Friday, 28 September 2012

Rockpool Taran vs Tiderace Pace 18 - Downwind


What a blast. 
Since landing our demo Pace 18 a month ago we have been waiting for some decent following sea conditions to get out amongst, with Rob in his Taran & me in the Pace.
Why? Well we know damn well what the Taran can do, a genuine sea kayak design that has literally changed the game for paddlers looking to make big miles in good time in all sea conditions. One by one, records have fallen over the past two years as fit, motivated paddlers in the Taran have laid waste to some well established sea kayaking circumnavigations & crossing records.
Our own experience in the boat comes from a fast & furious expedition last year through the Capricornia Cays to the North Reef Atoll, and the single day 117km 'One Degree South' paddle in March this year.
On the latter paddle we got to compare the Epic 18X directly with the Taran, and yesterday provided a perfect chance to do the same in the Pace 18.
The forecast promised winds up to 25 knots from the North East, so we suited up at Watson's Bay in Sydney Harbour & plotted our line down the coast to Botany Bay. Best of all it involves a 20km straight line downwind section from roughly level with the Gap to the entrance to Botany Bay at Cape Banks.
The wind didn't come up as much as BOM had predicted, and averaging the obs from North Head, where we started, and Sydney Airport, the closest to where we finished, the winds probably hovered between 15-20 knots over the time we were out. That's certainly how it felt on the water.
There was almost no swell, but the sea was freshly developed & was running slow enough for us to occasionally hook in & ride a decent ocean wave for some distance, and as the trace shows (below), at pretty decent speeds. Remember these are sea kayaks, not surf skis….
I took about twenty minutes downwind to get my bearings in the Pace in the typically confused water off the cliffs between South Head & Bondi. I was basically paddling quite conservatively, trying to work out if the boat was going to do anything unpredictable when the steeper waves got a hold of me from behind.
Rob in the Taran was absolutely blitzing it in this water, bouncing from wave to wave, spray flying everywhere, digging into the crests & blowing me to pieces as I tentatively paddled south, watching & waiting for something bad to happen. My caution wasn't warranted, the Pace tracks superbly downwind with no radical broaching tendencies.
At the headland off Bondi we stopped for a rest and Rob asked me how it was going. I said I wasn't sure because I hadn't really had a go yet, and he said he'd hold back & watch me & the boat to see what was going on, & offer some advice if he thought I needed any. I figured I'd take the chance to put some ground on Rob, and took the leap of faith that you really do need to take in these boats, just letting the hull go & dealing with the surprises if they happen. 
In the space of ten paddle strokes I was off, and spent the next twenty minutes cranking it along between 11kmh & 16kmh, with one screamer pushing me up over 20kmh. The water cleaned up a little & started to run more unidirectional & only my lack of sprint fitness held me back. You can see this on the trace between 64 minutes & 85 minutes.
We both noted in slow, slushy bay waves that the very flat deck of the Pace at the bow seemed to grab the water when you dug it in, but in longer, faster ocean waves this didn't happen once. Try as I might to bury the bow on the bigger runs, the Pace's bow just skimmed up & over the wave in front & carried on. When you're looking for points of difference in boats, that was one we expected to be able to hold up in the Taran's favour, but it only blurred the lines between the two
The other difference that goes without saying is the expedition capability. Whilst I think the Pace would be a great Bass Strait boat where you don't have to carry water & can go more 'alpine', it probably wouldn't handle the loads we took on the North Reef trip and maintain it's nimbleness. But… we haven't loaded it up & we don't know for sure, so maybe that's something else we'll have to test on a decent trip somewhere!
By the time we reached Malabar & stopped for a chat, Rob reckoned the Pace was actually better at sliding onto waves, but the Taran had it covered once it started to plane. I'd have to agree, but a clearly better ocean boat didn't emerge.
All up we covered 25km averaging 9.3kmh, with a slog out to sea into & across the wind & a very slow trip back into Botany Bay against the wind & tide hauling our mean speed right down.
You can see the trace of the full trip with my heart rate stats (importantly showing how hard I was working) on my Movescount page HERE
Serious market research should never be this much fun…..

The Balanced Boater: Destination Unknown

The Balanced Boater: Destination Unknown: Destination Unknown The idea was not to get hung up about goals and just see where each day would find us, whether driving, w...

Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Tiderace Custom Order Cut Off

We're finalising our second container of Tiderace boats which will be landing in about eight weeks. If you have had your eye on one of the custom layups or a boat from the range that we haven't so far imported, please let us know so we can include it in the shipment.

In the last container Peter Kelly ordered in an Xtra for his big water & surfing adventures in Tassie & has been raving about the performance.

You can see the full range of Tiderace boats & layups on their excellent website HERE.

We'll be cutting off on September 30, so don't waste any time getting in touch if you're after something unique from the Tiderace range.

