Friday, 28 April 2017

Audax Speed test


Yesterday we put the Audax to the test over the same 10km course on which we've tested every single one of the 70 or more boats we have imported over the years, to ascertain accurately the terminal hull speed of the boat. 

We choose this course on Botany Bay as it's as flat a stretch of tide-neutral water we can find, with only about 800m of assistance & resistance at each end, and 10km is too far pushing hard to get any weird high results. We've heard people tell us that boat X can go 12kmh, but we've never ever seen a sea kayak do those speeds over still water for more than a few hundred metres, so prefer our own tried & trusted method of measurement.

Whilst it wasn't dead flat, with a beam wind gusting to about 12kn, it was protected enough to give us a good gauge on just how fast the Audax is in comparison to other boats in the genre.

The recorded trace is below, with an average speed over the 10km of just on 10.2kmh. That makes it the fastest sea kayak we've ever recorded over the course, with the exception of the 6m long, 44cm wide Valley Rapier, as radical a design as you're ever likely to see.

The numbers are higher than we thought we'd see, considering the huge stability of the craft, the reassuring beam of 53cm and the rocker we designed in to maximise handing and manoeuvrability in the big stuff. We put it down to the entirely organic shape of the hull, with no hard surfaces, only the suggestion of a V, and also the ergonomics of a close, clean strike zone allowing plenty of power transfer at the catch.

It means the Audax has a broader reach than we had originally considered. With that sort of hull speed it's realistically a sub-eleven hour Hawkesbury boat, and a fitness kayak for paddlers looking at entry level ski performance and stability, with the huge benefit of being a well credentialed touring sea kayak.

Why is this speed measurement important? Considering that nobody other than a racer would be pushing the limits of a hull in the context of sea kayaking, under the the ethos that it's about the journey & speed isn't really that big a deal. Why bother to actually measure potential speed? The answer is simple, a boat with a high terminal hull speed will generally have more glide than a boat with a lower limit; glide being defined as the length of time between strokes before the kayak starts to decelerate. In the context of sea paddling, this means less effort to maintain a cruising speed, even if it's only 6-7kmh, and a less taxing experience on the ocean. 

One of the most common comments we hear when paddlers first try a fast touring boat is that they feel light on the water in comparison to a traditionally shaped kayak. That's not down to actual weight, it's the earlier planing effect that these modern hulls tend to generate. Power translates to lift much earlier, the hull gets up & on top of the surface more effectively, and feels lighter to move along.

Fast touring boats are not a massive revolution, but they have steadily turned distances that have previously been considered fairly epic undertakings of 10 hours or more, into a 6-7 hour steady cruise, whilst also being exceptional in any hint of a following sea.

The Audax continues to win friends, with orders rolling in & the boats already delivered providing an enhanced paddling experience for their new owners. Contact us to arrange a test paddle.

Thursday, 16 March 2017

Introducing the Expedition Kayaks Audax.




After two years of prototyping, testing, more prototyping, more testing, and then finally the nuts & bolts of getting the mould made to the high standard we expect, we are proud & excited to announce the launch of our own locally manufactured sea kayak, the Audax.
Inspired by the Striped Marlin whose Latin name is Kajikia Audax, Audax is a Latin word usually used to denote bold, daring or adventurous. We wanted to produce a kayak that reflected this spirit of adventure in wide range of coastal and open water environments.


Our aim was to start with stability, the absolute most important aspect of any craft in which you may one day have to sort out a very serious problem on a heaving sea by yourself, we then expanded our design brief to incorporate the elements that we hoped would bring a smile to the dial of our customers. Namely the overarching requirement to get ground, to be an efficient and fast hull which has the capacity to turn that 50km crossing from a ten hour epic, into a six hour hoot. And of course the capacity to manoeuvre, not simply for the pure safety margin that a boat with good close-quartering manners provides, but also for the joy of the craft of kayaking. 


The Audax is a long waterline, open water kayak built to join the growing ranks of plumb bow fast tourers that have proven so successful and popular in Australian conditions.For decades now the local market for sea kayaks has coexisted with the ocean racing ski market and so the arrival of leaders in this niche such as the Rockpool Taran and Pace Tour appeared to many of us as an obvious progression for kayak design. These shapes probably appeared less radical to Aussie kayakers accustomed to sharing the coastline with surfskis.

Our aim with this kayak was not to replace other plumb bow designs in our range, but instead to add another kayak that would appeal to those who are looking for an efficient modern touring boat with enhanced stability and maneuverability. The fact that the kayak is built in Australia will no doubt also appeal to many as it offers support to local small businesses and also provides new levels of flexibility for customisation.

The final hull shape was the result of repeated prototype testing across a range of conditions and paddlers, over a period spanning just over two years. We aimed for an efficient hull that was easy to drive at cruising speeds but still accelerated well to catch runners, but we also wanted the boat to turn well at all quarters to the wind and above all to have predictable stability in conditions both rough & smooth.

