Raptor UK canoe sailing

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5 August 2012

after sailing. It typically takes me about 2 hours from arrival on-site to be ready to launch and the same time after beaching to be ready to leave with the Raptor safely loaded on the car. 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 weeklong 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 have done much of my Raptor 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 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, so that I have tended only to deploy the foil when wind speeds increase to levels where I am on the point of capsize and having to bear away so much that my VMG suffers.

The foil 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 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 again when unloaded and much less likely (although not impossible) to capsize when the sidecar is heavily loaded. The foil becomes more valuable (indeed indispensable) when carrying a passenger in breezy conditions, in order to prevent the ama from being submerged. I have had numerous enquiries asking if the foil could be removed, the sidecar made bigger and stability maintained by movement of the helmsman and/or passenger. To which I usually reply that the Raptor is designed to sail flat (or with the ama 'flying' slightly out of the water) and no hiking is required. This is one of the appeals of the craft and this ability is due to the presence of the foil. One Raptor owner has devised an ingenious water ballast system within his ama, which has allowed him to remove his foil, but only because he doesn't ever (nor does he plan to) carry a passenger or other heavy loads on his sidecar. The water ballast provides the additional down-force that was previously provided by the foil but cannot provide additional up-force when the sidecar is heavily loaded, to prevent the ama from submerging.

Apart from being a joy to sail, even in conditions that would keep most sailing canoes on the beach, the Raptor is also easy (if not a joy) to paddle, again, unlike many sailing canoes. No complicated J-strokes are required for directional stability, due to the presence of rudder pedals. The rudder cable routing was not ideal in the original Raptor and several owners (including myself) have made changes. The ability to paddle easily on either side of the hull helps distribute the workload to both arms and I have found that it is relatively easy to maintain paddling speeds of 3 knots over extended periods.

I've been able to compare the Raptor's performance with other outrigger and monohull sailing canoes and have found that it is superior in stronger wind conditions but less so in lighter winds, when using sail alone. Since I bought my Raptor primarily for expedition-type outings, the latter limitation is not an issue for me, as the Raptor is so easy to paddle-sail in lighter airs, in which case it can quickly leave other boats far behind. It is significantly more difficult to tack anti-clockwise than clockwise though.

Here's a short video posted on YouTube, which gives some idea of the Raptor's capabilities. Although it's a pity that Hydrovisions stopped selling the Raptor, hopefully JohnS will return with something even better in the near future.

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