Fast Solo

In your opinion what is the fastest solo RX canoe out there?

Not concerned with any other parameters, such as stability or maneuverability, and not necessarily top speed, but more of the sustainable speed.


How much horsepower
do you have available to drive the hull? Its no good to have a long boat if you don’t have the horsepower to overcome skin friction…

Fast and Rx seem odd. Theoretical hull speed is 1.55 times the square root of length… I can’t think off hand of any solos in the 17 foot range in Royalex… most are under 15.

Dagger Sojourn
This boat is really fast and available in Royalite which is even lighter. I used mine to paddle up rivers with significant current and it never seemed to care.

Looking for the fastest RX solo is kinda like pursuing a floating anvil, but…

Speed is a function of waterline length. The Wenonah Rendezvous is the longest RX solo, but the extreme bow layout incorporated to extract it from a one piece mold shortens the waterline length. The NLS Bell RockStar at 15.5 and Swift’s Raven at 15.25 feature the longest waterlines. Sustainability/efficiency? Rockstar has the narrowest waterline width at 28, Raven is 29, Rendezvous is 29.25. Rockstar has differential rocker, which may give it the nod, but it’s no longer molded.

So there are the three I’d try if desiring the best flying pig. The Rendezvous and RockStar are Dave Kruger designs, the Raven comes from John Winters.

fastest flying pig lol…
The blunt bow on my Raven makes paddling that bathtub a real workout.

I lent it to someone on a trip down the Allagash. Within half an hour he was 15 minutes behind.

That old skin friction again. The Raven is a good dog hauler though

Yes I know, no RX boat will be able to do what my GRB XL will do, but sometimes RX is the material of choice.

I like the Rockstar, that looks like the winner. But can’t say I have ever seen one for sale, nor have ever even seen one.

Owned a Rendezvous, and can honestly say out of all the canoes I have ever owned, which has been more than a few, that was the only boat that I ever really disliked. I would have given it away.

No mention of the Wilderness? It’s 15’4" in length.

The Raven looks like it deserves a test paddle. Never seen one of them either.

I have a friend that has a Sojourn, maybe I need to get my GPS on that thing. He’s always lagging behind so I guess I never really thought of it as a fast boat, but it’s probably just his style of paddling.

Was sorta hoping there was a boat that I had overlooked in my quest to make pigs fly.

Wenonah Vagabond not a bad choice

– Last Updated: Mar-30-14 11:08 AM EST –

The Royalex Vagabond is half a foot shorter than the 14.5' shown in the catalog, so its hull speed will be lower than some of the other boats mentioned. It also has a substantial overhang above the waterline, so in practical terms is shorter still. That said, unless you are using a double-blade paddle, most people simply won't have the ability to reach hull speed in any of the boats mentioned, so something that's a little smaller could actually be faster over the long haul. The Vagabond is surpisingly fast, even if it is not all that exciting in terms of other types of canoeing abilities. For those "other canoeing abilities" I really dislike the long steady taper of this model, a shape that is typical of many Wenonahs, in that all of the boat except for just a few inches at the center is a steady, straight-line taper toward the ends (viewed from above, such boats look like an elongated diamond instead of being gently curving along the whole length like most other canoes), but this shape does seem to contribute to greater speed than you get with boats of the same length having more rounded curves (and fuller end profiles).

Just about every boat I thought of
has now been mentioned, with a couple of exceptions.

The Swift Raven, Wenonah Rendezvous and Vagabond, Bell Rockstar, and Dagger Sojourn all came to mind.

I too would give the nod to the Sojourn.

Another boat that moves along reasonably well IMO is the Bell Yellowstone Solo which may be easier to find than the much rarer Rockstar.

A boat that has not been mentioned and which I haven’t paddled but I have heard was/is pretty quick is the 15’ Royalex Penobscot that Old Town made for a few years.

Have Vagabond, had Sojourn
I have paddled both and they are both fast for royalex but the Sojourn is faster. I do Love the Vagabond though because it has a little better initial stability and turns better. Certainly if a friend paddling a Sojourn was lagging behind anything else made of royalex,…it was his paddling ability and not the boat that was the cause.

I’ll dismiss a few…

– Last Updated: Mar-30-14 11:35 AM EST –

Owned them, paddled them & I dismiss them:
OT Penobscot 15, Wenonah Rendezvous, Wenonah Vagabond, Bell Yellowstone Solo.

Paddled it & I dismiss it: Swift Raven.

With equally matched paddlers providing paddling power; the Dagger Sojourn (I own one) will leave all of those listed above in it's wake. Absolutely NO doubt whatsoever in my mind.

Can't address the Rockstar; never paddled one.


