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…..