Raptor UK canoe sailing

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July 2009

The Raptor 16 is a unique boat, which, with small improvements, can become an exceptional craft. In 2006 I was looking for a craft that I could easily handle by myself, so that I was not reliant on anyone else's assistance when loading onto/unloading from the car, launching/recovering or sailing, and the Raptor met these requirements. It is light enough to be 'portaged' (transported by hand) over extended distances. I also wanted a boat that I could store in my garage, suspended from the ceiling so that my car could enter as well. Initially, I thought my choices would be limited to kayaks, possibly with a rudimentary sail added for downwind assistance. However the Raptor 16, while weighing little more than a kayak, is a proper sailing boat, which is able to point well into even strong winds. The outrigger also gives it far superior stability in rough water, making it a much safer (and faster) touring option in my opinion.

I believe that Hydrovisions' design philosophy was to make a boat light enough to achieve these objectives and to allow it to be 'car toppable' (carried on a roof rack). This inevitably involved some compromises. Firstly, it is really only a one-person boat. Although Hydrovisions claim a lightweight passenger can be carried on the sidecar, this would be uncomfortable for anything other than a short ride* and would prevent anything being stowed on the sidecar (such as paddle or dagger-

board*) [*but see this video]. The narrow hulls also limit the Raptor's load-carrying capacity. I have been able to carry camping gear and enough supplies for a one week trip away from civilisation, but this resulted in a significantly reduced freeboard and an occasionally flooded cockpit. However, as long as the hatches are sealed correctly, this should pose little danger and the watertight hulls give Raptor owners a great deal of peace-of-mind in rough seas, compared to an open boat, where frequent bailing may be required to prevent swamping.

Another consequence of Hydrovisions' goal of maximising weight-saving was that one or two components were not (originally) strong enough (most notably the daggerboard, but also the foil bracket). Finally, their design requires a degree of assembly and disassembly that is not needed in monohull vessels. This takes time, as does loading onto and off the car before and after sailing. This means (for me) that it is not really a 'day sailing' boat; it is just too much hassle for a single day out. I prefer weekend or week-long trips, which allow me to sail over several days and only assemble and disassemble my Raptor once. Other Raptor-owners have come up with different ways around this problem. One leaves his Raptor assembled with the mast down and transports it on a custom-build trailer; another leaves his Raptor assembled near the beach at his sailing club. Neither of these two solutions was an acceptable option for me.

There has been much debate on the benefits and disadvantages of multi-hull vs. monuhull sailing canoes within the OCSG, with whom I do most of my sailing. There is no doubt that for maximum stability twin outriggers would be preferable to the Raptor's single outrigger. However, an additional outrigger would increase the beam, weight and assembly time of the Raptor, as well as impeding easy access into the cockpit and complicate coming alongside buoys, jetties etc. Hydrovisions' solution was to install a foil on the forward outrigger arm ("iako"). This does indeed reduce the tendency for the ama to lift when on a starboard tack, but it also adds considerably to the drag. It does not eliminate the risk of capsize to the port in gusty conditions. The fact is that the Raptor (and I would guess all single-outrigger boats) remains inherently "tippy" with the outrigger on the windward side and the main sheet should always be in your hand ready to slip, even with the foil deployed. The chances of a capsize are still fairly high in gusty conditions, particularly early in the

sailing season when one's reactions are less sharp after a winter's inactivity. It is relatively simple to right when unloaded and much less likely (although not impossible) to capsize when the sidecar is heavily loaded.

Although it is sad that Hydrovisions have stopped selling the Raptor, hopefully JohnS will return with something even better in the near future.

On the right is a video posted on YouTube, which gives an idea of the capability of the Raptor 16. Unlike the videos posted on this site, QuickTime does not have to be installed on your computer in order to view it.

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