Wednesday, 28 September 2011

The Hawkesbury: picking a paddle

I’m training for the Hawkesbury  Classic  again ( Eighth consecutive year, the second time I’ll be doing it in a single. On the last weekend I did a 40k return training run from Wiseman’s  to the far side of Last Pit Stop. I joined Raewyn, Neil, Mark Schroeder and Roger White

Ready to go, Rae's Flash in the BG. My Mirage in front, with Aleut on foredeck.

 Most of the other times I’ve done the race have been in a  Mirage 730 with Cathy, but this year she’s paddling with Rae and I’ll be striking out into the dark on my own again.

Mark Schroeder , the start of a pretty wet training run. 

When I last paddled a single(Mirage 580) I did 12h09m, and was pleased with that. This year I decided to try something different, to leave behind the competitive pursuit of the best possible time and instead take a leaf from Richard Barnes’ book and enjoy it by stretching it out, though I certainly don’t want to relive the 18 hour time our first Classic took.

This year, seeing I’ve been having a lot of fun with Greenland sticks and my trusty Greenland T , I thought I’d paddle it with a stick and  test out different boats. Been an interesting experience.

My options for boat were Greenland T or Mirage 580. Paddles: Novorca Greenland, Novorca Aleut, my own wooden Greenland, Werner  Corryvrecken or  a wing blade.  I’ve doen a series of test paddles now, though I haven’t included the wing blade or the  wooden stick: the wing blade isn’t a split blade and so it’s hard to carry at the same time as other paddles.

Rae in the Flash. Couldn't catch her once she got away from us. 

So for what it’s worth, here’s the results of several weeks of tests. I’ve done several 20k runs up Lane Cove, swapping  the Greenland, Aleut and Werner blades, a 26k run with Dee to Balmoral and the recent 40k Hawkesbury  run swapping Greenland and Aleut  paddles.

I expected the stick to be 10% or so slower than the Werner, but to my surprise when I checked this with frequent  swapping they were effectively too close to call: on the Lane Cove River in the Greenland T , I clocked between 8.5 and 9.3 km/h overall with both paddles, with variation from tide and wind.  I did find that paddling with the Corryvrecken was frustrating because of the huge resistance the blade presented when it hit the water, as opposed to the gradual build-up of resistance from the GP.  I just wanted to get back t o the GP and found I had to consciously  control my desire to change blades as soon as I  used it.  I also tried the Aleut and it seemed to be a little faster though it took a lot more control to stop it  fluttering and  developing turbulence.

On the trip to Balmoral ( about 22k) in the Greenland T I tried the Aleut for a longer period, trying to get it to behave. After a few K I found I could  eliminate the uncontrolled behaviour but because it’s such a big  thing it had a slower cadence. It did about 9 km/h averaged.


And finally on the Hawkesbury I used the Mirage with both  the Aleut and the GP. I Only paddled five km with the Aleut: I found the cadence slower than I liked and to my surprise it wasn’t  any faster over distance than the much smaller GP.  With the GP I averaged  9km/h despite  contrary tides, and strong winds. It got up to mid-10s with tide and wind and down to mid-8s without.  The Mirage is unquestionably faster than  the Greenland T, probably by about 1 to 1 ½ km/h.  I think over the distance the Mirage would be a much more comfortable  boat.

I had sore shoulders and the next day some tenderness in my left wrist, but on the basis of that trip I would be coming in at a shade under 12 hours. I haven’t managed to subsume the desire for a fast time, so that  would be just fine by me!