Thu - December 1, 2005

13.5' Kayak for 300 Mile Race? Matt Layden's Expedition Rob Royoid

03/05/2004. Fort Desoto, Florida. A day before the start to 2004 WaterTribe Everglades Challenge, a 300 mile expedition race from Tampa Bay along west coast of Florida through Everglades to Key Largo. A short gray kayak is hardly visible among regular sea kayaks. It is a new design of WaterTribe "Wizard", Matt Layden, an experimental Rob Roy type cruising kayak, 13.5' x 27.5" with 16 sqft lug sail.

Matt completed the challenge in 4 days and 11.5 hours beatting many sea kayaks and sail boats. Well, what else you would expect from somebody who finished the Lake Michigan Challenge'03 in the off-the-shelf Stearns 10' deflatable kayak taking the 3rd place? Maybe, that he should take a longer route inside the Everglades. So, he did.

I needed almost 7 days to cover the same route in my Sea Wind. I spent a few hours during the race for shooting pictures and video but, anyway, I was moving much slower.

Matt was able to maintain a descent cruising speed by paddling, sailing or sail-paddling for many hours without stopping in a comfortable boat. This quote from Matt's Michigan Challenge article published at WaterTribe, The Michigan Challenge in a Bubble; or What Was He Thinking?, describes his approach to long distance expedition paddling and racing.

I feel confirmed in my belief that a moderately short, beamy, buoyant kayak is safer and more comfortable to paddle long distances in varying conditions than the long, low, fine-ended type that has become popular in recent years. The Stearns 10' was an extreme example, but serves to make the point.

Finally, I truly hope I haven't hurt any feelings or stepped on the wrong toes by bringing such an ugly, unfashionable boat and actually having the temerity to finish respectably with it. My apologies to anyone I may have unintentionally offended. But if anybody else starts to feel that maybe a cutting-edge fast sea kayak isn't the best way to go for comfortable touring, I wouldn't disagree. Just a thought.

Matt made his point again in EC-2004 and again in EC-2005 with his modified kayak (integral rudder, less sail) and a single blade paddle. See his article Everglades Challenge in the Rob Royoid Canoe.

Some hard core sea kayakers don't believe that the short beamy kayak may be faster than sea kayaks in a long distance expedition. They even refuse to read Matt's articles or check the race results. No arguments can help ...

"Did this paddler using the 13' boat carry all the gear necessary for a self-sufficient 300 mile trip? Or did it just carry day gear?"

"However I have yet to find someone who can make a 13' boat, fully loaded with gear, perform even close to an 18' touring boat equally loaded. I eagerly await your demonstration of this miracle."

"I think you are now saying that a 10' inflatable kayak is as fast as many sea kayaks. I don't think any further comments on my part are necessary."

It wasn't Matt's debut in WaterTribe Challenges. In 2003 he won the Everglades Challenge in another unorthodox design: Paradox microcruiser. And, he has designed and built a new sail boat for the 2006 Florida Ultimate Challenge, 12' light self righting cruiser with lug rig and enclosed cockpit. Here are some pictures of the new cruiser under construction and on water, links to Matt's microcruisers and Beachcruising and Coastal Camping book which describes some of his older designs.

Posted at 09:50 PM    

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