Marsport Demo day

Paul and Craig were kind enough to invite Darkside Canoes to show The Darkness at their demo day on Saturday 2nd August, outside their shop at Dreadnought Reach in Reading.

There was a large array of kayaks and a rack of high kneeling canoes. I setup two of my boats right next to the sit&switch boats from Wenonah, an American manufacturer. These boats, predominantly made from Kevlar, have pretty much been the only available option for sit&switch racing canoes.

Marsport demo day - just look at all those toys!

Marsport demo day – just look at all those toys!

It was interesting to make a direct comparison with the J203 solo canoe which according to the Wenonah web site: “With the J-203’s fast acceleration and effortless speed, and drafting ability, it is no wonder that this hull has dominated the men’s category in canoe races since its introduction in 2000.”……………….. but hopefully not for much longer!

So let’s compare the business part of the boat, the hull.

Hull comparison

Hull comparison

The J203 conforms to the United States Canoe Association (USCA)

“Canoe width shall be a certain percentage of the overall length of the hull, at a point within one foot of the center of the hull length, measured at the 4 inch waterline, not including a keel. The minimum width for a Formula 14 canoe is 14.375 percent of the length. The minimum width for a Formula 16 boat is 16 percent of length.”

The maximum length for the boat is 18’ 6” which is 222”. 1% of 222” is 2.22”, therefore a formula 14 boat must be at least 31” wide and formula 16 boats should be 35.5”.

The J203 is 18’6” long so the minimum width has to be 31”, 4” above the water line. The ICF does not specify a minimum width for a canoe, so a USCA boat is at a distinct width disadvantage but compensates with significant stability. However the ICF does specify a maximum length of 17” so the J203 has an additional 1’ 6” in length.

I would also presume that a lighter paddler would be faster on the J203 as the boat would float higher on the water line and may not be influenced by the additional width which is 4” above the water line.

But, at-the-end-of-the-day, the J203 is not ICF compliant, so is excluded from most European races.

Meanwhile up on deck, the gunwales of the J203 are significantly higher than The Darkness. This reduces the risk of water coming over the side but can be susceptible to the wind.

Deck comparison

Deck comparison

USCA regs state: “The minimum height at the bow shall be 15 1/2 inches. The minimum depth for the rest of the canoe shall be 11 1/2 inches”

Although the gunwales on The Darkness are lower, it does benefit from deck sections at the front and rear, plus a “lip” around the gunwale which will support a full spray deck.

In the grand scheme of things, both designs have had to make compromises to meet specific regulations, but also to meet the needs of the paddler in terms of speed and stability.

In a straight race on a “level playing field”, my money is on The Darkness.

5 thoughts on “Marsport Demo day

  1. Stefan

    Interesting to see a side by side comparison of the darkness and wenonah c1. What was the general feedback comparing the two? Much difference in speed and stability?

    1. nickadnitt Post author

      For two supposedly similar sit&switch racing C1s they are “chalk and cheese”! The Wenonah is longer and significantly wider, and therefore more stable. The Darkness is lighter and easier to handle on portages and quicker on flat water (but I would say that wouldn’t I!). On the DW 2014, it beat a high kneeler by over two hours and a Wenonah Advantage and J203 by over three hours.

      The J203 suits heavier and larger paddlers, whereas The Darkness is a thoroughbred racer and is easily and quickly mastered by racing kayak paddlers who are used to narrow cockpits and less stable boats.

      The J203 is restricted by its adherence to USA racing specifications whereas The Darkness is ICF compliant.

      The Darkness was developed, designed and manufactured in Great Britain.

      1. Allan Newhouse

        On the Australian Canoe Racing FB there are some comments that confirm what you have said. Unfortunately we ran out of time for Frank Kingma, the Aussie “Darkness” owner to paddle my wooden canoe. However his speeds in the J203 were noticeably slower than speeds he has achieved in “The Darkness”.
        My wooden C1 is about 5cm wider than your “Darkness” and is obviously not as fast, but a younger, fitter paddler with only a moderate amount of experience was quicker in it than he was in a J203. If he could manage a “Darkness” he would be quicker still.
        One impression we had was that the stronger the paddler was, the less difference there was between the ICF compliant C1 and the J203. As a very light, 71 year old, I was a lot slower in the J203. As you said, the J203 suits heavier, stronger paddlers.

  2. Alastair

    Roughly, what stability factor would you give the Darkness? With a width of 51cm, I wouldn’t expect it to be as bad as a sprint boat. 6-8?

    1. nickadnitt Post author

      Sorry for the delay. I would say that the boat is about a 5 with kayak blades, but probably a 4 with a single blade. However, stability is a bit subjective and is more about the paddler than the boat.


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