Monthly Archives: October 2017

C2 extended – Take II

I’ve reset the seats now to something more sensible! I don’t know why I set them so close together. Trouble is, when you’re on your own, there’s no one to tell you when you’re being silly.

Anyway, hopefully the boat should be trimmed better this time.

Rear seat set further back

When compared with the Duet and the previous setting, my mistake is more obvious.

Duet, first attempt, modified position

Not sure that I can go much further back due to lack of buoyancy in the stern.

I also took the opportunity to change the shape of the bow. I’ve used a coat-hanger leaf clearer during autumn when the canal turns to soup due to all the leaves.

The original shape picks up the smallest leaf and takes some bouncing to get it off. I’ve now replicated the curve on the actual boat, it remains to be seen if I’ve got the curve shallow enough.

Modify bow profile

It doesn’t look very pretty though. Wonder if it will work?

C1 extended – testing and C2 migration

I managed to get on the water a few times with the extended C1. The first session was just to see how it floated. It was surprising stable, so much so that I raised the seat by two centimetres for the next outing.

It weighs 21kgs, so is a heavyweight compared to The Darkness at 8kgs, but it is a prototype and it will form the plug IF I go into production.

It holds a straight line better than The Darkness, unsurprisingly as it’s so long. Turning it 180 degrees takes about a zillion sweep strokes.

It certainly seems faster. I managed a standing start one mile in 10:15, so not far of 6 mph, but I’ll need a lighter boat to give it a real test. I also need to get it on to a river to see how it performs in flow.

All a bit late now, as I’ve moved on to a C2 version. It took some time to install two sets of seats and footrests, but the flange really helps as there is no messing with brackets. As the boat has longer parallel sides, the length of the seat support bars don’t have to be changed. The thwarts did have to be repositioned though as they were in the way of the seats and I do need the bars to pull me up to standing.

I positioned the seats according to the best guess of where the most buoyancy was.

This is much different to The Darkness Duet as there is not so much buoyancy towards the stern.

I’ve gone for the wider seats as standard now. I’ve also used pull bars to help with the stability.

Seats and footrests

It looks a bit weird with so much open space behind the rear seat. This will change IF I go into production as I’ll close up the opening.

Anyway, I phoned John and persuaded him to help my try it out. So we met at Froxfield gave it a go. John is now training three times a week in a K1, so is very fit and very stable, unlike me. He was rock solid at the front whilst I took some time to relax. I contemplated lowering the seats until we got onto a rhythm, and then it was like the old days.

The trim was far too bias towards the bow and John felt he was paddling downhill! The boat keeps a straight line so well, but I would need to see how it handles some decent bends.

It was also again, surprising stable once we got going. OK, not like the Duet, perhaps a 5 or 6 K2 wobble factor, so racing kayakers would find it easy.

There is still a reasonable free board but it would need a spray deck for the river. John is 72kgs and I am 75kgs, so it’ll take a fair payload.

So it seems to float OK, feels fast but I need to do some proper comparison. But before that, I need to set the rear seat further back.

How long is long enough?

The Darkness C1 is designed to conform to the International Canoe Federation (ICF) specifications for racing. This means paddlers can legally race in UK Hasler events and any other races which are sanctioned by the ICF.

However, many of the classic races (DW, Watersides, Thamesides, Ross Warland etc) and decents are not subject to these restrictions, which means The Darkness at 5.2 metres long, is at a disadvantage to longer boats such as the Wenonah J203 at 5.6 metres.

Apparently that additional 0.4 of a metre makes a difference as “Any hull has a “hull speed” equal to 1.34 x square root (length of waterline in feet). That basically tells you that as long as the hull is acting as displacement hull, the longer the hull, the faster the boat. The calculation is the length of the wave which is generated as the boat moves through the water.”

So, looking at the formula applied to various craft:

The Darkness: 1.34 x square root of 17’ = 1.34 x 4.1 = 5.525 knots
Wenonah J203: 1.34 x square root of 18.5’ = 1.34 x 4.3 = 5.764 knots

Clearly this is very simplistic as there are many other factors which influence overall race speed, especially portaging. The benefit of a faster water speed by a longer boat may be negated if it is awkward and heavy (and slower) to portage.

