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Submitted: 09-26-2002 by Lazlo
Well where do I start? The quest for a new boat has taken a few months and I finally settled on the Sultan. I am 5' 11", 230 lbs, intermediate ability, and I decided that I wanted something longer and faster than my Necky Looksha Sport. Also I wanted a boat that was designed to handle my weight without being so high in volume it would catch a lot of wind. I didn't want a lot of waterline making me feel like I was sitting a foot high in the boat.
The Necky is highly rockered, 14 feet long and 22" wide. I loved the way it handles in rough conditions and how nimble it is. I have struggled at times to keep up with the fleet of 16 to 18 footers on some of the paddles. If the water wasn't rough that boat is slow. Also when I read the reviews I would hear people say how poorly the Necky tracks, others said it tracked well. Without knowing about the paddler you can tell little more than whether or not the paddler likes the boat. In my case the Necky tracks fairly well but that's because I sink a lot of the boat and create a longer waterline. As well as it performs, I realized I was probably choking its performance with my weight.
So after testing the Nigel Dennis HV Explorer, the Impex Currituck, the Current Designs Caribou-S and a Pintail (for laughs, a boat I could love if I was smaller) I tried the Sultan and fell in love with the boat.
I am not totally pleased with the company, who may be new and going through some growing pains, but I like the performance of this boat. As you can tell, at this point there are no reviews around, save for the guy before me that didn't leave a return address and one that I read in some online mag. I fell for the lines of the boat and the advertising which read: "The comfort of Sultan for bigger guys has been compared to wearing a glove - a silk one. Sultan has a positive feeling of control in swells, wind waves and surf which is unlike any other kayak. So much so that its almost a sensual feeling."
Well let me tell you, after seeing the picture and reading the hype, I had to try this boat. When I saw it for the first time I was impressed by the finish. It is so well made. I couldn't find a single flaw in the glass layup. Seams were perfect. Azul's attention to detail was outstanding, just as I had heard. When I sat in it, it just felt right. Azul puts foam on the seat, knee area, and thigh area for you. It was already there. It worked for me. It felt better than all the other boats.
I took a demo out in the Hudson River where there was wind, plenty of chop and boat wakes of all sizes. Though I was used to my 22" Necky, at 21.5" with a rounder hull design this boat felt like it had to stay moving. It seemed effortless to propel and the glide was amazing. Most all of the boat was in the water yet it seemed to turn better than the other boats I tried. It did handle the rough water effortlessly though I was a bit afraid of the boat at that time and wasn't about to lean it to far to put a lot of the skirt in the water to see how sharp a turn I could make. The Necky had multiple hard chines that would allow me to seemingly "ratchet" the boat into one of three leaning positions. The Sultan seemed to have that "point of no return" that you get on a hard chined boat. I didn't want to try to find just where I was about to tip over.
I purchased a Sultan a few weeks ago and have had it out in all but the roughest conditions. It runs straight as an arrow. At 17'10" with a noticeable amount of rocker it doesn't want to weathercock very much at all except in wind and chop and even then I haven't needed the skeg. I found it to be seem faster than the other boats I tested. I am able to pull away from a friend that has always had a faster boat and who is a better paddler than me. I have taken to using a Greenlad paddle with this boat and it surprises me how fast the boat really moves. Yet it turns well because of the hard chine and the rocker.
So, like the unknown guy before me said in his review, "Speed, handling, comfort, seaworthiness and man is it perfectly finished to the nth degree!!! Perfection". I totally agree.
Now for the negatives: The cockpit leaks. I am working on this problem and if I get a solution I will certainly post it. The Azul skirt, when I leaned the boat putting two inches of skirt under water, let in a lot of water. I purchased another skirt and it is much tighter but it lets in an unacceptable amount directly on my thighs. the other day the water was COLD! I tried other skirts to no avail. I wrote Azul 10 days ago and got no response. It appears that the design of the combing is such that the distance between the outside of the combing and the underside where the elastic of the sprayskirt fits tightly to make a seal varies at different spots around the combing. In the area between where the keyhole cockpit is large and where it narrows, that distance between the outside of the combing and the spot that the skirt should touch against is greater than it is everywhere else. The elastic doesnt pull flush agains anything and water gets in. On other brands with the keyhole cockpit, this distance remains about one inch around the entire cockpit. This appears to be a design flaw. My boat was off the shelf 2001 model. For 2002 they increased the height of the deck a bit. I don't know if this situation with the cockpit has been changed. In fact, I wrote email number two to support at Azul tonite and phoned with a msg after hours to speak with them in hopes of a remedy for this situation. If they can provide me with one I will certainly report that as well as if I get no response or no satisfaction.
I have another problem with Azul. I am hoping that they are so new they are getting it together but I am never impressed when a company's Website is inaccurate or unfinished. It is hard to find a Sultan for someone in New Jersey. I went to the website looking for dealers. I click on dealers and get several in NJ. None of whom handle Azul. I go click on Maryland, see several dealers, same thing. When I phone they tell me they never heard of them. One dealer figured out that since they handle the line of whitewater kayaks, "Riot Kayaks", that they just got put on the site. None of these people have ever seen an Azul kayak. One dealer, when I asked him if perhaps he had the Azul line in one of his other stores told me there was only one other store. I gave him the address that was listed. He told me that was his mother's home address?? I drove 350 miles to purchase this boat.
So for now I will wait for a response from the company. I will not reserve my rating however as I want people to know that this is one very very nice boat. I will post another review later with the results of my request for a remedy to my problem.
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