Monthly Archives: March 2015

C2 plug progress

At last the polystyrene plug for the C2 has been milled on a huge lathe. (Cost £2,100 inc VAT)

That's a big lathe!

That’s a big lathe!

The CAD design was converted to machine instructions and the lathe cut the shape into a large block of polystyrene. The parts will now be stuck together, covered with fibre glass, and highly polished. From that, we’ll make the mold.

The milled plug in two halves.

The milled plug in two halves.

Hull view

Hull view

View from the stern

View from the stern

The large area on top of the cockpit will be used to extend the mold to create a large flange. This will be used to setup the vacuum bag in preparation for the resin infusion.

So, how long before the plug is finished, the mold and the first boat? I have no idea as I am beholden to others, but I’d like to think within 6 to 8 weeks.

Waterside D – 2015

An early start on a cold morning at Devizes, with a persistent head wind all the way to Newbury. The general consensus amongst the paddlers, was they just wanted to get on with it.

I signed on, collected my number and glanced out of the window to see Pete Jones paddling to the start. Pete had just beaten my times on B and C and was only 20 seconds adrift of my current series third place. I thought that would be the last I saw of him before the finish.

I had paddled the Basingstoke Canal Canoe Club six mile Hare & Hounds the day before, to try out my new paddle design. The paddle was great, but I had really struggled in the washes with my high seat, so had lowered it for today.

Zipped into a full length spray deck to combat the cold, and armed with The Compromise paddle, I set off about eight minutes behind Pete. I had fixed my weed deflector on the bow and was glad I did.

Start of Waterside D 2015

Start of Waterside D 2015

The paddle design was another step forward. A smaller surface area than the last one, and a bit easier to pull against.

I completed the first 15 mile pound to Wootten Rivers in 2 hours 46 minutes. My bank support had fed me along the way and Sid (the Honey Street swan) had left me alone. I even managed the whole pound without needing to stretch my legs.

I ditched the spray deck before running the first and third sections, and switched on my light ready for the tunnel. After the last time, the tunnel was a doddle. No boats near me, so I didn’t lose any time.

I ran the entire length of Croftons passing many K2s who elected to paddle each pound. (I also ran the first Froxfield lock.)

I met my bank support at Great Bedwyn to be told that I was catching Pete which surprised me, but spurred me on. I spotted him as I approached Hungerford, but the gap hardly seemed to close. At the same time, Keith and Lizzie came screaming by, wish I could get on their wash!

As we approached Kintbury, I knew I could catch him. His boat was meandering erratically across the canal, and his head was down. Again this spurred me on and I caught him at last. We had a brief chat and I was ready to dig in to the finish.

I glanced round at each portage to check his progress and it was some time before I stretched the gap.

Waterside D 2015 - The Compromise and me

Waterside D 2015 – The Compromise and me

Tom Fryer decided not to start, as did Sue, but it was still a record seven C1s to finish the race and the series. I beat my best time by 35 minutes and Pete by 10 minutes, ending up in second place.

The results were:

1 Marcin Ponomarenkow 5:56:50
2 Nick Adnitt 6:43:41
3 Peter Jones 6:53:40
4 Chris Hotchkiss 7:37:53
5 Tom Barnard 7:48:57
6 Lyndon White 7:57:00
7 David Whitby 7:57:25

And in the Series:

1 Marcin Ponomarenkow 14:43:21
2 Nick Adnitt 16:57:33
3 Peter Jones 17:07:53
4 Chris Hotchkiss 18:51:42
5 Tom Barnard 19:17:03
6 David Whitby 19:48:50
7 Lyndon White 20:13:08

I’m not doing DW this year as I sort of set my expectations on the new C2. Sadly this is still some months off.

A variable paddle and The Compromise

The experience of changing paddles on WS C has got me thinking about blade sizes and design. What is really needed is a blade which can adapt during a race.

At the start, the boat is stationary so a big sized blade is required to enable some big, powerful strokes to get it moving. Once the inertia is removed, a smaller blade is needed to enable a fast cadence to accelerate the boat up to speed.

Then a middle sized blade for cruising, maybe even changing for upstream and downstream paddling.

As the portage approaches, the blade size should increase to allow a really good brake to stop the boat and bring it into the side. This size should remain at the get-in so once again, the boat can get going with a few hard strokes.

This is a similar principle to an aeroplane wing. More lift is required at take-off so the wing size and shape changes. Once the plane is airborne and cruising, all that wing surface area is redundant so it is reduced.

Variable wings

Variable wings

On landing, the plane is slowed by the wing which increases in size, and the shape changes too.

Wouldn’t it be great if someone invented an adaptive paddle which could measure ones power input and automatically resize/shape to ensure the most efficient paddle configuration?

Meanwhile, back to reality, I think there is some merit in changing paddles in a long race as the paddler gets tired.

I shall try this again on WS D, probably swapping at Wooten Rivers. This means the initial first 14 mile stretch with the big paddle and then a smaller blade to compensate for fatigue, depending on how I feel.

I’m also working on a slightly smaller paddle, as I think “Big Daddy” is a bit too big. It’s great at the start, but after a couple of hours it gets harder to pull against.

So, I’ve made a new paddle which I’m calling “The Compromise”. It has a reduced surface area and I’ve done away with the full length dihedral on the power face, as it was pointed out to me that there is no sense in directing the water towards the edge of the blade if it is prevented from spilling over the edge because of the grippy edge.

