Subject: Re: epic 18X
As a marathon canoeist I'm always looking for that extra edge. Winning is important and having the right equipment is essential to compete. After winning the 1,100 kms Sask.Canoe Quest and the 740 kms long distance Yukon River Quest with my team in 2008 by setting a new course record of 39 hrs and 32 mins, I wanted to go solo in a kayak. I had used different kayaks over the years, such as necky and current designs but I was looking for something with a sleeker design that was lighter, faster, and had excellent tracking ability. When I learned about the Epic 18X's resume of winning races and that it had more wins in the Yukon River Quest race solo class than any other kayak, I knew it would be my choice. The fact that I would have the ability to accelerate, and paddle faster than I ever have before for longer time periods made the choice to purchase an Epic 18X even easier. I received excellent customer service with tips from Mike Fekete on training programs and product support. All of my water sport equipment needs were readily available at Kayak Sport Canada. The service I received was superior and I recommend anyone to shop there first before going to any other sports shop.
Review of Sea Kayak - Epic 18X Sport
This review is based on my experience over three months since purchasing the Epic 18X Sport. I've paddled the boat on multiple day trips on the St. Lawrence River as well as a 4-day cruise on Georgian Bay. For background, I’m 57 years old with 40 years of whitewater kayaking with intermittent sea kayaking in the last 25 years. The Epic is my second sea kayak, the first being a Gulfstream by Current Designs. I’m 5’-9” and 150 pounds.
I love my Gulfstream and will never part with it. In seeking a second sea kayak, I was after something with a higher top end speed and with more storage volume. The Gulfstream is a wonderfully maneuverable, sea kindly and stable boat. It is also reasonably efficient and easily keeps up with conventional sea kayaks, but I wanted the potential to go even faster.
The format of this review generally follows that used by Sea Kayaker magazine.
Length overall 18'
Volume 14.48 cu. ft.
Cockpit size 34" x 16 .25"
Cockpit coaming height
Height of seat 0.63"
Weight 43 lb.
The 18X Sport has a radical look of a racing boat – plumb stem and stern and little rocker. With virtually no overhangs at the bow and stern, the waterline length is almost the full 18-foot length of the boat. The bow is deep and the bow deck arched. The stern deck is low and flat.
The boat has a clever rudder system where the rudder blade retracts out of sight into a turnable segment of the stern. The rudder blade is spring-loaded and is deployed by releasing a cord near the cockpit. Hinged pedals on the footboard cause both the stern segment and the extended rudder blade within it to turn. When the rudder blade is retracted by tensioning the pull cord, the stern segment is locked in the centred position. The retractable rudder leaves no exposed steering hardware that might be vulnerable to damage or that might impede cockpit re-entry from the stern deck. Rudder cables do not penetrate the hull.
The standard layup of the boat is very light - 43 pounds for an 18' boat, versus 51 pounds for my 16'10" Gulfstream. I really appreciate the difference when carrying the boat and loading onto or unloading from roof racks. The hull and deck are very stiff despite the light weight.
My hull and deck are both white, with black graphics. I don't believe coloured decks are available as an option in North America. The finish of the hull, inside and outside, is excellent.
The cockpit opening is long and easy to get into and out of. There are no thigh brace wings intruding into the cockpit; instead the deck is shaped and padded with foam to accept the knees just outside the coaming. There is sufficient space between the coaming edges to paddle with knees centred and free for better hip rotation when paddling.
The seat is molded fibreglass and the position can be adjusted fore and aft about 6 inches. Similarly, the footboard in the cockpit can be adjusted. These adjustments allow the boat balance to be trimmed and leg lengths to be accommodated to fit individual paddlers. The seat is quite comfortable, but I found (perhaps lacking sufficient natural padding) that my hipbones and my tailbone became tender from grinding against the seat from hip rotation when paddling with knees centred. I tucked a 1/4-inch thick pad of foam into the backside of my paddling shorts to give padding and solve the grinding problem.
Stability and Maneuverability
Afloat without cargo, the reduced stability of the 18X Sport in comparison to the Gulfstream is apparent. This is primarily because of the narrower waterline beam (just under 20 inches versus about 23 inches for the Gulfstream with a 250 pound load). The seat height relative to the waterline is slightly higher because of the reduced rocker in the 18X Sport. Consequently, the paddler centre of gravity is higher and this contributes to the sense of lower stability. The 18X Sport is less stable, but not uncomfortably so. The twitchiness would not be a concern for experienced paddlers. Secondary stability is good primarily because of the flared middle sections of the hull. Both primary and secondary stability are improved with the addition of cargo because the centre of gravity is lowered.