Friday, 21 September 2012

Dressing for the Classic

There are about 5 weeks to go until the Hawkesbury Classic, and we are starting to field a lot of questions from aspirants about what to wear during the race.
I recall starting my first Hawkesbury race in 2001 with the mercury hovering around the mid thirties, and duly setting off in a short sleeved rashie, sweating pouring down my face as I plodded along in the first couple of hours of daylight.
By the time I reached Wiseman's Ferry about a thousand hours later and hopped out of my boat I was dangerously cold. In fact, flying in the face of all we know about treating mild hypothermia I went & stood under a hot shower in the campground for half an hour in an effort to get warm again. Don't try it at home….but it seemed to do the trick!
I then put on an old bushwalking jacket & set off on the final leg through the chill of the early morning, only to arrive at the finish line as close to nude as I could manage due to the heat of the post dawn sun. See photo of above, Osama Bin Sundin, & notice the piles of clothing all over my deck, discarded layer by layer as I got colder & then hotter....
My experience is typical of a lot of first timers in the race, most paddlers don't realise just how bloody cold it can be at the foothills of the ranges overnight, and the cold does get a few every year.
This year I hope to be done & dusted before the hot sun gets a second shot, but even so a race of this type, run overnight through a part of the world which traditionally has very still, cold nights, presents some curly problems for paddling apparel.
Reed Pre-Bent Pants
A few ski paddlers have been into EK buying gear for the race, and they have the extra complication of  exposure on their legs & feet that we are spared in a decked kayak.
Reed Pre-Bent Long Pants have been popular for these guys, as unlike wetsuit type pants they offer a wind barrier & the same degree of insulation as a wetsuit. Another consideration in a ski is cold wet feet in a footwell with an inch or two of cold wet water for 12 hours. I reckon I have the perfect answer to that in the NRS Boundary Socks I've been using all winter on my ski.
NRS Boundary Sock
They are completely waterproof, warm like a pair of socks & generous enough to allow full foot movement, without being too big to cramp your surf ski footstraps (I can't wear any form of booties in my ski due to my wide sand-friendly Polynesian feet). We don't carry these in stock but can bring them in at the same price they're advertised on the NRS site in the US, without the expensive freight to get them here.
NRS Hydrosilk Pants
Kayakers are at a substantial advantage in that the bottom half of our bodies are protected by a spraydeck. For me, compression and insulation are all that is required down below, so I wear NRS Hydrosilk Long Pants. They're light, tight, and unlike sports compression garments don't have an exaggerated evaporative cooling effect, in fact the opposite. I wore them on the North Reef & ODS paddles & for me, I know they work.
I'm going to race in my NRS Ninja PFD, because I love the minimalist cut & light weight. I've checked & it's also compliant with the race rules!
NRS Ninja PFD
The real thinking has to be done up top however, where your particular paddling style & output will dictate what you should wear. If you're out to finish and plan on paddling to get to the end in one piece my guess is that a barrier shell worn early on in the race would be unlikely to come off until the finish line. Our full-on sea cags like the NRS Stampede & the Reed Touring Cag are probably overkill, designed as they are for breaking seas & a wet ride.
NRS Endurance Jacket
The NRS Endurance Jacket on the other hand provides a shell jacket that is designed for paddling (no underarm seams etc), is light, has a water unfriendly wrist cuff system and (and it's a BIG AND), can be put on over the top of everything you're wearing, including your PFD. I will have mine in the glovebox to pop on the moment I start to get wet & cold.
I always layer with a base Merino T, because they're warm when wet & tend to stick with you when they're moist rather than rub as you move.
NRS Hydroskin

On top of that I still haven't worked out if I'll start the race with a Hydroskin Jacket or a Hydrosilk Rashie. That will all depend on my two or three 4 hour shake down paddles in the fortnight leading up to the race. I am developing a plan based around my likely heart rate for the race & won't really know whether I get too hot on the Hydroskin at that rate until I've done a decent paddle over a decent period of time.
NRS Hydrosilk
The other way to make sure you don't get cold of course is to fuel up. Nobody freezes in a house when the fire's going.
The products I've listed above are all available through our online store, but there are similar items in the market. Whether you buy them from us or elsewhere, or read this article & decide you've got it covered, make sure you at least have a think about what you're going to wear & of course test it thoroughly, as often as you can in the remaining time before the Classic.
I'm really enjoying the challenge of preparing for this race & can't wait for it to come around. 

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

Etain 17'5 Video


Here's a short video I cut together from some footage I took earlier this year of the Etain 17'5 out in some fun conditions. I've been paddling the boat now for about 6 months & enjoy the way it performs in the rough, as well as the harder tracking charateristics of the hull.
Jumping from my trusty old Aquanaut, it's easy to identify the traits in the Etain that stamp it as a new & innovative slant on the Brit sea kayak design.
When my clone is finished I'll write an in depth review of this extremely popular new entry into the mid-sized expedition category from Valley.
We have a shipment due in the first week of November with new Valley stock, including the Etain 17'5 in Valley's tough RM layup & the much anticipated Valley Gemini SP.

