Wednesday, 27 May 2009

The Rockpool GT, Design Notes.



The Rockpool GT, a few words about the design from the boat designer & manufacturer, Mike Webb......
"The Rockpool GT
The G.T. is the latest edition to the Rockpool sea kayak fleet. Whether you are looking for a solo circumnav of Greenland or just to explore your favourite stretch of coastline, this is the boat to place at the top of your list! Initial design criteria for the G.T. was for it to be: a fast boat (we wanted an easy cruise of over 4 kts), stable enough to take photos, large enough to carry exped kit and as manoeuvrable as a day boat – without any compromise!
The G.T. is a high volume sea kayak that is fast and incredibly easy to manoeuvre, combine this with predictable and precise stability (and the new FB seat) and you’ve got a sea kayak that handles like a dream! The hull can carry all the kit you want, the cockpit is roomy enough to ensure you are comfortable on long trips and a front day hatch makes it easy to access to all those little essentials! The G.T. is ideally suited for both long open crossings or just weekend pottering along the coast.
Between the Lines:
Sit in the G.T. and you’ll be surprised; it’s as fast as a long boat but manoeuvres like a short one – the sort of boat that puts a smile on your face! This is a boat that does fill the gap between exped and day boat, and does it well. It’s a cracking good surf too!
G.T. - In the Detail:
The G.T. is a high performance sea kayak designed for paddlers looking for a fast, stable and manoeuvrable boat. A large amount of work went into the G.T. hull to achieve the combination of speed and manoeuvrability we wanted. The overall length is 5 inches less than the Menai 18 (to make off the water storage and handling easier – it should fit in the garage!) but the blended hull form gives a cruise speed which is a touch faster. The boat is quick to reach cruising speed and easy to maintain there.
The hull section changes character, from a Vee at the entry point of the bow, rounded through the front section, to a flattened-U beneath the cockpit (no chines), rounded again under the stern hatch to a gentle blend into short keel section at the stern. The bow and stern sections of the hull have been designed in combination to minimise ‘over-pitching’ as the nose rides over large waves. Enhanced volume distribution gives a balanced boat which results in a unusually smooth and dry ride. The deck is shaped to shed water quickly (without splashing) when conditions get a little boisterous! The rounded sections of the hull give a cushioning effect in waves. The flattened-U centre section gives edging that is easy to initiate but progresses at a constant rate, resulting in predictable and confident edging. The G.T. remains stable and relaxed with even extreme leans (water on the deck stuff!) Turn response to edging is very quick with a good turn rate; as soon as the edge is removed the boat tracks straight without overturning. The shaping of bow and stern sections combined with a reduction of deadwood give a boat that is easy to steer, small heading changes and corrections can be made without leaning. The G.T. has been designed to remain directionally neutral in most wind conditions with a slight (and welcome) turn into wind as conditions strengthen, the hull shaping has also been designed to minimise broaching in following seas.
Deck:
The G.T. deck has a conventional hatch layout with a round front hatch and rear oval. There is a standard day hatch behind the cockpit and a smaller day hatch just ahead of the cockpit to give easy access to life’s paddling essentials. No more need for that ugly deckbag! An extensive array of deck elastics make for easy storage and access to bulkier items. The front deck is designed to give a dry ride and minimise those annoying face splashes!
The rear edge of the cockpit rim is lowered to makes the G.T. easy to roll and when combined with a raised deck contour behind the cockpit it gives an easy and smooth snag-free entry. Behind the cockpit is a clear area to allow fitting of a deck mounted tow system. Adjustable fittings are incorporated in order to carry split paddles on the front or rear deck. All deckline fittings are recessed for a neat and smooth look, they also make life a little easier during rescue drills.
The integrated thigh braces of the cockpit rim and the adjustable seat make for a precise fit that provides accurate feedback and handling. The G.T. is fitted with an adjustable plate footrest. This is angled for a strong natural ankle position which allows the paddler to finely adjust their leg alignment. Matched with the adjustable seat this places the paddler in a dynamic and comfortable position for paddling.
A choice of the standard Rockpool seat or the new FB seat (developed from a white-water competition seat) can be fitted to the G.T. As per the rest of the Rockpool fleet the seats are moulded GRP shells which are adjustable front-to-back at 10mm intervals. The adjustable seat and footrest are mounted on internal hull fixings without drill holes. This relieves the cockpit rim and deck of unnecessary stress and provides a variable seat position for improved feedback and handling for the paddler. Alternatively the G.T. seat has been designed to allow it to be glassed permanently in place to perfectly match the individual and give ultimate feedback and comfort.
The G.T. is a boat with dreamlike handling – it is fast but turns like a much smaller boat; it is comfortable and manoeuvrable with crisp and precise edging."
We can't wait for our demo boat to arrive in July - only two of the boats remain in stock, so be quick if you want to be among the first to own a revolutionary GT.

