Wednesday, 24 November 2010

NZ Tip to Tip

Jaime Sharpe is a NZ paddler & adventurer currently attempting to paddle the east coast of his homeland from Cape Reinga in the north to Bluff in the south. Interestingly, he's doing the first leg of his trip in a TRAK T1600 folding kayak.
 Image Jaime Sharpe

Having paddled the TRAK a fair bit over the past year I have wondered about it's application to a serious trip, & Jaime is out there doing it in good style, from the reports in his blog.
You can follow his trip on his excellent website, Kayak Downuder NZ 2011.

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

Klancopia - Inside the HKK

We have had a close association with the keen bunch of paddlers known as the Hunter Kayak Klan, since they formed a couple of years ago. Last year we attended their inaugural Klancopia event at Umina, essentially a training & development weekend aimed at raising the level of skills among the Klan members who aim eventually to do their paddling on the sea, in safety. It was a great success & a lot of fun, so we looked forward to catching up with our mates from the Klan this year at the same venue.
This year we added in an assessment on the Friday through Rob Mercer's Balanced Boater for any of the members Klanners hoping to have a shot at their AC Sea Skills award, and Campbell Tiley & Owen Walton stepped up to the plate on a pretty testing afternoon to do their thang.
The forecast southerly had blasted through in the early hours of Friday & whipped up a solid 2m sea, and winds remained on or about the 20 knot mark for the duration of the assessment. We remarked later that it wasn't Rob doing the assessing on this day, it was the sea.
Owen Walton riding up the southerly swell
Owen & Campbell ran through the gamut of skills that are required to pass the mark, including rolling, re-entering & rolling, performing rescues & showing good boat handling in the demanding conditions. The highlight was during Campbells rescue of Owen, when a fat ocean wave broke clean on Campbell & sent him reeling back 20m upside down.
Campbell rescuing Owen, just before the crunch. Bruce in the background watching the wave roll in...
We watched waiting for him to pop the coaming & float free as he wasn't holding his paddle when the wave broke, but he had the presence of mind while upside down to feel for his paddle leash, haul the paddle back into his grip & do a nice roll recovery.
Owen performing his rescue on Campbell
Owen asked what he would have to do if that was what the other candidate was capable of! On the paddle back I reminded Campbell that it was at this event last year when he first had an explanation & a short lesson on rolling, & here he was in the middle of some very real conditions, doing it for real. It shows you what some dedication & practice can achieve.
Owen running down the back of a wave
Bruce McNaughton helped us out on the water, & by the time we got back into the beach every member except Rob had managed an unplanned roll. Mine was a capsize on a runner after I got cocky & drove my edge too hard & ended up doing a 40m 'face brace'.
Riding the swell, just before the face brace
After a brief rest we then hit a good sized surf break to put the guys through the surf phase of their assessment, & both passed with a competent display of support strokes, boat control & rolling under fire. Owen in particular copped a real cruncher, & managed to hold it together all the way in, much to the delight of the crowd on the beach.
It's easy to forget that Owen is a gent well into his sixties. Watching this determined bugger get his sea skills in the conditions we encountered was one of the highlights of my paddling days, well done Captain Grumpy!
Owen punching out on his way to his Sea Skills award
After a gourmet meal on the Friday night at 'Hotel Patonga' (note, it's NOT called the Patonga Hotel), we assembled on the beach for Saturday's skills sessions. I had Chris James helping me out, after he took the opportunity to rocket up the coast from Neilsen Park on Friday arvo, covering 55km in about five & a half hours in his Aquanaut on the back of the southerly.
Rob & Chris James give the Saturday briefing
We spent the whole day working on stroke blending, incorporating our core strength into our strokes, & some innovative drills on supports strokes & bracing. On the whole it was a lot of fun & 13 tired paddlers hit the showers with sore guts!
The Klan….
Anne Moore doing a nice cross bow draw
Bruce McNaughton in classic form
Saturday night featured the now mandatory beer & pizza, and Sunday dawned bright & sunny for our demo day, which we shifted across to Patonga. This was the first sighting en masse of the Rockpool Taran, the Epic V8 & the Zegul 520, and also the first opportunity in NSW for anyone to paddle the entire range of Tahe Marine boats in one spot.
As with all of our demo days, everyone had a smile on the dial as they swapped & compared, rocked & rolled, & generaly mucked about in boats.
Camp EK
Thanks to the Klan for another great weekend, congrats to Owen & Campbell on attaining their sea skills awards, & here's to a bigger & more comprehensive Klancopia in 2011. Thanks to Sharon for making my lunch & making the weekend so easy for Rob & I, what a lady….

Monday, 22 November 2010

Rolling the Epic V8 Ski…??!!


With such a stable, kayak like performance, we wondered if it was possible to roll the Epic V8 Ski at a recent demo day.
With the help of a well-placed tie down & a Mitchell Horizon Greenland paddle, Rob Mercer showed just how easy it was….