Thursday, 13 September 2012

Auckland Harbour by Surfski

One of the nice spin offs from the globalisation of paddling networks through the web, is the ease of linking up with other paddlers around the world.
I've been in Auckland most of this week, and even though it's the city of my birth I've never managed a paddle on any of my myriad trips over on business.
This time circumstances dictated that I come over a couple of days earlier than I had planned, and I figured I'd give Kayaker Greg, one of Auckland's paddling personalities a shout & see if we could line up a paddle.
Greg
He was very generous in his response, and met me this morning down at the harbour's edge with a couple of skis, paddles, PFD's, even a drink bladder for me! He then had to undo the meticulous fit out on his new Stellar SE Ski to fit my longer frame, all for a couple of hours cruising the bays.
The weather earlier in the week had been arctic, way colder than even Auckland in winter can dish up, but this morning it dawned cool but clear, perfect spring sunshine & glassy conditions.
We paddled from Greg's paddle club base, the Royal Akarana Paddlers, at Okahu Bay, and headed towards Browns Island in the middle of the harbour, riding the little ferry wakes that seem to radiate across the harbour. While the seascape was benign, it's not every day you get to paddle past a dormant volcano, with the distant hills of the stunning Coromandel Range visible on the horizon.
Rangitoto Island, a long dormant volcano
As we rounded Browns Island we could even see the top of Great Barrier Island, some 65km away and a tempting target as a long open water day trip. One day....
Around my local waters we don't really have much in the way of tides or currents influencing our paddling, so it was novel to feel my ski sliding around various headlands in directions I wasn't entirely controlling. 
We were right on the turn of the tide too, so you can imagine a decent ebb or flood tide on springs making the paddling environment pretty interesting.
We paddled back into a rather chilly headwind that appeared from nowhere. I don't think Greg realised that headwinds are not part of the deal!
We covered a cruisy 19km in a couple of hours, chatting away when it was calm & battling back when the winds came up. I thoroughly enjoyed the paddle & appreciated Greg's hospitality. I look forward to returning the favour when he makes it over to Sydney to try a rudderless Brit boat!

Wednesday, 12 September 2012

Valley Gemini Review

Here's a short video from Ocean Paddler in the UK on the new Valley Gemini, which lands in Oz in about 6 weeks.
These surf & rough water specific designs are starting to make an impact, stand by!

RU OK Day Tomorrow

Earlier this year Rob, Chris & I had the pleasure of helping promote the idea behind the late Gavin Larkin's RU OK Day, through our successful attempt to paddle a degree of latitude on the sea in a day.
Tomorrow is RU OK Day, so take the time out to ask a mate who might have been doing it tough this simple question. You'll be surprised what a difference it might make.

Friday, 7 September 2012

Rob Mercer in the Tiderace Xplore L

Rob has been waiting for some decent sea conditions to get the new Tiderace Xplore out into, and Wednesday presented him with a chance to get out amongst it off the cliffs north of Sydney Heads.
Chris James came along in his Rockpool Taran with his lipstick camera mounted forward to give Rob some video feedback on the way the boat handled the bounce & chop on a moderate day.
Rob will write up his initial impressions of the boat shortly, but in the meantime here's a video of some great fun conditions around our home waters off Sydney.
Thanks to Chris for setting up the camera, and to Carlos Santana for the tunes…! 

Thursday, 6 September 2012

Tiderace Demo Day this Sunday

Rob Mercer will have the full range of our Tiderace demo boats down at Vaucluse Bay from 10am this Sunday morning (September 9).
It's the first chance to paddle the Pace 18, Xplore & Xcite in local waters.
Please contact Rob direct (rob@expeditionkayaks.com) if you are coming along.