Big Daddy and The Compromise

Big Daddy and The Compromise

I’d also hoped that the dihedral would reduce the risk of flutter, but as you can see in the video, the paddle does not follow a straight path. Trouble is, I’ve got used to it and don’t notice any more.
Paddle evolution

Paddle evolution

The Compromise shaft is slightly longer than Big Daddy.
I tried to make this paddle in one go and “sandwich” the shaft between two layers at the same time. I should have made a “jig” to hold the shaft at the correct angle whilst the resin went off. I managed in the end with a whole series of clamps, and forced the carbon fabric onto the mould with lots of tape. It was not great!
The Compromise mold

The Compromise mold

The shiny black finish on the paddle is caused by the polymer filler I had to use to patch up the indentations.
The Compromise blade

The Compromise blade

It ain’t pretty, but I tested it today on the K&A at Pewsey Wharf, swapping from Big Daddy to The Compromise and posted a video on YouTube.

The paddle does represent another step forward. I rather like the slightly longer shaft. The smaller blade enables a faster cadence and less fatigue. It doesn’t seem to flutter as much and I may be able to get one more stroke before I have to switch.

I’ll find out more on Waterside D.

Waterside C – 2015

The conditions for Waterside C were excellent, eight degrees, no overnight frost and a slight tail wind.

The finish window at Newbury had been put back an hour in order to try to deter the faster crews starting too early. If they arrived at Newbury before the finish window opened at one o’clock, their time would not end until it did.

I started at 09:30 hrs and proceeded towards the first portage at Wootten Rivers. I was using my big paddle and quickly got into a rhythm. Many of the K2s which were slightly faster than me had delayed their start, and soon I was being overtaken by fleets of them.

The wash really disturbed my paddling as I had to compensate for the steering effect when my C1 moves through the wash. First, the boat is “sucked” towards the overtaking craft, and then pushed away as I drop off the back of the bow wave. I have tried many times to wash-hang these boats, but with no rocker or a rudder, it takes too much energy to try and stay on.

I made Wootten Rivers in a disappointing 30 minutes, I know I can do it in 28 and have often done so.

Undeterred, I leapt out at the portage, shouldered the boat and ran the pound. I always run the first lock because it get the legs going after being sat down for so long, especially on WS D and DW.

I paddled the next and ran the one before the Bruce Tunnel stretch.

Here I switched on a small bike light which I’d fixed on the front deck at the bow end. I need this in the tunnel so I can see where the front of the boat is so I can steer.

I like to get to the tunnel a fair distance behind the boat in front so the water will have calmed down a bit, and a reasonable distance in front of the boat behind so they are not tempted to sprint to get into the tunnel just before me.

All seemed well, there was a large groups of K2s in front, but they should go straight through. WRONG! There was a massive log jam of boats at the half way point, it was worse than the M25!

It was pitch black and we just had to sit and wait whilst it was sorted. I couldn’t see the water and dare not risk switching the paddle across, so I paddled on one side until I reached the end. Not nice!

Next up was Crofton’s and I ran the whole stretch overtaking a lot of the K2s which had passed me earlier. I also passed Sue in The Darkness and David Whitby in his prototype C1.

At Great Bedwyn, I did the same time calculation that I’m sure many crews do, and simply added my WS A time to estimate when I would finish. Actually I was in good shape.

So, on towards Hungerford.

I ran the first Froxfield pound and was pleased to go faster than the crews who elected to paddle. I was keeping track with a lot of the K2s which were quicker than me on the water simply because I could portage easier.

At Denham Mill, the handle of my paddle came loose and I changed it for my Wenonah blade. This has a significantly smaller blade surface and the difference was profound. It was like using a stick! However, my cadence nearly doubled and the strain on the muscles was much less.

I was passed at this point by Tom Fryer and a little later by Marcin Ponomarenkow in his high-kneeler.

We were stopped by the Marshalls at Kintbury due to road traffic and I took the time to chat with a few fellow paddlers. I also found I’d caught Chris Hotchkiss in his J203. When the road cleared, it was like a mass start as everyone competed for a place to get in. Luckily there’s lots of room at Kintbury.

Onwards to Newbury and a glance at the watch showed that me that any chance of a good time was slipping away. Foolishly I didn’t take my caffeine gel at Marsh Benham which may have perked me up a bit. Lesson learnt!

I finished in 4 hours 22 minutes and 47 seconds, nearly 2 minutes behind Pete Jones who is challenging my third position in the Series. Worst still, it was over 10 minutes slower than Megan’s time last year! Even with the delays I’d encountered and the high water levels last year, it did not add up to 10 minutes.



The final results were:


1 Marcin Ponomarenkow 3:44:55
2 Tom Fryer 3:53:16
3 Peter Jones 4:20:59
4 Nick Adnitt 4:22:47
5 Chris Hotchkiss 4:41:49
6 Tom Barnard 4:52:52
7 David Whitby 4:57:00
8 Lyndon White 5:14:42
9 Susan Digges la Touch 5:31:50

Marcin is running away with the Series lead and Tom is pretty safe in second place. My lead over Pete for third is now down to a few seconds if that. All to play for at D, could do with some ice stretches!