Submitted: 09-23-1999 by Tom F.
I have a Challenger (now Odyssey) in the R84. This boat was originally designed by Gene Jensen, deity of modern marathon canoe racing design (he also invented the bent shaft paddle).
I pulled the gunwales in almost two inches, moved my seat forward about 2 inches and up 1". This stiffened up the boat considerably, increased the tumblehome for an easier reach to the water, and added some speed and tracking although with some sacrifice to turning and side slipping. It did wonders for ridding the boat of excessive oil-canning. The modification does give the boat a slight "rolling" affect which you will get used to as the secondary stability is still there.
Pulling in the gunwales (try one inch at first) can be done by simply moving the two thwarts to the center about 2 - 3 inches, and re-drilling the seat holes. Use your own judgement with these modifications please.
It is now a different boat. Although the R84 is not as durable as it's heavier cousin, the lightness when paddling empty on grade ii and iii rivers is too much fun. I installed a foot brace and use in sit & switch style with a 54" bent shaft in quiet water (it is significantly more efficient using sit & switch). I installed contoured knee pads and paddle kneeling with a 56" straight shaft for white water. I can go back and forth with these two styles when touring. With these modifications, this is the most comfortable boat I have.
I installed a gear strap down system for portage packs fore and aft. When empty, I install 36" bow and stern flotation bags for white water (could go bigger). I would hate to wrap this boat around a rock, it would not recover. I plan on installing a cover/deck which will give me more confidence in those big grade iii swampers and cut windage on long flat stretches.
All in all, this is the only boat around with this design. Most other Royalex rec solo hulls are a bit too straight with sharp stems for my needs as a WW tripping boat. I use it mostly to tour the rivers in the UP and Wisconsin, and best of all, rivers emptying into the north shore of Lake Superior and in middle/upper Ontario.
The boat allows me to stop on a dime, reverse course, and back ferry to an eddy or alternate chute. It is great fun. For what I use it for, it rates a 9, which is high. It would be a 9.5 if the gunwales and deck plates were a little beefier, but that would add weight.