For a boat with such a long waterline, the 18X Sport is quite maneuverable. It responds quite acceptably to tilts and sweeps on the outside of the turn for minor course corrections. Unlike the Gulfstream, it will not initiate the turn on tilt alone; some help from the paddle is needed. On flatwater while running straight, a tilt/single sweep combination can achieve a 90-degree turn (with patience). In comparison, the Gulfstream can achieve a 180-degree turn on tilt alone (again with patience).
Tilting the boat by dropping one hip assists with turning. However, without cargo and being a lightweight paddler, I found that the boat responds acceptably well to sweep strokes alone to achieve a turn.
The rudder may also be used for turning, but the turning radius is much greater than for tilt/sweep turns. The rudder's greatest use may be to help stay on a wave when surfing or maintaining directional control while racing.
The 18X Sport tracks very well and exhibits very little yaw or tendency for weatherocking. It is easy to maintain a straight course and minor course corrections can be made almost subconsciously with a little tilt/sweep.
Moving in flatwater, the boat feels very “slippery”; low effort is required to achieve cruising speeds.
The boat slices effortlessly into modest waves with its sharp bow. It appears to pitch less in small waves than "conventional" kayaks that have more rocker and bow/stern overhang because of its greater waterline length. In effect, the hull bridges the trough between wave crests. But as waves get larger, bridging is not possible and pitching does occur. Charging into big waves at speed, there can be some pounding of the bow upon landing on the backside of the wave because of the rounded (as opposed to V’d) underside of the hull and the high volume at the bow. However, the 18X Sport doesn’t feel like it is slowed much by waves.
In flatwater the boat makes a very small bow wave that originates right at the front of the boat, not a foot or so back as is the case with boats with a bow overhang. The bow wave is only slightly larger when paddling at maximum speed.
I timed the two boats over the same 3.5 km course at full effort and found that the 18X Sport was about 12% faster than the Gulfstream - 10.6 km/hr versus 9.4 km/hr (5.7 knots versus 5.1 knots). Such a difference is quite significant. At lower levels of effort, the difference in speed between the two boats is likely to be smaller and perhaps not easily discernible. The 18X Sport meets my goal of having a faster second boat.
Because of its good speed, the 18X Sport can catch waves easily. Repeated stern sweeps with a bit of tilt can help to avoid a broach if the boat isn’t quite aligned with the wave. Use of the rudder to help align the boat when catching a wave or to stay on a wave is very handy.
Roll and Rescue
The 18X Sport rolls easily with my habitual C-to-C style roll.
Upon capsize, it is easy to exit the boat because of the large and unencumbered cockpit opening.
The inverted boat drains well when the bow is lifted. A "cowboy" re-entry to an emptied boat (without cargo) can be done successfully in flat water with care. In waves, some extra stabilizing of the boat would probably be necessary, either from a paddle float or another boater.
Toggled handles at the bow and stern facilitate grip on the boat in surf. Sturdy deck lines extend down each side of the bow and stern decks.
The 18X Sport has lots of storage space within the bow, day and stern compartments. Additional gear storage may be possible forward of the footboard, depending on the distance between the footboard and the bow bulkhead. There is sufficient storage space for expeditions.
The hatches are all composite (i.e., lightweight), sealed with rubber gaskets and secured by lever locks. The bow and stern hatches are large ovals that facilitate loading of bulky items. These hatches lift off but are tethered to prevent loss. The round day hatch opens and closes on a hinge and is secured with a single lever lock. This facilitates access to the day hatch when seated in the boat. I found no water in any of the storage compartments after touring in large waves or after rolling.
Bungee cords are provided in front of and behind the cockpit for convenient storage on the decks.
As experience is accumulated with the 18X Sport, appreciation of the boat grows. While perhaps a bit foreign at the outset, one gets used to the stability and the handling. The speed is very gratifying and the light weight is such a pleasure when lifting and carrying. The Epic 18X Sport makes a good boat for fitness training as well as for fast cruising.