The year following my entry into USCA kayak racing, I purchased a WSBS Thunderbolt kayak and made a beeline towards Unlimited Class kayak racing – and never turned back. My Thunderbolt – with a few mods, such as over-stern rudder, rudder pedal footplate, and a Bumfortable seat – was probably the best river racer I could have owned. The carbon/Kevlar weave construction makes these boats practically “bomb-proof”: you may scratch the hull, but I don’t think I’ve ever heard of any one who punctured or broke a WSBS boat. Not only was the boat tough, but it was fast and stable-for-class as well. It just had one glaring flaw: if you overturned, you ended up with a 21′ boat full of water. Have fun emptying it by the side of the river! After experiencing a few of those “water reduction” challenges, I went to racing surfskis. Also fast, surfskis have a huge advantage if you overturn: simply reenter the boat, open the bailer, and paddle away. Very little water enters the cockpits, what does enter is quickly evacuated, and the sit-on-top design makes reentry a breeze. I could reenter my boat in as little as 10 seconds or so. But surfskis also had one glaring flaw: whacking one into a rock could seriously impact your “feeling groovy” day, and lead to a crash-course in boat repair. What if someone were to combine the best attributes of both boats…
Well, someone has: Stellar has just introduced (to the USA – this layup was already being used in other places) their “Multi Sport” layup to their line of surfskis (and the S18R kayak as well). Kind of like the mullet (business in front, party in back), only in a good way: a rugged carbon/Kevlar weave hull on the bottom, just like the T-bolt, but all surfski on top. With this layup, you can bomb your way down those rugged, rock-and-log strewn rivers without worry, and should you opt to view the bottom during your journey, no problem – flip the boat over, open the bailer, and continue your course as if nothing happened. The river racer of my dreams!
Now to be fair, Stellar isn’t the only one who has done this; Think introduced a similar River Layup last year. But I believe the Stellar Multi Sport layup has some significant advantages: 1. Stellar M.S. layups are set up to interchange between under-stern and kick-up over-stern rudders. A kick-up rudder takes a lot of the stress out of running a rugged river, but if you opt to take your boat out on the ocean or a large lake, the under-stern gives you the control in big waves that you need. The Think layups have only the under-stern rudder (as far as I can tell). 2. Andersen bailer used in the Stellar M.S. layup can be retracted when not needed, keeping your cockpit dry in colder weather, the bottom clean and drag-free, and one less item to whack on a rock or log. When it is needed, it’s a very effective bailer than can rapidly suck the cockpit dry. The Think boats have a fixed bailer that adds drag and can get knocked off. 3. Rounded bows on the Stellar boats run over leaves and weeds without catching them; plumb bows, such as used on Think boats, seem to catch and hold all manner of debris, slowing the boat. 4. Stellar’s 3-point footplate is simply the best in the business.
Current pricing is about 10% over the Advantage layup, with weights comparable to the Advantage layup. The over-stern rudder is a little extra (all M.S. layups are setup for quick over-stern installation). As I write this I’ve been informed that Stellar has an SR and an S18S available now – the other boats have already been sold. More should be coming in future shipments, but let me know quickly if you would like a boat in this layup; there seems to be a substantial demand. Call or text Steve at River Bear Racing @ 260-452-6447.
Photos courtesy of Hansel Lucas, President of Performance Kayak, Inc. in West Newton, PA.