Raptor UK canoe sailing

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SteveR is a former Chairman and Racing Series winner of the Open Canoe Sailing Group (OCSG), as well as an RYA (Royal Yachting Association) Senior Dinghy Instructor. Below is a reprint of an article he wrote for "The Gossip", the OCSG monthly magazine, in September 2008, at which time he was one of two OCSG Training & Safety Advisers.


The Hydrovisions Raptor 16

Inspired by DaveM's impressive performance in the races at Loch Tummel and on our cruise on the West Coast of Scotland, I asked Dave if I could have a go on his Raptor 16. Test conditions were perhaps not ideal as the winds were predominantly Force 1 or 2, but at least I did not have to worry about the Raptor's fearsome reputation for capsizing in the hands of an inexperienced crew.

The Raptor 16 is a tacking proa designed and manufactured in the USA. JohnS (the boat's designer) seems to be an enthusiast for lightweight construction methods and the boats are constructed from epoxy and carbon fibre vac bagged around a foam core, with each boat weighing just 95lbs. I am unsure of the sail area, but I suspect that it may be in the region of 6.5 square metres. Additional stability when the boat is moving is provided by a foil on the outrigger, with the angle of attack of this foil being varied by the helm in order to provide lift on one tack and down force on the other. The version I sailed was fitted with a wooden daggerboard manufactured by Solway Dory, as the lightweight board supplied by the manufacturer had broken.

My initial impression of the Raptor was one of speed, the boat's manufacturer claims a sailing performance faster than that of a Laser 1 dinghy, and this was born out on my light winds test. Steering is performed with foot pedals and I found this to be a more workable arrangement than I had imagined it would be. I would have preferred the pedals to be rigged so that depression of the leeward pedal resulted in a turn to windward, but a quick straw poll in the pub that night revealed that I was in a minority on this, and that most people thought the system used on the Raptor to be the more intuitive way of doing things (depression of the windward pedal turns the Raptor to windward).

Slightly strangely I found that sailing the Raptor reminded me more of sailing a small yacht than of sailing my canoe. There is no hiking out involved and the whole boat feels remarkably sturdy. Reefing is performed from a seated position, and sailors in the UK may be interested to know that initial experiments suggest that the Raptor is competitive with open sailing canoes when reefed down to 44 square feet to comply with the OCSG racing rules. Initially Dave found that the reefing system allowed the top of the sail to twist off when the sail was reefed, but he has now modified his own Raptor to prevent this from happening.

Camping gear can be carried on the 'sidecar' and Dave reports that when gear is carried in this manner there is little need to use the foil when the outrigger is to windward. I have some concern that if the Raptor was to capsize with gear tied to the outrigger then it might be necessary to cut all the gear free prior to righting the boat, although my test did not go so far as to investigate this hypothesis! If carrying gear did prove to be a real risk then it may be that mast head buoyancy would increase the likelihood of recovering from a capsize when cruising the Raptor with camping gear on board.

One advantage of the Raptor when compared to other sailing canoes I have sailed is that it copes particularly well in light winds, moving along in the lightest of airs, and being well suited to paddling and sailing at the same time if the winds are really light. I did not have the opportunity to try the Raptor in stronger winds, but I expect that it would provide a very exciting ride.

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