Saturday, July 22, 2006

Quantum Leaps

I finally got to see H in her new Capella 161 and she was a totally different paddler. It is amazing how much changing a kayak can effect a paddler. The Shadow she was paddling was an OK kayak for a beginner or some one bigger than she is, but ultimately it was her albatross. It had excellent primary stability, but, when you could wrench it on its side, it was unstable on it edges. It also had a gigantic cockpit and way too much volume for her.
The Capella on the other hand is a very nice fit. It is the same length, 16ish feet, but is much narrower at 21". It also has excellent primary stability, is easy to get on the edge, and has very predictable secondary stability. The fit is also much better.
H, Tim, and I paddled out of the Bay Campus and headed towards Beaver Tail to give H her first real paddle in the new kayak. The conditions when we set out were pretty mellow. There was a decent bit of chop and a light wind. As we paddled down the Jamestown coast the wind picked up to a respectable clip and the swells got bigger. H had no problems keeping pace with Tim and I and, despite the bumps, seemed perfectly comfortable. I even saw her smile a few times. In her Shadow she would have been struggling the whole time. The Capella behaved better in the swells and because it fit better, and had solid foot pegs, allowed her stroke to shine. The rotation was better and it showed.
When we turned to head back, she took off. In a following sea, the Capella surffed like a champ. It shot down the swells straight as an arrow. There were times that Tim and I were having trouble keeping up because we had to work keeping our kayaks straight. H looked like a pro.
The crossing from Ft. Getty to Bay Campus presented us with the most challenging conditions of the day. There were beam winds and beam swells. Initially, I had trouble finding the magic skeg spot to keep my kayak on course. I kept either pegging it too far down and turning downwind, or pulling it too far up and turning up wind.
H, on the other hand, held a solid course and made good headway. Her little boat handled the swells easily and she braced on the big ones. I was very impressed.
On the beach she demurly said "I'm glad I looked good, because I felt like I had no idea what I was doing."
Given that her new boat is 2" narrower than her old boat and she has always had a rudder, it is understandable that she felt a touch out of sorts. However, she certainly looked like she knew what she was doing!! It was an amazing quantum leap in performance.

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