crusader and killed Cobb.
  • Publication date: May 2021
  • ISBN: 978-1-910505-61-8
  • Format: 234x156mm hardback
  • Page extent: 352
  • Illustration: 200 photographs and documents 

    Steve Holter’s life-long association with all things automotive, both as a hobby and a profession, and as a driver and an engineer, made it inevitable that his interests would gravitate towards record-breaking. Mixing his professional experience — including television research and crash investigation — with knowledge gained while working with his friend and mentor, Bluebird designer Ken Norris, as well as numerous interviews with many others involved in record-breaking, he is in a unique position to unravel the true story of Crusader. He has written one previous book, Leap into Legend: Donald Campbell and the Complete Story of the World Speed Records, published in 2002. He lives in France.

    “Steve Holter has exceeded all standards of excellence in his exhaustively researched new book… He has pieced together a riveting tale of ambitious effort by two quiet and unassuming giants of the golden age of record breaking… Few accounts of motorsports triumph and tragedy ascend to the level of detail that Holter achieves in this benchmark of speed record breaking analysis.”

    “Steve Holter’s story of land speed record holder John Cobb’s attempt on the water speed record has been long awaited, and does not disappoint… The storytelling is much like Cobb, quiet and understated, with no hint of sensationalism, creating a gripping, but poignant, detective story that stands as a fitting testament to a brave and committed gentleman.”
    David Tremayne, GrandPrix+