Tuesday, 26 May 2009

Eddie & Gaz Carving up Mooloolaba

Check this out - Eddie Safarik in his Aquanaut LV & Queensland sea instructor Gary Forrest in his Nordkapp, absolutely carving it up....

Monday, 25 May 2009

Storm Paddling

Doing it tough into the gale (photo Rob Mercer)
Sydney's recent wild weather has produced some excellent opportunities for an 'experiential' paddle, and on Friday morning Rob & I decided to have a bit of play in the forecast conditions & then indulge in a surf across Botany Bay. The forecast was for 33kn+ and the observations at the time we were out on the water showed gusts to 41kn, with 3-4m swell rising at times to 6m. Observations are often used by sea kayakers as great fodder for the story in the bar afterwards, but the truth is most of them are measured an awful lot higer up a cliff than a kayaker's position, & conditions on the water are rarely as severe as the 'obs' suggest. Certainly, we didn't see any 6m waves, and the swell on our route was rarely above 3m. That said, it was a pretty demanding little session, with winds strong enough to blow your bow downwind as you crested a wave while we headed upwind, and a rip roaring following sea for our dash 9km across Botany Bay from about level with Henry Head back to the Airport.
Rob Mercer riding the wind waves

Riding a nice runner (photo Rob Mercer)

Lean forward, dig in hard....(photo Rob Mercer)

...and you're off.... (photo Rob Mercer)

It's conditions like these that make you truly appreciate the design of your boat. I've been in plenty of kayaks over the years that would have been either a complete nightmare in this sort of stuff, or alternatively gotten bogged down in the following sea & give a very frustrating ride. Rob & I were both in our Aquanauts, which give a terrific sense of surety & control, especially when riding the sea & swell home. The great thing about Valley boats is the way they get better, as things on the water get worse....

Wednesday, 20 May 2009

Tuesday Night Paddle

With a forecast of 25 knots out of the east - an unusual wind direction for Sydney - and seas forecast to rise over 2m on the back of the rising wind, I decided I should shut down the PC for the afternoon & head out on Rob's Tuesday Night Paddle. Baby number 3 is also about 3 weeks away so I reckon it will be a last hit out for me for a while! As always there was a mixed group of paddlers, with all levels covered from Sea Instructor to Tuesday night debutant.
The pod heading out of Watson's BayRob Mercer in the Anas Acuta
Unfortunately the predicted winds & sea state didn't come up as forecast, but it was still better than sitting in the office.....
Alan Thurman & Shaan Gresser rounding North HeadAndre Janecki paddling solo.....

Friday, 15 May 2009

Power down & fly....right?

For a few months now I've been listening to various theories on paddle size, shaft length, feather etc, in relation to both speed & effort, for sea kayaking. I have been bashing away on my weekly 12.5km fitness paddle with what would be regarded as a 'Large' wing paddle with a full carbon shaft. I'm managing to sit just under 9.5km/h for the duration, in my Rapier 20, a pretty damn fast kayak, by any measure. Plainly, a paddler with a racing background (I have none), better fitness and a more refined stroke would be able to squeeze another 1-1.5km/h out of the boat on flat water, so I'm not speaking here from the perspective of an expert, or an experienced speedster. Ian Tordoff crossed the English Channel in the Rapier 20 averaging 12km/h, which is just phenomenal considering the effort I require to crank it up to that speed. During the week I bought a mid wing paddle - thanks again to Tony & Jacqui Williams at Epic - with a more flexible carbon/glass shaft & this morning was my first hit out with the new blade. As is the norm for the Friday morning paddle, conditions were very light on the bay with just a 10 knot westerly on the beam, so nothing helping or hindering progress. My dodgy training mantra is to go as hard as I can for as long as I can, in the hope that over months I'll be able to harder, for longer....(I hope Mike Eggleton isn't reading this - still waiting for your training notes so I at least have some idea of what I'm doing mate..!)