Another factor is of course the payload.

I have seen pictures of unusually long kayaks/canoes in some of the US ultra-mileage races especially the Texas River Safari (260 mile race to Seadrift from the headwaters of the San Marcos River) and have been intrigued as to whether they actually do go faster. I’ve decided to test the theory for myself.

The first thing I need is a longer boat, but one which I can test against a benchmark. So, I decided to elongate one of my Darkness C1s by simply cutting it in half, extending the distance between the bow and stern, and then filling in the missing middle section.

I decided to extend the 5.2 metre boat by an extra 1.3 metres making it a total of 6.5 metres. This is the same length as an ICF C2. If it pans out as I expect it to, I may also have a slim C2 which should support a couple of racing snakes.

So the theoretical hull speed should be – The Darkness elongated: 1.34 x square root of 21’ = 1.34 x 5.6 = 6.141 knots

Before I did this, I needed to construct a “cradle” to support a pseudo mold to bridge the gap. So I found the widest part of the hull and used this as a pattern for five 14cm strips of fibre glass to profile the hull. I then attached these to two long pieces of timber at regular intervals to add an additional 1.3 metres to the boat.

Completed cradle

Having constructed the cradle, I now needed a thin, pliable sheet of material to form the hull shape using the cradle for support. I thought of lino, or a thin sheet of plastic or even a sheet of aluminium. Whilst I was considering the next move, I had to go to Oman on a week’s business trip.

Coincidentally I had placed an order on my boat builder for a C1, but it was taking longer than usual. It transpired that he has used a new type of gelcoat which had “gone wrong”. He had built a replacement, but the question was what to do with the surplus boat. So instead of cutting up my beautiful, resin-infused carbon boat, we used this one instead, as the elongated candidate.

We still felt bad cutting up a perfectly (but flawed) useful boat but there’s no way I could have sold it.

The next step was to connect the two halves with the cradle and use this to support a pliable sheet. We tried a thin sheet of fibre glass, but it sagged between the spars, so we abandoned this method.

I’m not sure how it was achieved in the end, but how ever it was done, it worked although it was not pretty.

I was keen to compare it with a Darkness C1 and was a bit disappointed to see how it had flared out much wider than I wanted. The gunnels were finished off and I asked for the standard Duet flanges along the inside to support seats and footrests. This really improves the longitudinal rigidity, but also across the width once I brace it with seats and footrests.

I first wanted to try the C1 option, so I installed a single seat just behind the centre of the boat. I used aluminium thwarts to bring the sides in, and they are internally braced with threaded bars with nuts and washers on either side to ensure that the shape doesn’t pop out again.

I added an additional brace towards the rear of the flanges.

I’m now a lot happier with the width, The widest distance between the edges of the gunwales is 54 cms. The Darkness C1 is 51 cms and the Duet is 67 cms. So theoretically it should be a stable C1 and a less stable C2.

IF I go into production, I’ll increase the size of the rear deck and reduce the open section to 3 metres.

I’ve had to raise the footrests a bit as the flanges are the same height as for the C1 seat.

Obviously I had to compare it to the rest of the fleet.

Extra long single boats

The next thing is to try it on the water and compare the speed and performance with The Darkness C1.

2017 catch-up

Blimey it’s been a while since I added some content to this blog, time to catch up.

So, a summary of the key activities since before DW.

    DW 2017

This was way back on 15th April but even now our failure still rankles. Basically we were four hours in and ten minutes up on our 21 hour schedule, and John decided he could not continue. I don’t think we’ll ever understand why, but “his head wasn’t in it” so we had to retire. Rarely have I experienced such anger, just the sheer frustration of having no control and not being able to do a thing about it.

Before “the wheels came off”

Thinking back, I can’t remember anything we would have done differently in our preparation, training or execution, so there are no lessons to be learnt. I’m looking for a new partner for next year, but not being in a club I don’t know enough paddlers that well. I am hoping for an experienced, slightly younger kayaker to stick in the front.


I supplemented my training for DW with membership to a Gym. This was “The Fitness Experts”. They offer a programme of circuit training for 45 minutes at a time. It is very varied and very hard, which is just what I needed.

