Test paddling Tiderace Xcite and Xplore
Visited Malmö earlier today for a testdrive with the new Tiderace-kayaks. Leif and Peter at KajakEvent had sent an invitation throught the kayak clubs in the region – first on the 15th, but then I was occupied with other things and now on the 29th. Tiderace are those kayaks Aled Williams has designed after leaving Rockpool and Mike Webb (Mike continues with Rockpools Kayaks – Alaw, Alaw Bach and Menai 18 while Aled moves on with new designs).
Since Aled was the designer of the Rockpool kayaks as well, it takes a close look to spot the differences – and without trying them side by side, the impressions are not all that clear. But the Tiderace kayaks are generally narrower and taller, with a slightly lower deck and more rounded chines – intended primarily to result in better kayak control and increased hull speed.
The KajakEvent business is located at the Malmö canal – a three mile waterway through downtown Malmö and I took both kayaks for a short test drive. The shorter, Xcite 525x53 cm, is a designed as a "high performance touring and rough water design". The keel is generously rockered to balance the quite large area of the thin stems. Maneuvering is easy and leaned it turns in little more than a kayak length. Were I to build the Xcite I would have contemplated reducing the lateral area in the stems even more, since I prefer to move some of the direction control from the hull to the paddler, but I think the Xcite is very well balanced for the intended end users. Xcite is very easily rolled and I had no problems hitting aft and forward leaning paddle rolls as well as aft leaning handrolls. The backband and aft rim is low and comfortable. Top speed is of course limited – the low volume stems is nice for rough waters but limits the working waterline length – with full throttle the stem lifts. But this is a perceived limitation for speed addicted paddlers mainly. Xcite is narrower and has less wetted surface than many kayaks in its class, and therefore a good touring pace.
Xplore is longer, 549x53, designated "fast expedition design for extended trips" is as expected more responsive when pushing for speed. Maneuverability is very good for a fairly long kayak, but lacked a little compared to the Xcite. Compared to Rockpool Menai, the two inverted keel profiles (unintelligible to me) along the aft part of the hull is gone, which should reduce friction and turbulence. Rollability is much the same as the Xcite. (But I had gotten the foot support a bit tight, and had therefore trouble leaning far back and thus missed the handroll – I have no previous experience of this effect of a poorly adjusted foot support). The deck is slightly higher than on Xcite, a disadvantage to me, used to the very low decks on my Black Pearl and Njord designs, but I suspect, comfortable for most paddlers.
Both kayaks display a reasonable range of stability – enough for novices to feel safe and develop their skills in, but no so much as to interfere with a skilled paddlers leaning and control. The behavior in waves and rough waters will have to be assessed elsewhere and at another time.
During spring there will be S-versions (S for small) of both kayaks: narrower, shorter and lower. Xplore will also be available in an X version for large paddler (or perhaps those who can´t resist packing the kitchen sink).
An amusing observation is that my early kayaks, inspired more from traditional inshore fishing boats than proper kayaks, have a midship cross section shape (rather flat bottom, almost vertical sides) quite close to these new generation sea kayaks. When designed I was criticized for this. The consensus at that time (some 15 years ago) in Scandinavia was round bottoms with a slight V and flared sides. I heard many times that my kayaks were OK for beginners in calm waters but impossible and even dangerous at sea. Nice to notice that the perspective broadens and that there is room for more than one idea. Advantages with a flat bottom is increased maneuverability and with the vertical sides that the difference in stability between loaded and empty kayak decreases.
In the pics below: left Tiderace Xplore, middle my Nomad and right a representative of the traditional Swedish archipelago kayak (my Alert).
Rant from a web designer (those who doesn´t think web design is an exciting subject may well skip the nest section): I like the Tiderace web site with much information easily available. Nice to see pics from the design phase (the plans) and from prototype and mold building (wooden strip). I like this openness with information. Knowledge should be free. Too many companies are preoccupied with guarding their past achievements with all means instead of keeping ahead of the competition by developing their knowledge, products and services and keeping in tune with their customers and the surrounding community (the large record companies as a pathetic example). Looking under the hood I am not that happy though: tables used for layout and style tags in the HTML-code is obsolete practice, resulting in excessive code, complicated updating and risk for rendering trouble in different browsers – but the way it is used does not limits the users experience. The Rockpool site has more accessibility issues: table layout throughout, all formatting in the HTML code, no CSS at all and a couple of Flash animations – obstacles that you have to wait out or click past to get to the informative parts of the site.
My conclusion: two interesting kayaks, solidly built with good finish and detailing and appealing performance – among the best. Try them!
Update December 31
Leif was on the float with camera in hand. Here are a couple of his pics. Click to enlarge.