The best of the plumb bow kayak designs have proven themselves to be highly capable and sea worthy craft for everything from easy cruising to long distance expeditions so we felt no hesitation in using this shape for the Audax. We added a little rake at the bow to make the boat easier to slide off the beach when launching and maintained the upswept sheer line synonymous with our favourite classic kayaks.

From an ergonomic point of the view, the deck is quite steeply angled forward of the cockpit to allow an upright stroke. The cockpit is wide between the thigh braces so most paddlers can paddle “knees up” or “knees under” as required and the deck is high enough to allow for a comfortable bend at the knee in either position.

Audax kayaks use our “Bigfoot” footplate system, an adjustable composite seat and foam back-band. Other seat options include the Winkworth foam seat or the famous Gurney Gears Bumfortable (to order).



We have enjoyed the challenge of bringing this project to fruition after a couple of years of development and are delighted with the Audax’s performance and build quality. We hope you enjoy paddling it as much as we do. 

The Audax is available in three layups, which you can se in detail on the Audax page of our website (www.expeditionkayaks.com).


Length 5.6 Metres Max Beam 53cm 

Volumes:
Stern (includes day hatch compartment) 149.07 litres. - Bow 100.13 litres - Cockpit 154.13 litres Total 403.5 litres. 

Standard features:
1 Kajaksport large Oval hatch
1 Kajaksport 10” Round hatch
1 KajakSport 8” Round

Decklines - 6mm retro reflective black with gold and silver fleck.
Shockcords – 5mm.
Towpoint – Wichart cast stainless.
Deck tensioners – Alloy Buckles.

Rudder: Smarttrack transom mount.
Footplate: EK “BigFoot”.



Wednesday, 15 March 2017

Rock & Roll 2017


Each year in March the NSW Sea Kayak Club convenes at a spot along the coast to mark their one big event of the year, the Rock & Roll weekend.
Spot the beer & pizza. No chance...
As a sponsor of the event since 2007 when we began to be, it's a rare chance for us to get along to a weekend where near enough to 150 dead-set sea kayakers are in attendance, with the overriding goal of going for a paddle on the ocean. We enjoy the opportunity to put something back into the community of which we have been a part for so many years.
The welcome to RnR speech
This year the weather gods smiled, slotting Rock & Roll in between an East Coast Low that closed out most of the NSW coast in thew week prior, and monsoonal rain event that subsequently soaked it silly. We had some big residual groundswell on the Saturday & a building sea breeze both days, but the protected launch spot at Batehaven meant that the getting out bit was mostly achieved without incident.
Setting out for the distant Tollgate Islands.
Friday night kicks off with the Beer & Pizza Party, our major contribution to the weekend, and partygoers trucked their way through an astonishing number of pizzas in an even more astonishingly short time. I think everyone must starve themselves on the way to the bay, in anticipation of the frenzy....
It was a morning to keep well clear of the Bombies.
My Saturday trip was pencilled in as a trip out to the spectacular Tollgate Islands & back, but my group got out there so fast we decided to head over to the diminutive outcrop further south known as Black Rock as well. The big swells kept us well clear of the close-quartering mischief we have enjoyed at previous Rock & Rolls, but provided their own dramatic backdrop as we rolled over some very impressive walls of water. 
Peter powering past the Tollgates
It was also incredibly sharky, as many as five toothy friends spotted weaving in & out of our pod over the course of the morning. I spotted a big Mako, as well as a small Hammerhead & (we reckon) his Mum, curious majestic animals cruising by for a look at our strange craft. I love seeing sharks out on the open water, it tells me all is well with the ocean. 
Stephen in the trough.
We were lucky to have Ken Bellette along with us, a surf lifesaving legend in the area who is getting back into sea kayaking, and he navigated some judicious lines around lurking bomboras as well as being a general tour guide to the features & history of this beautiful waterway. 
Smooth lumps almost obscuring the Tollgate Islands.
On the Saturday arvo I took the double ski down to the beach & pulled a few unsuspecting RnR'ers off the beach for a go in the little sea that had developed next to Snapper Island. For entertainment, it was 10/10, especially my favourite paddler of all time, who I think was actually trying to jump out of the ski on one big run we cracked!
Tom up on top of some foamy swell
Rob ran his brilliant rescue challenge in the arvo, with a big cast of participants, and as always it was really well received. The winners were spotted improvising a hand-paddle home to take the yellow jersey!
Jenny Walker - last year she was the one being inspired, this year she was doing all of the inspiring herself.
On Saturday night we were treated to a talk from Sandy Robson, doing her best to fit a five year Germany to Australia sojourn into an hour long presentation. Raffles run & a buffet banquet put away, there were some very weary bones dragging themselves off to their tents for the night.
19km Big Swell Tour of the Bateman's Islands.
Again with Ken giving us the local weather and local knowledge, we decided all would be right to run a downwind paddle from South Durras to Bateman's Bay. 
South Durras briefing
Launching from the protected boat ramp at Durras we paddled out past the break & swung south, for an hour of the cleanest, steepest little runners you'd ever hope to paddle. 