Thursday, 4 November 2010

The Rockpool Taran - Put to the test

Chris James in the Rockpool Taran, off the Hornby Light.
OK, we've heard all about the record ocean times that John Willacy in the UK has been managing on the new Rockpool Taran, we know that when you paddle 8 hours on the open ocean you're gonna get some confused & rough water & varying winds which will invariably slow you down etc, so we've been gagging to get our hands on our demo Taran to see just what this thing can do.
Rob & Chris James took the Taran out last week in some steep & confused water, trying to take it outside the comfort zone for which it was designed. Chris is a very skilful kayaker, who regularly paddles a variety of designs, including his Aquanaut, the Rapier 20, as well as K1's & Ocean Racing Skis. He's no mug, and he is a great guy to put in a boat like this & get an honest appraisal. Chris put his GPS on the foredeck, while Rob rode shotgun in his Aquanaut as a safety boat in case it was a bit demanding in the real rough stuff, & they headed out the heads & south along the cliffs towards Bondi. There was a steep 2m sea running on top of a long-period southerly swell, and 20 knots thereabouts blowing out of the south.
Rob reported busting a lung trying to keep up as Chris darted in & out of the rebound, racing down the oncoming head seas, & turning occasionally to smirk & yell out '9kmh into the wind!'.
They ploughed their way down to Bondi then turned for the real test of any boat designed to be paddled in the ocean, the downwind, down-sea run.
Chris running down the back of an oncoming wave.
I have become a convert to the ski-rudder & it's positioning a good metre forward of the stern. It hardly ever swings free of the sea surface & gives a hugely reassuring ride down sea especially in steep water, in comparison to the traditional flip-up, stern mounted sea kayak rudder. The Taran has a Smart Track 270 degree rudder, the same as our latest Tahe boats, and I figured that once things got steep it would wave free & make the stern skid, producing a broach, in these sorts of edgy conditions. Just before Bondi Chris turned tail & paddled hard back with the conditions, taking advantage of the strong stability curves offered by the Taran's hull shape. The boys shot back into the heads in no time, with Chris whooping & hollering as he tracked straight & true down the face of the waves, clocking up ball tearing speeds on his GPS. I won't post them here because it will sound even more hyperbolic than usual, suffice to say the Taran has some very serious wheels. There is a quite revolutionary feature on the hull which keeps the boat planing & tracking hard in the following stuff, regardless of what the rudder is doing, and the little secrets of the design slowly reveal themselves as you push it harder.
The foredeck is narrow, with the widest part of the boat only 51cm just aft of the cockpit, so you can drive high & hard in your forward stroke. The seat ergonomics favour good posture & a dynamic power stroke. The stability is palpable, this is no Rapier. While it's not as fast as the Rapier, it isn't hugely slower & you can certainly be more aggressive in rougher water, which is always going to give you a speed advantage over someone who's battling to stay upright.
This morning was my turn to give it a go, after Mercer got another turn of course. I took out my Epic V10S so I wouldn't have to suck in the big ones to keep up & we went out from La Perouse to have another go in a southerly driven sea. As usual I saw a lot of Rob's head bobbing around in the foreground as he raced along in the following seas, while I hung in there on the ski in some tricky multidirectional stuff. When I got brave & aggressive on the bigger waves I got to a higher running speed than the Taran, but Rob was able to go harder at the stuff I wasn't game to push onto, and he smoked me like a Kawai….

The video above shows Rob riding some of the steep following waves I mentioned earlier, & thought the Taran incapable of riding with it's stern mounted rudder. Take a look & see if you can see any sign of a broach. I sure can't. In the first run sequence, watch how Rob jumps over two or three runners, flying along.
When it came to my turn I was immediately taken by the aggressive seating & thigh braces. Very typically Rockpool. Our mate Max Walker says you can tell how fast a boat is going to be by feeling how strong the surge is when you have the paddle shaft vertical in your stroke. He likens it to getting all your weight 'over' the paddle & driving hard through the stroke. On Max's principle, the dynamism of the Taran is obvious. There is a lot of hooey written about how fast boats are. A guy in a shop in WA last month looked me in the eye & said a skeg boat he sold with hull like a North Shore Atlantic could cruise at 15kmh! I'm loathe to start talking numbers but can definitely make the claim that with the exception of the Rapier, this is the fastest true sea kayak we have seen by some margin. 
On the downside, while it's not as rudder dependent as some touring boats, it's definitely more fun when you can just go for it with the rudder trailing, like I do with my ski. You would be paddling defensively in challenging water without the rudder, but an intermediate paddler would get home without too many problems. It will turn well on edge & has a big bouncy secondary stability line, but it's no Aquanaut or Zegul 520, & nor is it designed to be.
I consider it to be a supreme long distance tourer if the object is to turn your long crossing into a not-so-long crossing. Stand by for a more detailed review in coming weeks, after we've done some mileage with an expedition load. The Taran is also a great fitness sea kayak that actually gives you a terminal hull speed that rewards effort, instead of walling up at 9kmh or less.
The demo boat is here for anyone game, there is one left in stock & three on order from the demo paddles we've done in the past week. Make sure you're up for some speed…...

Monday, 1 November 2010

Customised Valley & Rockpool Boats Deadline

Just a final reminder folks that the last day for a customised Valley or Rockpool kayak, due here at the end of January, is Wednesday. Space in the next shipment is limited due to a huge response to paddlers wanting their next boat made to order, so please give Rob or myself a call if you want yours included.