Composite Bell Wildfire vs Rx Wildfire.

How different is the handling of the compsite Bell Wildfire vs the royalex Bell Wildfire / Yellowstone solo. I have a royalex Wildfire.

In the following review, Cliff Jacobson seems think quite highly of the royalex Wildfire:


That’s a nice review by Jacobson. I notice, though, that he never says he likes the royalex version better, only that there are several areas where the royalex is equal.

The performance differences, as I understand it, are that the royalex version is less maneuverable but tracks better, due to having 1” less rocker in the stern. This was an intentional design change based on a marketing decision that the lower priced royalex version would attract less experienced canoers, who would appreciate the better tracking and presumably nor miss the slightly reduced handling.

The royalex also has slightly lower shoulders than the composite, and so presumably might ship a little more water in rough patches. This change was made to make it easier to extract the boat from the mold.

Somebody must have liked the dimenions of the royalex version, however, because when it was broken off from the Wildfire under the Yellowstone name, they added a composite version with the same dimensions.

I’ve not paddled either extensivly.

I did take a freestyle class in a borrowed Black Gold Wildfire and fell deeply in love. Near the end of the day I spent an hour in a Royalex Wildfire and fell asleep.

Well not quite asleep. But where I felt the composite boat was lively, responsive and exciting, the royalex boat was simply mundane, dull even.


Bell Whacking for the Umpteenth Time

– Last Updated: Feb-13-09 8:43 AM EST –

"Somebody must have liked the dimenions of the royalex version, however, because when it was broken off from the Wildfire under the Yellowstone name, they added a composite version with the same dimensions."

I understand that Bell lost the production rights to the original Wildfire design when CEWilson took those with him to Placid Boat Works. Please correct me if I am mistaken in this view. So, the factor may not have been whether or not someone liked the changed shape of the royalex version. And in my most biased opinion, to make a composite version from a royalex model boat seems to be way too bassackwards. Bell needs an entirely new design (not the Yellowstone pop out).


Those Royalex Wildfires, or whatever the hell you want to call them are really barges.

Would someone who has one that’s wood trimmed, and in “excellent” condition, please get in touch with me. I’ll help you get rid of that scow, and give you a couple of hundred bucks to boot. You can even laugh at me as I drive away, and then go get yourself a real canoe.

Matter of fact, if you have two of them; I’ll take both of them.


It’s an interesting reversal of the
general rule that a Royalex boat will turn easier than its composite equivalent. For example, my Royalex MR Guide will outmaneuver a Kevlar Guide because the ends of the Royalex version are sloped back, so the boat will pull out of the mold more easily. I remember a Paddler comparison test where they commented on how maneuverable the Royalex Spirit II was, compared to the composite version.

The Fingerpost

– Last Updated: Feb-13-09 9:39 AM EST –

The Bell WildFire was conceived as a hull that would turn like the Yost designed DragonFly in moving/mild white water without being as tender. [Dragonfly was a race boat; 28.5 wide w/ a round bottom. Fast and maneuverable, it intimidated most intermediate and many advanced paddlers.]

So Wild, code named "Bubba Bug" during development, was shorter, wider and had an elliptical bottom compared to DF's round one. Rocker was increased from 2", both stems to 2.5, both stems.

The project was a huge success, selling ~ 100 bottoms a year for a decade, but that stern rocker limited Wild's sales to advanced paddlers. Anyone carrying their blade aft of their body, or keeping their top hand inside the rail, or directing their forward stroke along the rail instead of parallel to the keel would/ will, see all four corners of the waterway.

Interestingly, WildFire and FlashFire were designed to shoulders of the paddler-size bell curve. Fifteen years later, Wild is at the center of the bell curve, and we need another boat to fit larger paddlers.

When we speced the RX version, we reduced the stern rocker from 2.5" to 1.5" to improve tracking, assuming that the lower price would attract entry level paddlers.

The stems got blunter because RX cannot be molded as tightly as composite materials. The shoulder got softer because the thing needed to come out of a vacuum forming mold. [Charlie Thompson made a multiple piece mold.]

So heeling a RX YellowStone to the rail doesn't lift the stems as high as can be done in a composite WildFire.

Many builders, when they decide to do a RX version of a hull make a heavy glass boat, fill the stems with stiff foam and start in with a belt sander to arrive at ~ 1" radiused stems as compared to 1/4" radius on the original. This is one of two reasons that RX hulls tend to be shorter than their composite precursors. RX shrinkage is the second.]

So yes, with a paddler aboard to pooch out the bottom, RX boats often turn faster than their composite version because they are usually shorter at waterline. Again, due to both skin friction and shorter waterline, RX hulls are usually slower than their composite versions and usually do not track as well.