Audax smokin'....
The one & only David Slattery in his beautiful timber boat.
Ronaldo looking relaxed.
Kenny looking very Clint.
The group paddled with tremendous cohesion, the fast guys blasting through & waiting, the slower paddlers using the seas for a cruisy ride  back to Bateman's, always within shouting distance over the entire 16km journey.
Rob & Mark taking in the pearls of wisdom from local legend Ken Bellette.
Safely back on the beach after a rollicking run down the coast.
On Sunday arvo Rob ran his paddle workshop, which curiously seems to always finish with about twice the number of participants start. In the evening the famous Pogies are contested, the short film festival for sea kayakers with more than it's fair share of controversy & high drama over the years. This year the quality of entries were just brilliant, like watching the Discovery Channel (!), but I think everyone agreed that Mark, Roddy & Davlin's Bass Strait video was a worthy winner (the link to the video is HERE).
Rob's paddle workshop.
Rob, Sharon & I came into this year's Rock & Roll with an extra incentive, and no small amount of trepidation, as it was our first chance for mass engagement for our new boat design, the Audax. Whilst we're very confident we've come up with a design that has wide appeal as well as high performance, nevertheless over the weekend we listened intently to the 40+ paddlers who gave our demo boats a thorough workout, mostly in pretty lively conditions.
Rob cruising south in the Audax Elite
The feedback was very reassuring, the speed and acceleration was evident & I guess people figure is a given, but the rave reviews were for the stability and the manoeuvrability. I have noticed people looking at fast plumb bow boats since they became popular with some suspicion, prejudging them to be too unstable, 'something that looks that fast must be hard to paddle', and there have been events we've been to over the years where they've barely even been tried. The Audax seems to have generated a lot of interest however, and paddlers were queueing up for a go, and almost universally coming back to us with a cheerful tale affirming how easy the boat is to paddle. 
Sunday night dinner put on by the Triathlete Cabin (pic by Ken Collins).
The Rock & Roll weekend was organised by Simon Swift, ably supported by his man on the ground at Bateman's, Neil Gow, along with Selim, Phil & a bunch of others silently making the cogs turn. They did a hell of a job, numbers were up, the organisation was seamless, and you almost got tired of seeing people throwing their heads back & having a laugh, sharing their combined passion for this wonderful sport of ours. 

We extend a hearty thanks to these guys, as well as to our club mates who stopped by to say G'day & swap a yarn or two. If you haven't managed to get along to a Rock & Roll weekend, and you're a sea kayaker anywhere, let alone in our coastal waters, you don't know what you're missing.

Friday, 20 January 2017

Review - Long Span Y-Racks


A local manufacturer has come up with a very clever and well designed car topping rack system which we have been busy using & road testing for the past 6 months.


The Long Span Y-Rack system is designed to lengthen the span of your tie-points, thus reducing the torque on rack mounted cradles that are very close together. Car manufacturers seem if anything to be narrowing the distance between roof rack mounting positions, which can be a problem for paddlers transporting boats up to 7m long on highways & in high winds. The Long Span Y Racks offer 2.1m of spread from cradle to cradle.

Spread is one of the most important factors in securely transporting your kayak on roof racks. The wider you can get your boat supports, the less likely it will be influenced by side winds & destabilisation.

I've travelled more than 4000km with my set, the lightweight version, carrying light ocean skis, big doubles and heavy sea kayaks, everywhere from the from the inland sand tracks of Fraser Island to the 110kmh highways between Sydney & Melbourne. I was a little worried after bouncing around Fraser Island with a 14kg, 6.1m long Think Evo on the roof that I may have damaged the ski, but the soft padded nylon footing protected the hull from the negligence of my off-road driving!

These long-span Y racks convert even the shortest hatchback rack span to a width more typical on a big SUV, via a brilliant design which is light, secure & simple to fit. The 'Y' cradles are paddled with a  smooth nylon so you boat will slide, the fixture plates have a thin rubber coating to prevent the bars sliding, and you can clip the Y fitting out when you're not carrying your kayak. 

There is also now a stiffer, slightly heavier bar which you would choose if you had to offset the longitudinal bars on a hatchback, or if you have a very long double to transport.

Considering the cost of a standard set of basic cradles has climbed to around $230, these also represent great value at just $320 for the full set up.

You can order this great locally designed & manufactured product though our online store via this LINK.