Stability vs. Speed?

Fishing kayaks are the stablest as well as the slowest of all kayaks, but not all fishing kayaks are the same, and the W700 is the exception: It is the most stable kayak out there, and it is as fast as a good size day-touring kayak.

It is a well accepted notion among many paddlers and designers that a kayak can be either stable or fast, namely the more stable it is the slower it would be, and vice versa. This notion is the product of the world of mono-hulled boats, and it is true for this form of vessels, but it falls short of being applicable to multi-hulls such as typical catamarans and W kayaks, which are more stable than mono-hull boats of comparable size, while being faster too.

We’ve discussed these issues and similar ones many times in the past, because they are important. This time, we found an opportunity to demonstrate this principle in a video footage that Michael Chesloff shot of Ernie Balch testing the new W700 (see his review) –
Extreme Stability is shown by the fact that Ernie, a 65 year old big guy who weighs 300 lbs just steps into the W700 and paddles it standing up without any problem.
Exceptionally good Speed is shown through Glide, which is the ability of a kayak to keep going forward on flat water after its passenger stopped paddling. The distance the kayak covers from this point to the point where it stops is the result of the kayak’s initial speed and the resistance of the water to its passage.
Ernie is not a kayaking champion, and the speed he attains while paddling the W700 is normal for a Wavewalk kayak, that is better than what he would have attained in another fishing kayak, but what happens when he stops paddling is noteworthy, as the W700 keeps gliding over a very long distance, until it slows to a halt in a patch of thick aquatic vegetation:


Another beautiful thing that can be observed in this gliding footage is how well the W700 tracks without any intervention from the paddler, not even a rudder, which no one has ever installed on a Wavewalk kayak because these kayaks are unbeatable when it comes to another type of stability: Directional Stability, a.k.a. Tracking.

Interestingly, SOT fishing kayaks are sluggish, hard to paddle, and they can’t glide. The reason for this is not just that their hulls are extremely wide and therefore generate excessive drag, but there’s much  more, and the article The secrets of the SOT kayak’s underside explains it.

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