Every time I “move up” to a new tippier (and hopefully faster) boat, there is a huge learning curve. The first time I paddled the Thunderbolt, two ducks paddled past and their wake nearly dumped me. The first time I tried to race the V10 Sport, I nearly dumped reaching for the start button on my GPS, and I gave up halfway round the course because there was a tiny little swell from the side and it was making me nervous. These days, I consider both of those boats pretty stable (although I did fall in at the Canadian Surfski Championships and then repeatedly at Blackburn in the V10 Sport).
Two years ago, I bought a Think Legend and I found it extremely tippy. I just couldn’t get on with it – I got some miles in it but I never felt like I was getting better. Although I did use it in two races on the canal – and nearly fell in on the 180 degree turns at each end. Also, I couldn’t remount it. It was something about the high narrow side walls on the cockpit, I think.
Last year I gave away the Legend and bought a V12. Immediately I found it easier to learn than the Legend, but still pretty unstable. But it looked and felt like an Epic ski, so I figured I’d be able to remount it – and sure enough, I could. Last year I paddled nearly 300km in it. So far this year I’ve paddled 200km in it. I still feel pretty squirrelly in it. Leaving the dock, it’s an act of faith when I let go and go to make my first stroke that I’ll get to apply power before I fall in. As a matter of fact, one day I set the offset on my paddle wrong so when I went to apply power there was no resistance against my pull and I fell in. Every time I cross even the wakes of another paddler I feel uncertain, and hitting an actual power boat wake will mean my heart rate spikes up about 20 beats per minute and I’ll have to stop paddling to brace at least some of the time. This is unfortunate because I really wanted to use this boat for the Round the Mountain race in 4 weeks, and the first 25 minutes of the race is across a lake with waves that used to make me nervous in the Thunderbolt. That’s one reason to find somebody’s wake to ride for that part of the race – it gives you a tiny bit of reduction of the waves.
I wish I could recall what it took to get comfortable in my previous boats so I could see how much progress I am making in this one. If I end up not being able to use this for Round The Mountain, I’ll be forced to use my V10 Sport. And there are two drawbacks to this:
- The V12 has an over-stern rudder, which might be handy in some of the shallower sections. The under-stern rudder of the V10 Sport could hit a submerged rock and either jam or damage the rudder, or knock me out of the boat.
- The V12 is “performance” layup, as well as being a bit of a clapped out old beater, so I don’t have to worry so much about damaging it. The V10 Sport is “ultra” layup which is quite light, but very fragile. There is a down slope in the portage where I’ve dropped my boat in the past – an “ultra” layup boat could easily get a hole or a crack if dropped on that slope.
On the other hand, the V10 Sport is light and I’ve been pretty fast in it. So if I can avoid dropping it and smacking it on a rock, it could be good.