Tag Archives: C2

C2 compared with Duet

I’ve compared the new C2 with The Darkness C1 because that was the starting point for the design however, to get a proper C2 perspective, I should compare it with The darkness Duet C2.

So I laid them side by side and took some pictures and measurements.

Duet and new C2 – 1.

The Duet conforms to a continuous arc from bow to stern, whereas the C2 has a long section of parallel width. The Duet was designed by a Naval Architect using CAD tools and fluid dynamic algorithms, The C2 was pretty much guessed at.

Key dimensions are:

Max width at the gunwales: Duet – 68 cms, C2 – 56 cms
Boat depth from hull to central thwart: Duet – 27 cms, C2 – 28 cms
Boat depth at rear of cockpit: Duet – 26 cms, C2 – 29 cms
Boat depth at front of cockpit: Duet – 34 cms, C2 – 29 cms
Seat height: Duet – 20 cms, C2 – 15 cms.

Weight: Duet – 21 kgs, C2 – 18 kgs.

Duet v new C2 – 2

The weight comparison is a bit of a red herring as the C2 has the additional seat adjustment rails but would benefit from some additional stiffness within the laminate, but 18 kgs would seem about right.

This particular Duet is not really representative either as it’s based on two layers of carbon, hence the additional stiffening across the hull. Without the now standard internal layer of Kevlar it is more vulnerable to damage. A more realistic weight with the Kevlar would be about 23 kgs. This boat also has some seat rails because as the demo boat, it needs to be more adjustable. Adjustments for the rear paddler is serviced by moving the footrest.

Duet v new C2 – hulls

As both boats are ICF compliant, the only difference in the hulls is the cross section profile. The C2 is much slimmer but water resistance is usually measured by the wetted area. The Duet will support a heavier payload and is massively stable, but it would be interesting to measure the wetted area when paddled by two racing snakes.

Duet v new C2 – cockpits

The C2 cockpit has less open space but at 310 cms, it is still greater than the ICF 280 cm minimum spec. I’ve positioned the seats closer together to take advantage of the central buoyancy. As the boat tracks so well, it isn’t necessary to have the rear paddler way back towards the stern. Also, we don’t need to leave the central area available for camping kit and the like.

I’ve set the seat height for the C2 at 15 cms. This is 5 cms lower than the Duet because I’m expecting it to be less stable.

Duet v new C2 – front and rear decks

The front deck has lost the steep gradient and the ridge. This should make it more comfortable for portaging, but there may be more water coming across the deck in rough water.

Notice also the lack of a name, what on earth I am going to call it? Dual, Duo, Double, Dunno!

Duet v new C2 – bow and stern

The C2 is closest to the camera and it shows that the Duet has less height in both the bow and stern areas. It will be interesting to observe the freeboard, and how much will be sticking out of the water (and likely to catch the wind). I’ll also test the curved bow.

Tomorrow I get to test it, and the day after a Duet crew has agreed to give it a go.

Thameside 2 2017

A bit late to start thinking back to Thameside 2, but as we were promoted to Div 6 at our last race, we didn’t have to wear buoyancy aids.

However, I do recall that we got a reasonable start on the second wave even though it was very bumpy to the first portage. Too many boats at the same time. We has planned to run long, but were forced on to the steps. Lots of pushing and shoving and a few frayed tempers, but we did pretty well to get away without a mishap.

The field split up on the paddle down to Sonning. Still pretty busy but again we got away clean. At Shiplake we were out and across to the put-in in quick time but even so, another C2 were quicker.

As usual, we settled down into the race, got quicker and managed to pass Nigel and Paul from Leighton Buzzard. They were clearly tiring as we got to Temple. We knew we had to get to Marlow first to beat them to the finish, but they still had a bit more left than we did and they got there first.

In our haste I slipped on the concrete and dropped the boat. Did some considerable damage.

Duet damage

We ended up in 5th place by 37 seconds and about 13 minutes behind the winners.

Thameside 2 results

The racing has been a good training benefit and it certainly put us in our place.