Mr Yost does no such thing; he starts with a straight line down the center of a long piece of paper, but he still has to live with the blunt stems and softened contours endemic to the RX medium.

Excepting stern rocker, YellowStone approximates Wild's performance more closely than most RX variants do their composite versions.

Any thoughts
comparing the Yellowstone to the Wenonah Argosy? I am trying to decide between the 2 canoes.


Has anyone paddled both in the same day?
Other than Ciff Jacobson as described in his review?

I’m looking for actual paddling experiences of the two boats in the same day and same conditions by the same paddler.


– Last Updated: Feb-13-09 3:29 PM EST –

YellowStone has a longer waterline, so should be a little faster.

The S bend of the YS's shoulders is higher than Argosy's, so when heeled near the rails YS lifts its stems higher. YS will, thereby turn tighter.

Another factor about the shoulders is the YS gets progressively firmer when heel angle increases as more volume is forced into the pond. Argosy buries its bubble sooner, and once the bubble disappears into the lake less volume is presented as heel angle continues to increase and stability suffers.

Nothing is free. Argosy's lower shoulder/bubble improves hand clearance when sitting with a bent paddle. That, coupled with Argosy's Swede form hull give it the nod if you're going to sit and use a bent paddle. The symmetrical YS will respond better to a kneeling paddler with a straight stick.

Compsosite Wildfire vs RX Yellowstone is

– Last Updated: Feb-13-09 3:22 PM EST –

what I'm interested in, but thanks for the comparison of the Yellowstone Solo and Argosy.

I see, you were responding to Lbrown. Cool.

Much the same
The composite WF has higher, more pronounced shoulders. That coupled with more stern rocker makes is a much tighter turning boat than YS, especially in RX.

Same song w/ heeled stability.Once you’ve heeled past the shoulder less hull volume is presented and capsize in increasing possibility.

The composite Wild has much finer entry and is a little longer than the RX YS, so it’s faster.

The most salient difference is in tracking verse turning. WildFire responds well to vertical forward strokes that are short and isolated forward of the knee. It paddles both inside and offside circles quite easily, and is a joy to skid turn.

YS is designed for paddlers who may not have nearly perfect forward strokes. Reduced stern rocker improves tracking at the expense of maneuverability. If you mostly sit and use a bent paddle, get YS. If you demand the performance and control that comes with kneeling and the straight paddle, Wild may be your daisy, depending on paddler size.

But the main difference is in stern rocker.

You want a GT350 or a Mustang fastback?
The answer is fairly obvious for most. If the answer isn’t obvious, get the fastback.

I think you’ve gotten some excellent feedback and evaluations in this thread. Good luck with your decision.

Volume Whebn Heeled
Doesn’t the below-waterline volume remain constant at all angles? A boat only displaces a volume of water which has the same weight as the weight of the boat plus cargo. I think you mean to say that the contact area gets broader, while displaced volume remains the same.

Composite Wildfire more fun on moving
water, then. That would be my main expected use of a composite Wildfire, if I got one.

A Flashfire would be preferred, but I know where I could get a black gold Wildfire for about $900 and am not aware of any Flashfires available at that price.

I’ve had the royalex Wildfire for about three years and haven’t grown to love it yet. I’m thinking that I might prefer the composite Wildfire for the rivers.

I seem to be able to go turtle in the royalex Wildfire / Yellowstone Solo pretty easily, especially when sitting rather than kneeling.

Thanks for the info.

Yup I did

– Last Updated: Feb-13-09 5:48 PM EST –

Edited to add,
DOH! This is to Yanoer asking if anyone paddled both on the same day in similar conditions.

Did you read my post above?
Technically I did not find them all that different.
The blunt ends, skegged stern and a bit more flex in the RX hull probably account for my response.
But I judge boats by my gut. All the technical issues be damned. I want the boat that makes me grin.
I'd happily paddle the Rx Wildfire if that was what I had. It's a pretty good boat.
But I'd much rather paddle the composite Wildfire. That one got me all hot and bothered ;-)

Oh yeah I'm a bit bigger than you are, 5'9" and 190 lbs. If you find the Rx boat large you might want to hold out for a Flash.


Comparison of both Wildfires
I have a BG Wildfire and a Rx Wildfire. The Rx version had poor stability, both initial and secondary, until I put 2-inch longer thwarts in it. That gave it additional flare and a tad more rocker. It now handles nearly as well as the BG version (it also handles Class II+ whitewater nicely). It does track a bit better, but my paddling style is the same with both boats so I don’t notice that much. The BG is slightly faster, but also has more tendency to spin out if I miss a correction.