Submitted: 06-04-2007 by cooldoctor1
“I just love the Nordkapp. It’s the best boat ever made. It’s very narrow—21 inches, 18 feet long. It’s not the fastest boat, but when it comes to rough water it performs. It’s so stable,” wrote seasoned expedition kayaker and scientist Stanislav Chladek (Canoe and Kayak, June 2007). I couldn’t agree more.
The Nordkapp Rotomolded, unveiled in 2006, was purchased by me new in red for this review in spring 2007. I was seeking a long, sleek low volume boat with speed and the ability to handle rough waters. I own, for comparison, the extremely tender Prijon Barracuda, and the Valley Avocet RM playboat (see separate reviews). This review is based on stroking the Nordkapp RM for only about three months on inland waters (not ocean) by me, an intermediate paddler of 5 foot 8.534 inches and 161 lbs. I have expedited this review as there is a paucity of information about this particular boat online.
The Nordkapp RM, the legendary flagship of the British Valley brand, is a low volume vessel meant for big water. The RM (triple layer rotomolded polyethylene, very tough plastic) is based on the hull design of the Nordkapp LV with only slight modification, and thus requires a sit-in test for fit. A larger paddler, perhaps 200# and over, would truly need to determine if the volume is too sparse for their frame, particularly their feet in what is a low front deck. The graceful lines of this boat are the prettiest overall that I have ever seen; the Nordy is not only upswept stem to stern but is also extended and thin, reminding one of a sultry blonde screen siren stretching across a lounge chair beckoning to her photographer. You will need to ride her to determine if you fit the role of her Tinseltown suitor, however. She is fetching, but is not the fastest pussycat. The Prijon Barracuda, who can be a bitch in heat on textured water and punish you like a disobedient shrew — a swimming shrew, that is — pays off in speed. If taching on the GPS is your mission, try the blowmolded Prijon 'Cuda. The Nordy, conversely, can still bang out reasonable speed, but will caress it’s passenger in chop rather than serve as a diving board. The Nordkapp is forgiving, and if your goal is specifically big water and waves, skip the Cuda and buy the ‘Kapp.
The stability of this boat is less than the playful Avocet RM, yet it still edges for responsive directional control in chop, and this is the strongest virtue of the Nordkapp—it may well be the fastest kayak that still excels in the soup, with more surfski-like boats being faster but being more likely to jettison their paddler in angry seas. The ‘Kapp behaves like a reliable cocoon in windy turbulence. Although I’ve not paddled it laden, expedition gear will raise the waterline but probably not affect performance adversely, if the Nordkapp’s acclaimed lineage is any indicator. If one were a frequent camper/expedition paddler, a careful investigation of the packing volume to assure its ability to suit your needs is recommended for this generally low volume boat.
The cockpit of the Nordkapp RM could use refinement. Peter Orton, director of Valley Canoe Products, is aware of the miserable reputation of the Valley backbands and is in the process of modification of the band on newer models. The backband is simply insufficient in support of the lumbar spine, particularly as it is set back on the seat pan and encourages a slouching posture. Adding a one inch thick minicell pad to the backband helps immensely. I have additionally Dap Weldwooded contoured minicell under the stock thigh pads. The flat “meatless” thigh pads are woefully insufficient for any locking during directional control, but minicell can accomplish a fix. Valley might take a lead from the aggressive thigh control of their Rapier, and might consider a similar hook option for the Nordkapp. The ill-designed cockpit outfitting mandates the subtraction of one point on any review.
The Nordkapp RM at 56 lbs without hatch covers is not an easy portage, but for twice the price you will save only 7 lbs as the Nordy LV composite is 49 lbs. I prefer the polyethylene boat for its indestructibility, and the Valley triple layer plastic is flexless. The coaming features a lip more prominent than Mick Jagger’s, and readily sucks onto even a wet sprayskirt. The deck fittings are standard Valley; I find the rear deck bungie cords to be too far back to be useful on the water. The foredeck bungies are ideal for your spare paddle. The Valley hatch covers will keep your gear dry, and the day hatch is useful on the water only if you have a feline-type sense of balance. The toggles are bungied down to prevent flap, and the skeg control is at the left cockpit and not as prone to accidental bumps as the Avocet due to the more curved deck. Skeg deployment is less frequent than on the more rockered Avocet.
All in all, the Valley Nordkapp RM is the single most versatile kayak this intermediate kayaker has paddled. It is the consummate blend of rocker for soup, svelte beam for speed, and length for tracking. Bring your camera when you demo this “looker” and you’ll find yourself stealing glimpses of Nordy’s trim waistline on your laptop and in your dreams.
High five to Stanislav: indeed, this boat rocks!