Thursday, 31 October 2013

A Year in the Tiderace Pace 18

With memories fresh of paddling this fast tourer from Tiderace 100km overnight down a river in this years Hawkesbury Classic race, I thought it might be an opportune time to pen some thoughts on a boat I've spent a lot of time in, in a wide range of conditions over the past year. As well as two Classics, I've raced the boat in ocean events, paddled in strong downwind conditions & done many training miles, logged studiously through my GPS software.
First impressions of the Pace 18 had me convinced it was an addition to the growing genre of plumb bow, sleek hybrid ocean kayaks that have been emerging at a great rate in the past couple of years, but more at the flat water end. It looked like being a more manageable boat for paddlers not quite up to the thoroughbred handling of the Valley Rapier 20, with a similar capacity for alpine style touring.

On day one we took our demo out into a bustling Nor Easter in the short chop on Botany Bay & ran it up & down the wind waves to get a clue on handling.
The worst of these designs, in fact any design, tend to squirrel badly at the stern when steep waves effectively lift the rudder out of the water. It's most disconcerting to be powering down a wave face only to lose directional stability at a critical moment, and it's the first quirk we try to identify (and when we do it tends to be the last time we paddle the boat!)
Happily, whilst the flat section aft of the bow did dig into short bay runners, there are enough tricks in Aled Williams' hull to keep the boat straight & true. So while you do inevitably stall on the crest of the wave in front in short wind driven chop, you can keep chasing, keep the power down without fear of anything unpredictable happening. The bow has enough volume to release and then you're away again, a nice reassuring characteristic.
Having worked this out early, I then went in search of some more demanding, faster and much bigger ocean waves to hunt down. I had not doubt the boat had the hull speed to hook into a decent running sea, but again you wonder whether it is prone to speed wobbles in that most demanding environment.
Rob & I picked out a well developed sea state whipped up by a typical Sydney Nor' Easterly sea breeze, and put the Pace 18 to the test.
The video below shows you what happened, and the trace revealed four separate runs over 20kmh. Try as I might I couldn't get the boat to shift around or do anything unpredictable, it ran much like my surf ski in much bigger conditions & handled the seas beautifully. Interestingly, once the waves lengthened out on the sea, there was no chance of digging it into the trough in front, it seemed to slot right into the wave shapes & whizzed along at a great rate. It was absolutely bloody fantastic fun..!
On the flat we've clocked the Pace 18 hitting terminal hull speed around our 12km course on Thursday mornings at 10.1-10.3kmh. This is an open bay with little or no tidal effect & almost always a small chop of some sort. This puts it at the top of the queue of our fast tourers by about 0.3kmh, which is a reasonable margin when you start talking to racers. If you want to know how fast a boat can really go, you do have to measure it over this sort of distance, on the flattest, least tidal water you can find, where fatigue will prevent you getting some of the wacky high readings for sea kayaks that I see on reviews around the web!
On the two Hawkesbury Classic races I've run in the Pace 18, I've managed 8.97km and 8.96kmh over the 100km tidal course, so that's probably a reasonable indication of what an average paddler should be able to hold over an extended distance.

As a fitness boat it allows you into the rarefied air for ocean going kayaks of 9.5kmh for a workout. In my opinion you need to be able to get into this speed zone without reaching terminal hull speed, in order to turn your session into an aerobic one, rather than a power workout. You don't really get faster or fitter from power workouts, whereas a boat that allows you to get your heart rate up will provide fitness benefits that slower designs simply can't. Crucially, the boat doesn't only derive speed from the blunt tool of waterline length. The hull is designed to lift when you apply power, and therefore glides far more efficiently than the long waterline packhorse tourers.
The construction & durability of the boat have been excellent, it's suffered it's fair share of bumps & crashes and so far not a hitch, save for a few decent chips at the pointy end. I wouldn't be in a rush to land it on a rock platform though, and surf performance is fairly much limited to longer spilling waves, as you would expect of a boat of this length & rocker profile.
At first I hated the seat, shifting it around (which takes some doing), finally arriving at a position after about a month that was....exactly where Aled had put in the first place! For the Hawkesbury races I've put a Skwoosh gel pad on top of the factory seat, but that was mainly because a winter spent getting in shape has left me with a slightly more bony bum.
The boat is stable, with a secondary stability that dares you to heel it to failure. Whilst it's not a playful design it does all the right things when you drop an edge, but you wouldn't buy it for it's manoeuvrability.
So, who is going to like this kayak?
Realistically it's not an extended tourer, so a full blown expeditioner wanting to go fast will find the low aft volume way less conducive to touring than other boats like the Pace 17 Tour or Rockpool Taran series.
I tend to think paddlers wanting a more user friendly boat in genuine rough water than the intermediate skis, capable of doing a two or three day trip with gear, who have a fitness element in their weekly routine, will love it. So far there are about 20 out on various waterways around the country, & if I had to identify a demographic for buyers of the Pace 18, that would be it. Fit, wanting a lighter carry, a good top end speed and happy with a less voluminous capacity for that extended weekend paddle up & down the coast. I would also be a great choice for adventure racers, who need a robust boat to deal with rivers, a retractable rudder, and speed and stability when the going is good.
I have enjoyed my time paddling the Pace 18, for what I do it's the most versatile design we have, and it helps that it's also the fastest.
We've now got good stock on the shelf, if you'd like to arrange a test paddle, please give either of Rob or I a shout.


