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July 2009

After our sail together on Friday, an OCSG member commented on how slender the Raptor's hull is. I find the hull width of most other sailing canoes in the group equally remarkable, the difference is extreme. One result of the different design philosophies became apparent after a longish sail to the southern end of Ullswater and back on Saturday (leaving at 10:05 am and arriving back at the yacht club at 3:30 pm). My knees were very stiff after spending all day on my Raptor, since leg position doesn't change much on the Raptor.

I found that I needed to stretch my legs out and lay them on the tops of the rudder pedals on occasion to relieve my aching knees. I used to suffer the same discomfort when riding my (motor) bike for extended periods. By contrast, another OSCG member said he had muscle aches all over his body after sailing, due to having to move around so much in his boat while sailing, so it's an interesting contrast in 'rider' comfort. Generally I find the Raptor very comfortable and especially like the backrest.

While paddling along the south side of the lake near Sandwick on Saturday morning (when there was little wind), I spotted a deer close to the lake. She didn't see me until I was only about 30m away since I was downwind of her but she then stared fixedly at the strange craft approaching and gave a bark of alarm before running to the back of the enclosure. I could see that she was trapped within an area bounded by (gated) walls on either side that extended into the lake, a wire fence to the south and the lake to the north. She must have either swam around the side walls or jumped over them or the fence. I beached my Raptor and, avoiding eye contact and moving as quietly as I could, opened the west side gate and then moved along the lake shore towards the eastern end of the enclosure. The deer had run to the east as I opened the gate but now ran west to avoid me and, finding the gate now open, bolted to freedom. It felt good to see her go.

During the races that were held on Sunday, the wind was light (especially in the morning) but occasionally strong enough to lift my ama when beating on a starboard tack, so I deployed the foil for short periods. It was very noticeable that when the foil was deployed I couldn't gain any ground on the boats in front and indeed was being caught by boats behind (Shearwaters). Once I stowed the foil and started flying the ama, the increase in my speed was marked and I was able to overtake the boat in front. This was a clear demonstration of the additional drag caused by the foil, which should probably only be deployed in strong winds, unless a relaxing sail is more important that speed. Although it may not be possible to point into the wind quite so well when flying the ama, the increased speed means that Velocity Made Good is better without the foil in lighter wind conditions. I became becalmed on the first lap of the morning race so it took me 61 minutes to complete, while the (shorter) second lap took only 40 minutes. The single-lap shorter course took me only 34 minutes in the 'reverse-order' afternoon race, as the wind had increased in strength (an advantage for the Raptor). I did poorly in the morning race but better in the afternoon.

DaveS at Solway Dory hadn't started making GeorgeF's new daggerboards when I collected my hull (he said he'd make them this week), but he had checked the dimensions of the slot for the daggerboard through the main hull and said he'd found that the hole in the deck and the hole in the bottom of the hull were slightly out of alignment on my Raptor. This means that my daggerboard is not perfectly vertical when in position. If this is so, it is likely to also be the case with every other Raptor, since the decks and hulls are made from a mould. I left my original (broken) daggerboard with Dave so that he could use it as a template for George's boards. He lost the bottom section of his daggerboard when it snapped in two while sailing, making it difficult for him to have a craftsman in Hawaii carve a new board. Solway Dory charged me GBP 50 for the work they'd done.

While at Ullswater a friend asked me if I would buy the Raptor if I'd know before what I know now and my answer was an unqualified "yes", as it has given me a lot of pleasure over the years. In fact I am enjoying sailing it more and more as time goes on, as my skills improve and as I make slight changes to the original Hydrovisions design. It may not be possible for anyone to build a perfect boat at the first attempt but I hope Hydrovisions continue to develop the Raptor, and listen to customer feedback. Time will tell.

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