Seat development

I’ve now got quite a collection of racing kayak seats in my quest for a better canoe seat design. One thing that has struck me is that they are all pretty much the same size and shape. OK there are a few tiny differences but the manufacturers seem to assume that one size will fit all racing kayak paddler’s bottoms.

Once again, compare this to the cycling world where there are literally hundreds of saddle designs, shapes, sizes and materials, plus a whole host of different options for lady riders.

The discerning canoe racer however is more demanding, and much prefer a tractor seat type design, plus they are seated much higher.

Anyway, I set about modifying my original effort and recast it to have more volume at the back.

Increased surface area

Increased surface area

The picture shows the size compared with a “standard” racing K1 seat.

Next I needed something on which to mount it. I have made a number of seat supports using timber and fibre glass, but they take so long to shape them to support the seat pan.

As it happened, two new seats from Nelo had just arrived. These are a rather different and innovative design in that the seat is supported by a cast metal frame.

Nelo K1 racing seat

Nelo K1 racing seat

The seat pan is secured by five rivets. So I drilled off the rivets and separated the cast metal “spider”.

Nelo seat "spider" support

Nelo seat “spider” support

Together with some stainless steel bolts and some plastic spacers, I secured the new seat pan to the frame.

New seat pan secured

New seat pan secured

I had just got the Darkness Duet back for a few days, so I bolted it into the rear of the C2, and John and I took it out from Pewsey Wharf.

New seat in rear of Duet

New seat in rear of Duet

I’m showing it compared with a K1 racing seat. The marks around the edges are where I used pegs to hold the two layers of foam whilst the glue set. At this point I was reluctant to cut the seat runners down.

Well at first it felt weird because it was different to what I was used to. On the return from Wootton Rivers I’d forgotten about the new seat and was quite used to it after the hour.

I’ve now made a second one and secured both to square profile aluminium tubes ready for testing. I’ve also trimmed the runners.

New seats ready for testing

New seats ready for testing

I’ve mounted them on timber supports so they should sit on the flanges with just the timber drilled to math existing holes.

I now need to get them tested.

Does my bum look big on this?

So, just got back from an hour’s paddle on the Basingstoke canal using the wider seat. It was unexpectedly uncomfortable!

Having more bum area in contact with the seat actually felt more stable, especially in combination with the pull bar. Also having more area at the back of the seat enabled me to push back into it. But the pressure points seemed to be in the wrong place.

One factor compared with a C2 setup, is that the height of the seat is significantly lower in a C1 than a C2. In the C2 I have set the seat height to 20 cms, where as in the C1 it’s set at 12 cms. This may make quite a difference, which I can test once I get my boat back.

Those of a nervous disposition may wish to look away now, but I’ve taken some photographs to illustrate the point.

The first picture shows a standard British bottom on a standard K1 racing seat. Neither the back nor the sides are supported. However, this may be because there is so much movement due to the paddling action.

Standard K1 racing seat.

Standard K1 racing seat.

I wonder if it’s the same principle as in cycling, whereas novice cyclists are often convinced that their sore bums would benefit from a big, wide saddle, where in fact all racing cyclists tend to use narrow saddles which support the bits which matter most.

So-called cycling comfort saddle versus cycle racing saddle.

So-called cycling comfort saddle versus cycle racing saddle.

Now compare the area of support with my new wide seat design. Much more bum area is supported.
New wide seat design.

New wide seat design.

I do wonder whether the seat would benefit from sides in the same way as sports car seats are designed.

Yes I know they have sides to prevent slipping out of the seat due to the G-forces during turning, but are they more comfortable?

The seat I use at the moment is a bit of a compromise in that it doesn’t have hard edges and allows the “excess baggage” to overflow.

Current C1 seat.

Current C1 seat.

For DW, John and I used Zastera seats with two layers of foam. They seemed comfortable to us, even on the long pound to Wootton Rivers, but it’s the additional height which seems to make the most difference
Darkness Duet DW seats.

Darkness Duet DW seats.

I need to get some wide seat prototypes out to the Duet paddlers.

The Wenonah ICF C2 – any good?

