Raptor UK canoe sailing

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5 August 2012

The Raptor 16 is a unique boat, which, with small improvements, can become an exceptional craft. In 2006 I was looking for a boat 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 seemed to meet these requirements. It is light enough to be 'portaged' (manually transported overland) for extended distances, given a couple of suitable carts. I also wanted a boat that I could store in my garage, suspended from the ceiling, so that my car could also be parked inside. Initially, I thought my choices would be limited to kayaks, possibly with a rudimentary sail added for downwind assistance (I didn't, at the time, know anything about sailing canoes). However, the Raptor, while weighing little more than a kayak, is a proper sailing vessel, 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.

Hydrovisions' design philosophy was to make a high-performance sailing craft that was light enough to allow it to be easily 'car-toppable' (carried on a roof rack). The Raptor was inspired by traditional Polynesian single outrigger sailing canoes, but using modern materials to keep the weight down. Some compromises had to be made to reduce weight, not only to ease handling out of the water but also to improve the power-to-weight ratio and hence on-water performance. I feel that some of these weight-reducing measures were worthwhile and some less so. The most important factor in making the Raptor easily car-toppable was to keep the weight of the main hull down to a manageable 40 - 50 lbs (I think Hydrovisions claimed the main hull weight was around 45 lbs / 20kg but I haven't weighed my own hull). I need to lift my Raptor above shoulder height to load it onto my car's roof-rack and the current main hull weight is close to the limit of what I can manage easily unassisted. So any weight-saving measures that Hydrovisions had to make to keep the main hull weight below 45 lbs or so have a real benefit in ease of handling.

The same emphasis on weight saving has less clear-cut advantages elsewhere, however. The ama (outrigger) is very light and would be no less easy to handle were it to be 5 or 10 lbs heavier, and this would mean that it could have been made much stronger, particularly the deck, which currently is eggshell thin and easily damaged (mine was damaged in shipment). Similarly, the two aluminium outrigger spars (iakos) could have been made using thicker walled tubing. This would have considerably increased their strength without increasing their weight excessively.

One 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). After three daggerboard failures, I gave up on the standard high-tech, lightweight (fibreglass) daggerboard and had a distinctly low-tech (wooden) one made for me by a local sailing canoe manufacturer. After numerous groundings on unexpected submerged rocks etc. over the past four years, I believe the low-tech solution has proved its worth. Although heavier, it is much more robust than the standard foil and able to withstand the abuse that an Expedition Raptor's daggerboard is subject to. So while the hydrodynamic benefits of the high-tech board might have been worthwhile in the racier Competition model, I believe the lower-tech solution is better for the Expedition's more rugged likely duties.

The numerous failures of the foil attachment bracket on the forward iako that I've suffered is testimony to the tremendous forces at play when the foil is deployed in breezy conditions, but again point to this area of the Raptor being under-engineered originally, probably to save a few ounces of weight. I would have preferred to pay slightly more for thicker walled tubing to have been used, with more substantial bracing and welding of flanges etc. in this critical area. Again, I don't believe that the weight 'penalty' would be a significant concern for most Raptor owners.

In my original review (written in summer 2009) I contended that the Raptor was really only a one-person boat, since at the time I had never carried a passenger and doubted that it would be very feasible. I have now carried a passenger on a couple of occasions (video) and have changed my opinion. With some slight modification the Raptor is perfectly capable of carrying a (small) passenger in comfort and safety (assuming a reasonably competent person is at the helm). Daggerboard and paddle can easily be passed across to the passenger when not required and handed back on request.


I still doubt, however, that multi-day expeditions, carrying both camping gear and passenger, would be very practical with the Raptor, as it would probably overload the boat and lead to either failure or dangerously reduced freeboard, or both. I say "probably" because I have yet to try this. The narrow hulls 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.

The Raptor's design requires a degree of assembly and disassembly that is not needed in monohull vessels. This takes time, as does loading all of the component parts onto and off the car before and

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