Monday, 3 September 2012

The Tiderace Pace 18


The buzz around the Tiderace range has been palpable, both Rob and I have been asked a lot of questions about the designs we've landed, the Xcite, Xplore and especially the Pace 18.
I'm sure the curiosity about the Pace is borne out of the long distance ocean touring we've been exploring in the past 12 months, in fast kayaks like the Rockpool Taran and the Epic 18X.
People are keen to know how they all compare, and what this new contender in the fast touring genre has to offer.
In my eyes there are a few things this latest generation of plum bow designs have to achieve in order to be considered as serious sea kayaks.
First of all, they have to be fast. By fast I mean capable of holding 9.5kmh on flat water without approaching terminal hull speed. A technically sound paddler with middling fitness should be able to maintain these sorts of speeds with nothing more strenuous than their 'exercise' output.
Second, they need to be stable, with sea manners and secondary stability which enables an average paddler to sort themselves out on the sea, without having to raft up. They should also get more stable with anything approaching an expedition load. 
And finally, they have to handle following seas in a predictable way. A sleek, low rockered profile is great for calm water, but what happens when it gets steeper, will the stern start to slew around as the bow invariably locks into the trough or the wave in front of the kayak?
I'm not one to stamp certainties onto a kayak design on the strength of a couple of paddles, but I can report on a pretty comprehensive test in the Pace 18 off Port Macquarie during the week.
I was in town for a morning to deliver some boats, and took the Pace with me on the chance that I'd get a chance for a sea paddle.
Staunch locals
Launching off the front beach alongside the break wall, I paddled a few minutes out into a building sea breeze, before turning and running back to the river mouth, just to get a feel for the hull. I then turned again and this time punched out for 20 minutes, running one last time back, this time with a fairly freshly developed sea running my way.
I carried on against a stiff tide up into the river and estuary, turning and coming back downstream, riding a few steep, almost standing waves on the bar before landing back through the surf at my start point. All up a tick over 10km.
Port Macquarie Marina
In the context of trying to get a feel for a boat, it was a pretty good microcosm of a bunch of different wave and sea patterns, a fresh breeze and then something we don't often get around Sydney, a strong wind-against-tide effect.
In summary, and using my own key indicators for these types of boats, I can offer the following.
Was it fast? Well hell yeah, probably the fastest decked ocean kayak I've paddled, with the exception of the Valley Rapier. It ran nicely into a breeze with a very low wind profile, shed the oncoming sea nicely and didn't stall over the small, mostly wind generated waves I was punching into.
Stability was above average in the context of these new fast boat designs. I stopped at my second turning point to photograph a beautiful adult Gannet and didn't think twice in the sloppy sea state about my stability. I paddle a wide range of kayaks & skis and as such I'm a poor judge of stability so please take that observation as you will.
An adult Gannet off Port Macquarie
Finally, downwind, the one thing I was hanging out to test. My trace shows that I spent 10 minutes sitting around the 12.5km mark running back. Unfortunately I didn't have my heart rate monitor on, which is really the indicator of boat glide or run, as it tells me how hard I was working to generate the speed. Suffice to say, and I think the video bears this out, I was cruising. The hull ran like a ski, with shorter fast strokes occasionally to keep me in the sweet spot of the wave. The seas were hardly monumental, but when I got the chance to drive the bow down into a deeper trough I did succeed in burying it to a small degree in the wave in front. You can see this on the video as spray around the low forward mounted camera. This was deliberate and something I was keen to test. If you think about the dynamics, the bow will generally begin to stall in the full body of water forward, the stern is still running hard, and lesser hull designs will tend to skate around once you over-reach the optimum spot on the wave.
Port Macquarie from the sea
We had noticed it the day previous in smaller, slower waves on Botany Bay, but it was amplified in longer ocean waves, that the Pace 18 holds a hard line when this awkward stall occurs. Watching the entire video of the run back I didn't use a single correcting or braking stroke, sweep or stern rudder to bring the boat back online. It didn't broach or behave with any unpredictability, just ran straight and true with ruthless efficiency. 
In the mouth of the river the bar was starting to produce some steep waves that were brilliant to surf along on, although it's pretty wacky when you are firing down the face of a wave and your GPS says you're only going 9kmh! Perhaps because of the volume of water running at me I wasn't able to bury the bow in these steeper waves, despite several attempts, but I suspect in breaking beach surf it wouldn't be so hard. Again I emphasise that I can't pass true judgement on downwind performance until I get it out in some big, fast and steep stuff, but what I experienced on Wednesday was very encouraging.
The trace from my short paddle, some good runs, some stuffing around, but good numbers when I had it working the way I wanted.
Landing again on the beach I got a pretty good thump from a wave and was able to pre-empt my broach and bongo slide into the the beach in a high brace, no surprises there (but this boat is not likely to feature among the quarter finalists in the surfing sea kayaks league table).
So far I'm really impressed, again we seem to have landed an innovative design that brings more to the water than we had expected. 
I'll be paddling the boat in the Hawkesbury Classic, and sadly won't have an excuse for going slow other than not being good enough!
There is a demo day this Sunday at Vaucluse Bay where we'll have the full range of Tiderace boats to try. Stay tuned to the blog and Facebook page for times etc.
**note, everything I describe about this kayak relates to hull performance, the aspect of a boat design that we think is 98.5% of what matters. I don't mention comfort, seats, foot pegs or any of the ancillary things as I believe they are perceived so subjectively it's ridiculous to speak about them in anything resembling a review. The exception of course will be the day I can be confident that there are similar bum shapes to mine lurking out there in paddler land (hopefully there aren't too many!)