The thrill of speed

Newer members will have noticed that we have the occasional paddler turn up at the club house and take one of the long fibreglass boats out from the far end of the racking and disappear – usually rather quickly – upstream or downstream. These paddlers often keep themselves very much to themselves but they’re not quite as strange as they might first seem, just keen to be on the water for some personal fitness training and to enjoy the thrill of speed.

Having indulged in paddling these boats myself I have to confess I can see the attraction. First experiences on the water in plastic general purpose kayaks are great fun, however these early sessions can be frustrating. General purpose boats always seem to want to turn (but then, as most of these have evolved from slalom kayak designs, that is what they are designed to do!) and even when you’ve mastered the knack of keeping them going in a straight line they are slow. These long boats are designed to travel fast, and in a straight line, and there is a real buzz to be had once you’ve got one going, cutting through the water at speed. The club owns a number of racing boats which members are free to use. Many people wanting to explore the delights of speed will start out in one of the club’s white Kirton Tercels. The Tercel offers a great introduction to straight line kayaking; it is stable and much faster than a general purpose boat. At first it may seem strange to be sitting in such a large cockpit with nothing to put your knees under, but that’s the point. You probably heard it said on your introductory course, but it’s the feet (not the paddles) that drive a kayak through the water. In a racing boat you sit with your knees together so they are in a straight line from your hips to push on the footrest and help you transfer the power from your arm and back muscles, through your legs into the hull. Your knees should be bent and you’ll probably find yourself automatically pushing with one foot and then with the other in a cycling action as the paddle bites into the water on each side of the boat – this is good paddling technique!

The Tercels are also excellent boats for touring, particularly on rivers such as the Thames. If you find yourself tiring (or always at the back of the group) when paddling up to the tea room at Temple try a Tercel next time you are out. The Tercel is an ideal boat to paddle if you’re interested in taking the BCU Three Star Touring Kayak Award. The Tercel has a relatively flat hull and carries its width over much of its length, this makes it very stable but not as fast as a slimmer design. On a stability scale of 1 to 10, the Tercel is rated 10 (if you can stand up in your plastic boat, you’ll have no trouble standing up in this!). If you want to travel faster then you can go for a slightly less stable option in one of the club’s Kirton Talismans (also in white). These are rated 8 for stability and also have a fairly flat hull, but just looking at the lines compared with the Tercel, you can see how the design looks sharper and promises that extra speed.

Once you have the hang of the Talisman, you may feel ready to go for that extra buzz. This is where the club’s X-Lancers (also from Kirton, this time in blue) come into their own. The X is for extra speed. The X-Lancer was designed by Danish paddler Jørgen Samson and first went into production back in 1983 (28 years ago!) when it was built in wood by Struer Kajak (that’s the Danish spelling). I don’t know when Kirton started making these boats in glass reinforced plastics but I suspect it wasn’t very long after suggesting that all the club boats referred to above could be as much as 25 years old.

The X-Lancer is fast, but still only rated 3 on the stability scale. If you want to go even faster, look out for boats like Nelo’s Lynx and Sabre (both 2) or Kirton’s Teknik and Tactic designs, both rated 1.

Even without entering races, paddling these elegant looking boats is great fun. These are the Formula 1 motors of the kayaking world. Next time you’re down at the club house, take a look at the Tercel or the Talisman and give one (or both) of them go. Who knows, you might even be tempted to take out one of the X-Lancers and show everyone just how quickly you can paddle up to Temple.

Andy Maxted

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