I also purchased a sit&switch ergo trainer. It was excellent just to position it in front of the telly and simulate a reasonable paddle stroke. Obviously the guy in the picture isn’t me, I’m far younger and more handsome than that (I wish!). My canoe paddle stroke is nothing like that either, hence the need for a kayak partner.

Canoe ergo trainer

    Cheshire Ring

Meanwhile back in Blighty. A bloke borrowed my Darkness C1 to do an 18 mile race with 19 portages. He did DW in the front of a C2 this year and fancied a go in a C1.

He beat all the K1s in his race, all of which were from higher divisions and got himself promoted two divisions to Div 5.

Paul Stenning on his way to Div 5

Paul Stenning went on to do the Cheshire Ring race in The Darkness C1. The race is 96 miles long non-stop, and has portages over 92 locks and 5 tunnels. The current C1 record is 19 hours 50 minutes and was set in 1998, so it’s about time it was beaten. After paddling through the night, Paul finished in 19 hours 18 minutes, beating the record by over half an hour.

Paul Stenning at the start

A fantastic effort especially for an athlete who has only recently crossed over to the dark side.

    Worcester Ring

Putting the disappointment of DW’17 behind me, I decided to check out the Worcester Ring Canoe Challenge. This is a 21 mile circuit starting and finishing on the River Severn at Worcester (obviously!) on Saturday July 22 nd.

Casually asked my wife if she’d be interested, oh yes she replied. Two minutes later, the Darkness Duet was loaded and we were off for our first training session at Dreadnought Reach. “Do I have to wear all the kit?” “Yes, it’s in the rules……………………my rules”

Ro and Me in the Duet

Ro and I paddled the 21 mile Worcester Ring Challenge which included 29 locks split into 18 portages. This meant that some of the portages were 500 metres and one was 1,000 metres long.

In order to speed up the process, I mounted some wheels on the rear deck. They proved very handy, although some of the locks involved some highly complicated manoeuvres.

Ro had only paddled up to three hours previously and a maximum of 13 miles. We finished in 4 hours 48 minutes, pretty darn tired though.

However, Paul Stenning smashed the Worcester Ring Canoe Challenge C1 record taking a huge 50 minutes off the time set last year in a fantastic time of 3:38. Paul was also a minute quicker than the new C2 record also set yesterday.


I entered the British Canoe National Marathon Championships in The Darkness C1 a couple of months ago, Paul was also in the same race. Unfortunately he fell in soon after the starts but recovered to overtake the whole field except the first two high kneelers, to come in third position.

Me at the Nationals

Unfortunately I was disqualified for going the wrong side of a marker buoy!

Paul is now the proud owner of his own Darkness C1, so we’ll be seeing a lot more of him in the future. The C1 class of the 2018 DW is on his list for next year.

Wye descent

I raced The Colin Chapman Memorial Wye Descent (Kerne Bridge To Monmouth) on the river Wye. Forty seven boats on the start line including some top UK paddlers.

After the recent rain, the river was up and had a good flow, but a strong wind negated some of the advantage. It also increased the ferocity of the rapids.

There were three C1s (and seven C2s), Chris Blacker in a high-kneeler, Lyndon White in a Wenonah Advantage, and me in The Darkness. Knowing the start would be somewhat frantic, we hung towards the back.

The first set of rapids saw a surprising number of capsizes. Chris started to open a gap whilst Lyndon and I got into our stride. About half an hour later Chris pulled over with back problems. He eventually reached the finish put wasn’t able to push.

It was pretty uneventful until the notorious Symonds Yat rapids. This has been changed over the years to make it more “interesting” for slalom and play boats, but far more challenging for racing boats. I was doing quite well until about two thirds down and I thought I’d made it. I braced on some aeriated water and tipped over. After a roller coaster swim, I was eventually dragged into an eddy by a C1 (cheers mate).

I knew Lyndon wasn’t far behind so I jumped back in and continued towards the finish. I later discovered he too had capsized, broke his paddle and sustained some nasty gashes.

I won the C1 event and beat the record by 4 seconds, apologies to Chris Hotchkiss!

So not a totally wasted summer.