  1. An interesting and intelligent assessment. Makes for good reading.

  2. Hi I would you compare stability (primary and secondary) between pace 18 and taran ? I am considering to upgrade to one of the two being a bit more of a beginner and looking for a boat to growth in ... Thanks!

  3. If you'rw a beginner, and you're not planning on any big load-carrying, the Pace 18 is the better boat. If you're planning trips, and want dedicated rough water performance (as long as you're prepared to be aggressive & dedicated to rough rough water paddling), then the Taran is the better boat.

  4. Thank you very much Mark I think the Pace may be the best option for me, I will try to arrange a demo paddle with the local dealer. Just a curiosity, do you use ( for the Pace) the standard foot pedal system or you have outfitted with a surfski like one ?
    Greetings from Italy ! Ciao

  5. Personally I prefer a solid base for my feet, the current Smart Track foot peg system has its shortcomings. The back end however, tjhe foil blade and the transom mounted rudder, are the best I've used.

  6. I have owned a Tiderace Pace 18 for a couple of years and really like the boat. It is fast and fun. I use it for fittness paddling in the Midwest US on Lake Superior and local waters and on Alpine Style expedition racing. I did not like the footpegs and initially changed to an ONNO footbrace but did not really like how that mounted and flexed. I switched to the Stellar 3 point footpad rudder control and really like it. THe boat is fast, stable and a blast in following seas. In Expedition style racing, I travel Alpine style and find that it performs well until a critical weight is reached and then it seems to really slow down. I weigh 77 kg and travel very light with the exception on 6 - 12 liters of fresh water needed to travel through some remote brakish areas. I then find I am on the cusp of good crusing wieght and the addition of moisture of wet gear and clothing can really bog the boat down. I have a longer circumnavigation of Florida event planned and I am undecided whether to use this boat and consider a Taran. The trip would involve Gulf of Mexico unprotected coastal waters and the more protected Intercoastal waters of the Gulf and Atlantic plus 150 miles of upriver paddling and then 200miles of downstream on relatively calm flat rivers. Gear will be somewhat similar but there will be a few additions. I am reluctant to let go of the faster speed of the Pace for the extensive Intercoastal paddling but I am thinking that the Taran might be better boat for this adventure (1200 Miles) Thoughts and opinions appreciated

  7. G'day Charles,
    The Pace has the Taran covered on flat water by some margin, but as you note isn't a great gear carrier. In following conditions, there is another between them, unless it's short & choppy & then the extra bow sheer of the Taran keeps it out of the troughs. Once the seas lengthen out, it's hard to separate them. You don't have to be as aggressive in the Pace to get the most out of it, but for really rough water the buoyancy & volume of the Taran wins out. The difference really is that the Taran can swallow 60kg of gear & not really be affected by the weight, the Pace is far more trim sensitive.
    Hope this helps!

  8. Hi Mark! I am picking up a Pace 18 for coastal paddling and will be putting a SeaDog sail on it soon. I was wondering if the rudder really provides any benefit while under sail - and whether a larger blade might help in that respect. What do you think?

    Scott L

  9. G'day Scott,
    I've heard nothing about the Sea Dog sail which suggests it'll work with a Pace 18. My guess is it's probably totally unsuited. The 18 is a paddlers boat with insufficient bow volume to handle the downward force of a proper sail like the Flat Earth, let alone a sail that is completely untested.


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