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Re: Paddle: Iqyax - Baidarka
In Response To: Re: Paddle: Iqyax - Baidarka ()

The current record holder in 200m sprint kayak has an average speed of 13.19 mph

My best GPS measure speed on flat water was 11 mph in my Mystery design. I'm not that fit, that speed doesn't last long.

My best GPS measured speed over distance was an average of 12 mph over a 1/4 mile in my 17' long Petrel surfing a wave about 10 inch tall.

My top GPS speed was 21 mph surfing a 5 foot wave.

I would rate my performance as typical of a strong sea kayaker.

In that context, 9mph is not very noteworthy. I am certain that there are traditional Aleut (iqyax/kayak/bidarka) designs (such as the MAE 593-76) which could handily exceed that speed with someone like Greg Barton paddling it or even me for that matter. And given a nice down wind run and a following sea they would move along at a good clip similar to a surf ski.

All good information.

The "Nova" program was from 1991 so perhaps the current sprint kayak record holder has had better nutrition and is stronger than Greg was 24 years ago.

I'm glad you provided information about your surfing speeds.

Anyone who surfs knows the first step is to catch the wave. The broad stern and scalloped stem of the iqyax is designed to catch waves. You feel a strong "push" from the wave top launching the iqyax down the wave face.

This is where the bifid bow comes into play along with the rockered keel sweeping up to the bow and the great volume carried far forward. The flared upper bow gives initial lift, the broad volume and flare of the forward hull quickly raises the bow and the sweeping rocker of the keel right up to the bow provides no "foot" to anchor the bow, so the surfer easily controls the boat angle on the wave with no broaching forces to contend with.

The fine bow stem of a Greenland based kayak will dive underwater and the deep foot of the stem planted the wave trough creates strong broaching forces which the padder has to muscle hard with a sweep to resist slowing forward speed.

The iqyax were "built for waves' in the words of Aleuts themselves. Not surprising. I've bookmarked the marine forecasts for the Aleutian Islands to find the average summer waves are 5' to 8' and winter waves average 12' to 15', and up to 50' waves.

The Aleuts claim they had "special and intimate knowledge" of the sea. This is to be expected, just as white water paddlers learn to read a river to select a path through that may seem like chaos to others, I have no doubt, the Aleuts could see paths through the waves we could not. My own white water skills have served me well over the years on the sea.

Certainly, the Aleuts knew how to surf a wave, and given the local conditions of consistent 5'+ waves they were probably surfing most of the time. So if Nick is hitting 21 mph surfing a 5' waves, the Aleuts were screaming, which explains historical accounts of Aleuts overtaking and passing European ships under full sail.

My understand the iqyax Aleut baidarka has on increased with the many years I've been paddling it. Designing and paddling my new Greenland design "Ootek" last year pointed up the differences more clearly.

Etienne recently sent me an email with his thoughts about his baidarka after a few years under his belt. With his kind permission.

On Mon, Oct 20, 2014 at 11:59 AM, Etienne Muller ‪ ‬ wrote:
Hi Rob,

Iv'e been updating my website a little and thought I would add some thoughts about the North Star to my review, since I have had it so long now,

The main body of the review is little changed, but I added the following. You have probably had similar thoughts and know these things already, but I thought you may find it interesting

All the best,



"Recent thoughts on the NORTH STAR: Some realizations as I have come to know the boat over the years...

The hull section of the North Star, fairly rounded as it is, is not really intended for carving dynamic leaning turns on wave faces as one might in a kayak with harder chines and a flatter bottom. Yet while not a play boat, in the sense that one wouldn't choose it as a default for the local tide race, it is a lovely boat downwind, and a bugger for other paddlers to keep up with when the waves are coming from behind, and I got to wondering why this is.

1) The amount of the bow out of the water in neutral and cross-wind conditions is actually a benefit, adding to maneuverability, and reducing drag at normal conversational cruising speeds. I am beginning to think that the entry point of the stem where it is (at a location where the hull is already taking on some flare) has advantages over the alternative of a fine entry and longer waterline in regard to speed and turning in neutral conditions at cruising speeds.

2) From the previous point one might assume that removing the extra length not in the water might be logical... Not so... Because as soon as one starts down-wave in following seas the extra bow length comes into effect. Logically, the most obvious benefit would at first seem to be the sudden increase in waterline as the boat picks up speed and dips down into the trough, thus theoretically increasing the boat's hull speed, and I am sure this probably has some minor advantage in staying with the wave... But the really noticeable advantage to that extra length of bow dipping into the water is that one's relative seating location effectively moves substantially rearward, and while this does not actually lea-cock the boat, it certainly seems to reduce the tendency to weather-cock and broach out... So while other paddlers are using turning braces to stay on track, and slowing themselves down, the NS just runs straight and free a little longer.

Of course this is all subjective impression, because I am obviously not hanging over the side and eyeballing this in action, but is certainly feels like this is what is happening, and may go some way to explaining why the boat feels so different downwind to every other boat I have used.

Having said that, a couple of years ago, after the raving of a friend with a skegged North Star, I retrofitted a foiled skeg to my North Star. Instead of being bloody nice off-wind, it is now bloody awesome."

Nick, you and I were white water paddling about the same time. I don't know what boats you were paddling but we had variety of boats to choose from in our local Appalachian Mountain Club so over the years from the early eights to the nineties boats changed from pointed low volume stems to bulbous high volume stems. The results were dramatic. You were no longer stopped by waves and holes but rode over them and played in them at will not by accident.

It is this experience which first drew me to pay attention to the Aleut baidarka and it's obvious similarity.

Is it arrogance to compare our skills learned over a few generations to the Aleut's single minded skills honed over millenniums?

In the years I white water paddled I watched the children of my paddling friends go from tearful children quivering in eddies, to hole hogs, showing off and showing up all of us. The fact that we could learn to play in dangerous waters in a few years and our children could leap frog over our skills makes me believe we have no yard stick to measure the Aleut's skills.

Should the Aleuts be honored that we compare our best modern race boats to their uncommon work boat?

I have paddled Greenland based designs and Aleut designs. I don't race, I've never been interested in racing. In any case, I find my baidarka handles small waves and wind conditions better than most Greenland based kayaks, and surfs on a dime. Greenland designs are fun too, just not so much in strong winds, and following seas without a skeg or rudder.

I would love to inspire a surf ski racer to test a Aleut iqyax baidarka. Harvey Schwartz, the owner of my first baidarka told me he passed surf skis on the down wind leg of the Essex River race during a gale. I believe the Aleuts were surfing most of the time and that a surf ski racer could do some things with a baidarka that haven't been seen in a long time.

I don't expect to change any closed minds, here's hoping there are a few open ones out there!

All the best,

I'm glad you are happy with your designs and I'm happy with mine.