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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
And we’ve gotta do something about that hat!
So, we’ve got about three months before the start of the DW to work on fitness and paddle efficiency.