Theoretical hull speed

– Last Updated: Mar-30-14 12:17 PM EST –

The formula given for theoretical maximum hull speed should read:

Vmax = 1.34 * Sqrt[water line length]

However, this is only valid with length measured in feet and gives Vmax in knots. It is also not a particularly useful formula, and is considered obsolete.

The 1.34 coefficient corresponds to a Froude number of 04., and doesn't take into account a lot of shape variations that are extremely important in canoe and kayak performance.

1.54 (or 1.55) is for mph

– Last Updated: Mar-30-14 1:02 PM EST –

The formula Kim provided gives the hull speed in mph, which is a far more useful answer for most of us than knots. I wouldn't dream of pretending to understand this stuff the way you do, so I'm not trying to minimize any of the other stuff you mention here. However, I will say that with my double-ended rowboats, which are roughly similar in shape to canoes, I can supply far more rowing power than it takes to hit the maximum speed, and then that maximum speed is a virtual "wall" that I can't exceed. According to my GPS, the maximum speed I can hit is the same as the calculated hull speed (SQRT of waterline length x 1.54). Naturally, rowing provides a speed that "pulses" noticeably, but if I shorten my strokes and speed up the stroke rate accordingly to minimize that effect, the speed hovers mostly within about 0.1 mph of the calculated speed. If I just about kill myself with exertion, I can exceed that speed by a couple of tenths, but only for a few seconds, and the extra effort required is MANY times greater than what was needed just to get the previous tenth of a mph. Somebody a whole lot stronger than I could go even faster, but it's clear that the required effort goes up exponentially at this point, and that's the relevant point. Based on this experience, I'm confident that the hull-speed calculation is more than accurate enough for canoes, and for boats that are approximately shaped like canoes, even if specialists like you know how to analyze many additional details.

Also, for what it's worth, even though I can increase speed until I "hit the wall" when rowing, I can't even dream of doing that with a single-blade paddle. Perhaps a really good sit-and-switcher could get a solo canoe up to hull speed, but most of us surely can't.

Smaller boats for less
horsepowered paddlers is a design element to allow two soloists of different size to keep up with each other. This is why you often find two versions of basically the same design.

Shorter boats actually accelerate faster… which is a different kind of speed than cruising speed.

rbturtle’s P-Net review…
…of the Esquif Echo is interesting to read. Perhaps faster than chiming Bells of Wildfire and Yellowstone, but still short a foot-or-so of that fifteen-plus feet figure which Mr. Wilson points out as the to-now (and likely not-to-be-hereafter) maximum length in molded solo anvils.

As sad admission, perhaps, to my poor paddling prowess, I could never make myself feel as “fast,” per say, in a Yellowstone nor Wilderness nor Rendezvous (a boat, like yourself and many, which I had a hard time taking a liking to, though I do appreciate its abilities a bit more in Aramid) as I did in a sixteen-foot Penobscot. With my hit-n-switch efforts in a gear-laden hull the Nobby seemed to afford better sustained glide whilst not requiring as much considerations (by my weak mind and manner) with those matters of initials (“WTF? OMG!”) till seconds (2…1…0) till finalities in stabilities, as 18" rollers slapped in their clapotis from three directions across Assateague sand spits.

Heck, knowing we can’t always dance with the prettiest girl, sometimes it’s good to be with an anvil-like, big and stalwart pig, fox-trotting onward, even if she isn’t fly’n on an uprooted truffles budget.

Floating anvils?

Flying pigs?

Lake Tupper wears image

danced of mismolded jigs.

But there’s more here in fabric,

than just black-n-white gold,

and some hogsheads hold stories

where flash flood history’s rolled.

Fair enough …
… although that makes my point in a way - formulae aren’t of much use unless defined. I don’t think there is really a ‘wall’ at hull speed, in general, although I certainly believe your experience with the row boat is genuine. I’m guessing there are additional factors involved that make the drag increase so dramatic.

Fastest RX Solo
Think a bit outside the box…I would bet the Wenonah Solo Plus would be the fastest. It is 16.5’ long and only 31 3/4" wide at the water line with no rocker. The bonus is you could use it as a tandem also.

I own one, and while I love this canoe for down river paddling, I would never call it fast by any means.

It would be interesting to discuss…

– Last Updated: Mar-30-14 8:40 PM EST –

... with someone who knows this stuff well. I'm not sure if that's possible or practical, but that "wall" I talk about is the point where the stern starts to squat, and putting more effort into propulsion does more to make the stern of the boat squat deeper and the stern wave get bigger than it does to make the boat go faster. It "feels" like you are climbing a never-ending hill, and that extra effort accomplishes almost nothing except to make the stern wave bigger and shaped into a slightly steeper "V" (yes, the sharper shape of the "V" shows that the speed of the boat is faster, but there's only a very tiny speed increase before one simply doesn't have the strength to do more - it's a case of rapidly diminishing returns).