So, I set my blade to 60 degrees, 212cm, down from a ridiculous 77 degrees on my larger wing (yes I failed HSC maths but the unnamed highly qualified sea instructor who set the angle for me is well versed in the arts of geometry), & off I went. The first thing I noticed was the appreciably higher rating possible with the smaller surface blade, although that for now doesn't transfer into a marked increase in speed. I hit my turn mark in a little less time than I've been doing lately & finished the course (now 12.75km due to the Desal plant 'waterworks' diversion) in 79 minutes, again, around 9.6km/h for the duration. This is almost exactly the same time as I've been doing with my bigger wing, but at a hugely reduced anaerobic toll on my shoulders & torso. I felt pretty fresh at the end of the paddle, and I'm putting it down to the less brutal catch, combined with the extra flex that a full carbon shaft denies me. I read a great quote the other day that made me decide once & for all to 'power down', and to paraphrase it was simply stating that a large blade only teaches you to paddle slower, unless you're a very powerful paddler. I sure as hell am not a very powerful paddler. What's the advantage of this lower-impact paddle if it hasn't immediately helped my speed, especially if I do want to try to get faster? Well, I figure the potential to get faster which is accommodated by the higher cadence possible with the mid-wing will give me greater scope to build speed, than was possible with my old large wing.
As an exercise in comparison, I grabbed my bigger wing at the end of the paddle & put my head down for a 200m sprint, getting the boat to 13.3km/h. Then I switched to the mid wing & did the same distance as fast as I could & only managed 12.7km/h. So, the heavy catch & the inflexible shaft on the larger blade definitely transfers to speed when you really go for it; either that or I was completely knackered by the time I got the mid wing back....
All well & good, you may say, but how does this transfer to sea kayaking when we're not out on the sea in a race, and where our hull speeds greatly reduce our ability to go very fast anyway? I think it comes down to learning, or training yourself to have the ability to accelerate on the sea, and thus hook into all of the free assistance you can gain from the dynamic water of the ocean. It's something we as sea kayakers mostly lack, and it can only be learned through a training regime that has some form of paddling against a clock built into the session. For a superb technical breakdown of what I'm poorly trying to describe, read Rob Mercer's 'The Catch' article.
I choose to paddle on the sea with my Mitchell Blades Voyager, as I can cruise along with minimal effort - it pulls a moderate amount of water & has a less aggressive catch - but still has enough clout to sprint onto a wave if I sense a free ride. If I'm going out to do some higher octane instruction, or having a surf, I'll take the Poseidon for it's more aggressive catch & bigger blade area for technical strokes. I also prefer the splits so I can drop down a gear with the paddles, taking it down as low as 209cm for close quartering, and back out to 212cm for a cruise. As a general rule, the bigger the blade surface, the shorter the shaft you can afford to have for the same returns in speed. One of the most experienced expeditioners in the country, sea instructor Keith Oakford, recently used the Poseidon on his circumnavigation of Kangaroo Island, and spoke highly of it's capabilities in the technical water they encountered, & also of his increased ability to put the speed on when he needed it. I reckon to have any hope of hanging on to Keith's bootstraps on a sea paddle where he was using the Poseidon, I'd have to use a Voyager with it's smaller impact & try to rate higher, as I will now do my best to learn with my new mid-wing paddle. In a round about way, that's why I'm exploring these side alleys of sea kayaking - I reckon the lessons learned long ago in other paddle disciplines have an awful lot to offer our hybridised sport.

Wednesday, 13 May 2009

Bass Strait Paddling....

Brian Towell paddling across Bass Strait (photo Silvio Testa)

Leading Queensland paddler Brian Towell recently crossed Bass Strait in his Valley Aquanaut. Paddling alongside were Silvio Testa, in a new Nordkapp, & Craig McSween. The guys wrote up an excellent blog of their trip which was completed in fine style, within the bounds the group set themselves as acceptable for such an exposed expedition, with plenty of good times along the way. Brian, Silvio & Craig paid this waterway plenty of respect, training extensively with fully loaded boats for months in advance. Brian sent through a photo of him paddling his Aquanaut across the strait against a dramatic seascape.

Tuesday, 12 May 2009

Braca Hurricane Paddles

Our search for an ultra lightweight sea paddle in a modern, high angle shape has led us to the world renowned Braca paddles from Europe. From June we'll be stocking the Braca Hurricane 100 in both the Min (660cm2) & Max (720cm2), weighing in at a meagre 740gms, one of the lightest sea paddles on the market. Besides the weight, the performance and exceptional build quality of Braca paddles sets them apart from most of the brands available in the Australian market. They are beautifully finished, with terrific performance characteristics. We will also be offerring an absolutely customised paddle - the blade will be cut to your specific length & feather all inclusive.
Keep an eye on our online store for details of these fantastic full carbon paddles, for under $600.
The acquisition of the Braca sea paddles gives us a light option with great performance for those to whom weight is important, in addition to the bombproof Mitchell Blades from the UK.

Tuesday, 5 May 2009

Canberra paddling

Some images from the demo morning we ran over the weekend in Canberra. Thanks to Ian & Julie for the post-paddle coffee, & to Geoff Payne who had a whale of a time in the Atlantic II & promptly ordered one!
Tony Mee in his brand new Aquanaut

Geoff Payne against a very Canberran backdrop