Whilst waiting for James and Mike to start their race, I had the opportunity to have a good look at some of the Wenonah ICF boats they would be up against. This boat has dominated C2 marathon canoeing in the UK for decades mostly because there are no alternatives. But the design is now over 25 years old and to be honest, it wasn’t particular good in the first place. It’s as though Wenonah simply changed the shape of their current designs to ensure compliance to ICF specifications.

I found this little snippet on t‘interweb:

The ICF C2 design was made for the 1981 ICF world competition that was held in Canada. Wenonah manufactured and sent 2 boats to compete that year as sit&switch boats in a competition that traditionally hosted high kneel design boats. Very few of those 1981 ICF C2s were made.

The paddlers who paddled the ICF C2s were some of the godfathers of modern paddling. One boat was paddled by Crozier and Triebold, the other by Jensen and Hassel. It is understood that Jensen and Hassel’s boat made it into the finals, but unfortunately, ultimately, the boat could not compete with the highest level of competition of the high kneel boats.

In 1982, the ICF C2 design was tweaked, but unfortunately, the tweaking made the boat an unstable craft. That and the fact that the ICF Worlds went back to Europe led to the end of the ICF sit&switch idea. Ultimately the ICF C2 boats along with a similarly designed boat from Sawyer found a new life as the genesis of many of the “Texas” unlimited boat designs.

You have to admire these guys for having a go and trying something different.

The hull shape is certainly quick, but there doesn’t seem to be much empathy with equipping the boat for the paddlers, or any understanding of what is required for the inevitable portaging. This is borne out by the many and varied modifications paddlers have made to their boats to overcome some of the shortcomings.

Starting with the deck, there isn’t one! ICF regulations stipulate that the open area must be at least 2.8 metres long, and that the gunwales must not be wider than 5 cms. The ICF C2 is completely open along its entire length and the gunwales are the standard timber ones which simply add some longitudinal rigidity.

The sides have no tumblehome and are nearly vertical. This means they are subject to the effects of the wind, and there is also nothing to prevent swamping.

All yours for about £3.5k.

All yours for about £3.5k.

The timber tops of the gunwales does not give paddlers anything decent to grip when pulling the boat out at the get-out, during the running phase, and later at the put-in.

As water collects in the boat it invariably accumulates at one end, and if the paddlers invert the boat to carry it upside down on their shoulder, one of them (usually the shortest!) gets soaked as the water exits the boat. There is also nothing comfortable to rest on the shoulder whilst running. There are no portage handles to help pick up and carry the boat, unless you count the two aluminium braces.

There’s no provision to install buoyancy. Whether you think you need it or not, it is mandatory to race in the UK, and quite honestly, it makes good sense.

There are no footrests in the front. The forward paddler has to jam their feet together against a block (usually polystyrene). The rear footrests are a simple round bar.

The thwarts (cross members) could be better positioned to provide something with which the paddlers could pull on to help disembark, and to make it easier and safer to get back in again especially on some of the more challenging portages.

There’s no provision to implement any sort of spray deck. The only option is to tape some type of cover on the outside of the gunwales. There’s nowhere to mount a race number and racers often tape the number to the hull

Even the seats are the standard Wenonah “tractor” seats with very little option to exchange it for something more preferable.

Made of Kevlar, the colour of the boat when new is a golden yellow. However, as it ages and is affected by ultraviolet light, the colour darkens to a brown-beige.

The boat could be substantially improved and £3,395 is a lot of money to pay for such a craft.

So, ICF C2 owners often resort to innovation to help reduce the deficiencies.



This boat is typical, and the crew have adapted it to make things easier.


At the front, there are several different handles for portaging and to help the paddler get in/out. There is some buoyancy under the seat and some additional foam on the gunwales. A block of polystyrene provides a rudimentary footrest.

A small front deck has been constructed so that the boat can be carried upside down on the shoulder a little more comfortably.

The comfort of both seats has been improved with foam, and the rear seat has a higher back and is slightly tipped forward. A spray deck is secured amidships with cord, and the race number is inserted into a plastic sleeve which is secured using string.



At the back there is a small spray deck and a rope handle. The paddler’s feet are protected by a polystyrene “platform” which also supports a strap to help the paddler get in/out. There is a self-bailer to help reduce water in the boat, but this only works if the “puddle” forms around the location of the self-bailer.