I'm quite certain that skinny boats designed primarily for speed go through this same process, but that the nature of "the wall" is much more forgiving, so that they can push farther beyond the natural speed of the boat's own waves with a proportionally smaller amount of increased propulsive power being required. I can't quantify that or define it in terms of any true principles, but based on what I see, I believe such a thing is happening. As an example of this, I've talked to g2d here a few times about rowing technique, and he's all for using racing-style equipment - sliding seats and very long oars mounted on outriggers. Some people put such a rig in the kind of rowboat that I have, but there's really not much point since a fixed-seat rower can already reach the point of extreme diminishing returns on energy expended with a basic fixed-seat setup, and cruising at an efficient speed that's a bit slower than the maximum is easy enough already. However, long, skinny racing boats surely benefit from the sliding-seat method of rowing, and I believe it's because the "speed limit" for such skinny boats is much "softer" and less restrictive, so substantial benefit can result from having a better method of applying propulsive effort.

Power boats of the usual pleasure-craft/fishing-boat style do something similar to what I've described above, and at apparent hull speed they do have the ability to go faster of course, but if the increase in power is applied slowly, one can watch how the stern squats more and more, to the point that an observer at some distance can watch the top of the stern actually become much lower than the water's surface (a "hole" forms behind the boat) and at that speed the wake is the biggest that such a boat can possibly make, so a lot of energy is being wasted. As the boat gets going a little faster still, the stern starts to rise as a little bit of planing action kicks in, and with more speed, the boat planes more and more. Looking out the back of my little 14-foot, 20-H.P fishing boat, I can see that there's quite a bit of overlap between the "squatting" phase and the planing phase as speed increases. At low planing speeds, there's still quite a "hole in the water" behind the boat with a very steep wave at its trailing edge, but as speed increases and planing becomes more pronounced, the hole gradually disappears, and so does the wave that follows it.

When paddling a canoe or rowing a similarly-shaped rowboat, the paddler/rower doesn't have the power to get very far into the "hole-building stage" at all, and that's the speed I'm calling "the wall", which happens to be the same as the calculated hull speed. As a paddler of long, skinny kayaks, I doubt that you have experienced such an abrupt limit to the speed you can reach, but I bet you notice at some point, as your speed increases, that the degree of required effort increases at an ever-faster rate.

Anyway, even if "hull speed" is an outdated concept, I'm guessing that for boats that are not highly sophisticated in terms of their high-speed efficiency, the principle upon which hull speed is based is a pretty good general concept, especially when power output is proportionally limited to the degree that it is for canoes and similar craft. Also on that note, I'd say there's a place for such non-sophisticated hulls and lack of sophistication isn't a bad thing at all. There really isn't much utilitarian use for hulls that are designed strictly for speed, and it's that kind of utilitarianism that canoes are made for.

Feel free to comment or criticize. Whether you choose to or not, that summarizes my perception of what's going on here.

Interesting discussion, thanks
I understand that boat speed is a relative question, greatly dependent on the paddlers input, or horsepower, as Kim put it. And the way in which the paddler applies said horsepower can also effect speed.

I also understand that the shape of the hull can play an important roll is speed also, that is why I was looking for real world input. Instead of just going of the spec sheets. I still think the Wilderness looks like it should be a fast boat looking at the spec sheet.

Comparing boats is always relative to what you are comparing it too. Yeah my wife’s Solo 14 is faster than my Solo 13, but that sure doesn’t make the Solo 14 a fast boat. On that note I will say that the Solo 14 isn’t a whole lot slower than my RX Wildfire. But it is wider and makes for less efficient paddling ergonomics. Oh wait that is one of the parameters I didn’t want to stray into.

But it is looking like the Sojourn is getting a small following.

Hull speed and the wall. I know exactly what you are talking about. You will quickly learn about diminishing returns when you paddle a 9’ WW canoe.

So, given the OP’s willingness to settle
for a good sustainable speed rather than top speed, the selection broadens, and can take into account hull variations that make the canoe more suitable for special environments.

For example, the Rendezvous isn’t a true ww canoe, but with a bit of rocker, it makes a good class 1-2 cruiser, even with some traveling gear.

The Solo Plus is a bit wide of the mark (31.5"?) but as long as one doesn’t push it in whitewater, the SP should make a nice sustainable speed load carrier.

Maximum flatwater speed can make for a boring design, except when collecting trophies.