Monthly Archives: August 2014

Double Darkness or Darkness squared?

So, The Darkness sit&switch single racing C1 hybrid canoe is finished. I am entirely satisfied with it and would change nothing. It was tried and tested on the 2014 Devizes to Westminster canoe race carrying the first female competitor to victory. An increasing number of people are trying it out and deciding to purchase it.

I wonder what a double version would be like? Is it simply an elongated version of the single, or do the demands of two paddlers require a complete redesign? I suspect it is somewhere in the middle.

The Darkness was designed in CAD, so all the hard stuff in terms of dimensions and shape are done. But before I commission a new CAD design, there are a number of fundamentals which I need to clarify.

The first is, where is the best place to position the two paddlers?

Conventional wisdom and tradition dictates that the paddlers in a racing C2 should be as far away from each other as possible at each end of the boat. The front paddler is limited by their leg length and the decreasing width in which to place their feet. The rear paddler is also limited by decreasing width in relation to their hip width. (I’m being polite here!)

Traditional racing C2

Traditional racing C2


This makes sense in that it leaves a large space in the centre to store equipment for wilderness canoeing, plus it makes the boat easier to steer. However, why isn’t this concept extended to double racing kayaks?
Racing K2

Racing K2


Kayak paddlers tend to sit closer together within the most buoyant part of the boat and power is delivered from the centre. They do however, have a rudder to aid steering.

The same appears to be prevalent in high-kneeling racing C2s where the paddlers are even closer together and they don’t have a rudder.

High kneeling sprint C2

High kneeling sprint C2


In a slalom C2 the paddlers are closer still as they are kneeling rather than sitting. Surely this makes it harder to steer? No, because this is compensated for by a substantial rocker along the keel line of the boat.
Slalom C2

Slalom C2


I am tending towards a compromise. Position the paddlers closer than a traditional C2 but not as close a K2. This should ensure than the weight is close to the centre where the boat is the most buoyant. A small amount of rocker perhaps towards the stern should be enough to help with steering, but still ensure directional stability.

It would be nice to have something ready for DW 2015.

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.