All these changes certainly help with comfort and convenience, but there is a price pay in terms of additional weight, cost and complexity.



In this example, very few changes have been made, the crew opting to keep the weight down. At the front some polystyrene blocks form a footrest and also act as buoyancy. Both seats have some foam. At the rear, some straps have been attached to the footrest and the seat has been tipped forward.
Pete and Steve

Pete and Steve

This boat holds the C2 records for Waterside A and the series. Both records were set by this crew in 1994. The boat is an early ICF C2, and the Kevlar has turned darker over the years almost to the colour of wood. Bulkheads have been constructed in the bow and stern which provide buoyancy and a platform to place some foam to help make portaging more comfortable.

So, is the Wenonah ICF C2 any good? Well you can’t deny its popularity for marathon racing, or indeed the host of race wins and records. But is that because it was the only show in town?

It is unlikely that any kayak paddlers are racing such an old design, and it may be time to lobby Wenonah to consider designing a more up to date model. The main problem is the market for such a boat is so small, so maybe it’s not commercially viable.

Waterside A 2016

John and I have decided not to participate in the Waterside race series this year as the sheer intensity of the events doesn’t fit in with our training plans. This is especially so for Waterside D, as a six to seven hour paddle, ten days before the start of DW is something we won’t normally contemplate due to the time required for us old guys to recover.

However, when I got an offer from James Prowse and Mike Thornton from the Hemel Hempstead club to paddle The Darkness Duet (hereafter known as “The Duet”) on Waterside A, it was an opportunity I couldn’t refuse.

These guys have a legacy of single blade paddling success from rafts, canoes and outriggers, in both sprint and marathon.

James paddled The Darkness C1 to victory in the Thameside races and won last year’s WS A C2 event in a time of 2:07:01. James won the DW C2 event in 2014 with Tim Penson in a time of 19:46:41.

James in action - Thameside 1 2015

James in action – Thameside 1 2015

Mike won the WS A C2 event in 2013 (there was no event in 2014) in a time of 2:04:29. He went on to win the DW C2 event with Shirine Voller in a time of 19:11:58.

I had made some changes to the seat positions to suit their leg lengths and removed one of the thwarts. A was a huge risk to race in a completely unknown boat, but they set off for a quick practice paddle before the start and quickly adapted to the canoe.

Starting ahead of them was the formidable partnership of Tom Fryer and Tom Stafford, a highly experienced and strong crew. I watched them shoot off from the start in a blur of blade activity. They were going to take some catching but would provide a useful “hare” to chase. (Boat 358 finished in 2:08:11)

Tom Fryer and Tom Stafford dig deep at the start

Tom Fryer and Tom Stafford dig deep at the start

Then the Duet was off for its first competitive race. (Boat 250 finished in 2:16:50)
The Darkness Duet on its first race start

The Darkness Duet on its first race start

I followed the race by car and bike. The paddle speed was high and James and Mike really attacked the portages.
Portage fast or die!

Portage fast or die!

On some portages they picked the boat up by the gunwales and turned it upside down and slid it along their shoulders to the ends, in one fluid motion. On one portage, they overtook four K2s whilst the crews were still getting in their boats.
Going for it

Going for it

They were really focussed on catching the Toms, but no way were these guys going to make it easy.
Get out of our way, we're coming through.

Get out of our way, we’re coming through.

Gradually they closed them down. I shudder to think what would have happened if they had caught them, because neither crew would yield. “Luckily” James and Mike ran out of canal as the Toms crossed the line less than a minute ahead.
Chasing the Toms.

Chasing the Toms.

James and Mike finished in a time of 2:02:37, PBs for both paddlers, the second fastest on record and frustratingly, less than three minutes from the record of 1:59:56 set in 1994 by Pete Jones and Steve Windmill. (Pete and Steve finished this year’s race in 2:14:27 and third place)
Catch us if you can

Catch us if you can

The two Toms finished in second place in 2:07:40.

After every race, athletes often review their performance and ask “what if”.

