Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Hybrid Boat Testing

by Wayner

The Dagger Approach, LiquidLogic ReMix XP and Pyranha Fusion

When I started paddling a kayak, I had a lake boat, playboat, river runner, creek boat and racing boat. They were called a Perception Mirage. One boat did it all. Now with so many categories of boats and vast number of designs it’s often hard to imagine one boat doing it all. Four years ago, Pyranha produced the Master TG, a whitewater boat with a built in skeg that became a huge success in Great Britain but never caught on in the US. When Dagger released the Approach 2 years ago, it was an attempt to combine the relative speed and stability of a recreational kayak with the sporty feel of a whitewater boat. The concept and design was a huge success, so much so boat Liquid Logic and Pyranha launched similar boats for 2009.

Each of these boats features a built in, drop-down skeg for ease and speed on the lake. Lift the skeg into the hull and you have a formidable river runner, comfortable in Class II+ whitewater. Though many of us have enjoyed paddling these boats on Class IV-V runs, they are not really built for rivers that offer more than the occasional Class III rapid. However, with the hatch in the back and solid outfitting, I think we’ll be seeing several people doing expedition trips in both the ReMix XP and Fusion.

Although these boats are of the same character, the designs were fairly different in many ways including performance, outfitting, price and other factors. We wanted to assemble a diverse team to help sort through all of the features and determine the advantages and disadvantages of each design. There are smaller versions of the Dagger and Liquid Logic designs which would work well for smaller paddlers, but to keep the test fair we used only the 10-foot-long models.

We began testing the Hybrids on Fontana Lake.

The Approach offered the most spartan outfitting, with a large cockpit that made entry and exit easy on the paddlers but offered less control. For the novice paddler, especially someone that has the sense of feeling trapped in a closed cockpit boat, this was a real bonus. Some of our intermediate paddlers however, felt it lacked a fit that gave them the control they were used to. The Fusion offered high end whitewater outfitting that was very comfortable to most testers and offered a better sense of control than the Approach. Our biggest tester—at 6 feet tall and190 pounds—felt a little cramped in the boat. The ReMix won the comfortable outfitting award but felt like a “bathtub,” swallowing up some of the smaller testers (lucky for them the 9-foot version is available).

Confidence on the Lake
All of the boats inspired confidence on the lake offering a good combination of stability, tracking and maneuverability. Both the Approach and ReMix offered excellent primary and secondary stability, a welcome feature for novice paddlers. The Fusion is narrower than than the other two boats, yet it offered good all-around stability, even for the novices.

Going Straight
Most lake paddling is spent going straight ahead, so we wanted to see how each of our boats performed while paddling in a straight line, first with the skeg up and then with the skeg down.

With the skeg up, the ReMix was the overall favorite and easiest to paddle in a straight line. Some of our more-advanced whitewater boaters felt that the Fusion was easiest to control. One paddler commented on the weight of the ReMix and that it seemed more difficult to get up to speed.

With the skeg, down the favorite was the Fusion. All of the paddlers commented on how much faster the design was than the other boats and it was dubbed the “bullet” by the group.

Hands down, all of our testers felt that raising or lowering the skeg was most easily done with the ReMix’s lever action rather than the ropes and cleats of the other two boats. The lever action took some of the guesswork out of trying to determine whether the skeg was up or down.

After assessing the boats strengths and weaknesses on the lake, we decided to take them to a local class I-II section of the scenic Little Tennessee River to see how they performed on moving water.

Phase II: Fun on the Little Tennessee River

Downriver Action
We paddled downriver and enjoyed the confidence that these boats provided on the smaller rapids of the “Little T.” All of the boats were easy to control in Class I rapids and as well as the Class II rapid at the end of our trip.

On our way, we did a few ferries, eddy turns and peel-outs to see how the boats performed moving across the current. Lindsey, our most novice paddler preferred the ReMix on the lake, but her favorite boat on the river was the Approach, feeling that it was easier to maneuver. Lisa and I both enjoyed the Fusion the most on the river, probably because of its maneuverability and it paddled most similarly to whitewater kayaks.

Ben T. hits some wave action.

We managed to find a few waves to surf, and Ben even hit some spins in the Fusion. We felt that all of the boats were capable of surfing small waves on the river. We imagined they would also be fun surfing ocean waves! Overall, each of the boats performed well on the lake and river exhibiting a variety of performance characteristics. After our day of paddling and testing, it was time to ask the all important question…

Which boat would you buy?

Ben T. — ReMix XP
Ben W. — Fusion
Lindsey — ReMix XP
Lisa — Fusion
Wayner — Fusion

Another thing to consider is the weight of each boat, especially if you paddle alone. Below are manufacturer’s listed weight for each boat, from lightest to heaviest:
Dagger Approach — 37 pounds
Pyranha Fusion — 45 pounds
Liquid Logic Remix XP-10 — 49 pounds

Price is also a consideration for many paddlers. Here’s the retail price from least to most expensives. In general, they are more expensive than a recreational kayak but cheaper than a whitewater boat.
Dagger Approach — $749
Pyranha Fusion — $899
Liquid Logic Remix XP-10 — $979

Although each of us had our favorite on the lake and river, we thoroughly enjoyed paddling all of these boats. We're sure these boats won’t show up on the latest extreme kayaking videos (probably), but they all offer most paddlers many days of fun and confidence on the water.

Hybrid testers Lisa, Ben T. and Lindsey.

Thanks to our testers Lisa Watkins, Ben Thorpe, Lindsey Thorpe and Ben Wiggins (not pictured) that gave up a beautiful Sunday afternoon to help us put these boats through the rigorous testing process!

Each boat is available at NOC's online Outfitter's Store, NOC Direct:
Dagger Approach
Liquid Logid ReMix XP-10
Pyranha Fusion