-- Last Updated: Apr-05-13 9:15 PM EST --
I owned the Valley Rapier 18 for a couple of years, now have the Epic V10 Sport surf ski. They can handle the rough stuff just fine, the difference is how they do it and what do you need to do to keep upright.
I've measured my speed upwind in both against me paddling boats like the WS Zephir 150 for example or CD Carribou. In just about any conditions on open water I clocked myself faster in the plumb skinny boats over short distances that take say less than 4 hours of continuous paddling to cover. I've also paddled these against other paddlers in all sorts of kayaks in a few races and unless the other paddler is much better conditioned than I am (and I am not tht good) I consistently go faster than the "sea kayaks". The only long sea kayaks that can keep-up seem to be the likes of Seda Glider or CD Extreme.
The catch is that these thin boats require active paddling and very good balance. No matter what, you tire faster in them compared to other more stable kayaks in which you can relax more. So there is a break even point, where folks in more stable kayaks will be faster than when put in a less stable but "faster" hull. That point is different for different people. Up until recently I was faster than myself in the "slower" V10 Sport than in the "faster" V12 surf ski, because a lot of my energy went into balance. But I am good enough to be faster in the V10 Sport than in the Epic 18x for instance. When I first started with the V10 Sport I did not have the balance and was not much faster than I was in the CD Extreme for instance, but after a few months I did get faster as I mastered the hull in the moderate conditions that I paddle it.
These long ruddered boats are much faster in big downwind conditions than any other sea kayak design too. They are created for these conditions in mind in most cases. In steep messy side chop they do not have much advantage and in fact for most people will be at a disadvantage as they will struggle for balance...
The short story is that, these boats are a lot more demanding to the paddler and thus may not be right for everyone. I was scared to take the Rapier in rough conditions where I would not hesitate to take the Zephyr for instance. I knew I could paddle it but I also knew (tried it in controlled conditions to find out) that I tire too fast and self rescues are much harder and less reliable. My skills have since improved and I know I can handle it but I would still think twice if I were to go out in open water with it - check out Sean Morley's blog about his circumnavigation of a certain island - he too "chickened out" and did not take the Rpier and opted for a Nordkapp instead. On the other hand, Freya and Greg have proved that the Epic 18x Sport and the 18x can handle the rough stuff just fine for them ...
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