Would James and Mike have gone faster if they had spent more time in the Duet before the race? – PROBABLY
Would they have gone faster in the ICF C2 in which they have spent hundreds of hours? – PROBABLY
Would they have beaten the record? – POSSIBLY

We’ll never know the answers to those questions, but what we do know is The Darkness Duet is an equal to the ICF C2, and only many more races will determine if it’s better.

There’s a GoPro video on YouTube. It’s not great quality as there was rain drop on the lens, but it gives a reasonable idea.

On the water at last

Ok, so it was actually Friday before we took the boat out for its maiden voyage as it took some time to configure all the fittings. I got everything done except the name stickers.

Initial fixtures and fittings

Initial fixtures and fittings

I managed to get a couple of Zastera racing kayak seats from a guy who found them too uncomfortable (must have a funny shaped bum!). I mounted these on some plywood platforms bolted to the seat support flanges. Had no idea if they were the right height but it seems fine when we’re paddling. Trouble is, the plywood is too thin and it bounces like a trampoline. I’ll stiffen these with aluminium bracing.

I used some aluminium square profile rods for the footrests and covered these with grip tape. They’re not great because the sole of your foot is in contact with the corner edge of the bar, rather than the flat. However, it worked ok for the maiden voyage.

First footrests

First footrests

I fitted the thwarts, grip tape, oh and the all-important racing number holder (just in case).

My wife had my big car for the weekend, so I borrowed my daughter’s Clio to transport it to Kintbury where we were going to introduce it to the Kennet and Avon canal.

Bit of an overhang!

Bit of an overhang!

My “partner-in-crime” for the Devizes to Westminster canoe race next Easter is John Hayden. John has completed the DW thirteen times, plus four non-finishes (including 2000 when the race was cancelled). He did the junior DW in 1967 and 68 and then senior K2 in 76 (3rd), 77 (6th) and 78 (2nd). He paddled K1 in 89, 94, 95, 96, 97, 99, 2003 and 2005. His best time is 17:23. BUT, he still needs one more straight-through to qualify for the DW 1,000 mile club.

So, we unloaded the boat and sat it on the bank.

All set and ready to go

All set and ready to go

I can remember the poignant moment when I first paddled The Darkness C1. It had taken a lot of effort to eventually get the boat I’d wanted for so long, and it was with some trepidation that I first stepped into it. I didn’t have a proper seat and it felt quite strange. It was some time before I knew I had a winner.

No such ceremony with the C2, John just picked it up and put it on the water. Before I had any time for reflection or quiet contemplation, we pushed off from the bank.

I knew within the first ten strokes that the boat was everything I’d hoped for. After developing (and learning from) the C1, I almost expected it to be good, but it was a relief and a surprise, just how good it is.

For a start it is stable. Not rock solid like a tub, but far more stable than a K2. Too stable would be too slow, but I have no worries about the tideway.

The seat height is comfortable and easy to get up from (we’re old remember!). The thwarts help too. The portage handles really help with the portages (obviously!) as does the front and rear decks to take the weight on the shoulder.

It handles exceptionally well on the water. Easy to keep it straight, but responsive to turning. Paddle access to the water is good, but not as good as the C1 due to the additional width. In fact I need to pad out the gunwales at the front as John bashed his hands a couple of times. However, he is a kayaker and this was only his second time in a C2.

His first time was when we paddled a concept boat I’d made from an old K2. I was worried that this boat would handle in a similar way in that when the K2/C2 started the veer, it was hard to bring it back on track. It just shows that you can’t just take any old boat, add some extra moulding and expect it to perform in a predictable fashion.

But the best thing was the speed, wow does it shift. I need to do some timing against the C1 to be sure how quick it is as this is the only measure I have. I also want to get some experienced Wenonah ICF paddlers to have a go too.

Anyway, I modified the footrests and we took it out again.

Modified footrests

Modified footrests

I got a couple of poor quality pictures which shows that it is a bit too high in the bow. I’m 75 kgs and John is 82, but I still need to move his position forward by about four inches to trim the boat.
On the water

On the water

And we’ve gotta do something about that hat!
Bow slightly high

Bow slightly high

So, we’ve got about three months before the start of the DW to work on fitness and paddle efficiency.