Kayaking speed

I posted this on my local bb but no one had an answer or opinion.

After last week’s race, I just seriously don’t understand how Greg Barton and Joe Glickman could be faster in a single surf ski than 2 really fit, serious racers in a tandem ski. I just don’t get it. How much good form can one have? (I know, never enough, but I’m really curious).

Thanks for any insight.


Olympic Training is just that good…

I was at a seminar where Barton explain what they went thru. One part was that they had a boat on the course that would take blood samples and check the oxygen and other levels so they knew when they were paddling on the edge.

double vs single
I posted a question about the relative speed of doubles and singles on the yahoo surfski board, and got a number of good answers from very serious racers with double experience, as well as Al Bowers, a NASA engineer who knows more about hydrodynamics than you could imagine. In a nutshell:

  1. on flatwater, a racing K2 is actually only expected to be 10% faster than a K1. Surprising, perhaps, but those numbers are from the Olympics, etc.
  2. double skis are wider and heavier than single skis, and also don’t surf as well. there is some thought that a fast single may be faster than a double in surfing conditions. the double would expect to gain an advantage upwind.
  3. eric borgnes, who has done the molokai and won this year’s nationals, pointed out that in his experience, the average speed of a double tends to be influenced more by the average speed of the slower, rather than the faster paddler. so, the average speed isn’t additive, in his experience.
  4. mark and i are reasonably fit recreational racers. greg and glick are world class, and paddle a lot more than we do.
  5. patrick hemmens pointed out that time in the double together makes a difference. patrick and deanne, his wife (a world class paddler i should add) almost beat barton and another elite male last year in the double race at the Championships. Patrick thinks that’s because they have a lot of time in the double together. Mark and i had never paddled that boat (not that we would have won if we had).

    Does that help?


Thanks…I get it now
Especially #1, and #4 (you two didn’t look at all like rec racers).


Andrew summed it well

– Last Updated: Oct-16-06 11:50 AM EST –

His fifth point is worth emphasizing as well. The two must combine well (very subtle difference between being in perfect sinc and being just ever so slightly out of phase) and time in the boat is critical for this.

As for double vs. single speed potential. At marathon worlds, winning k1 was 2:32. Winning k2 pack (top k1 guys combined for k2) was in at around 2:22. Top k1s would have beaten the lower half of the k2 field.

Excellent example!!!
Of power vs drag, and a point that I and a few others make repeatedly on this board in an attempt to inform new paddlers about reality, vs “common beliefs”.

Sure a double has higher potential speed due to waterline, but the added drag requires a lot more power to realize that. In this case, Barton in a shorter boat was a better power to drag ratio than the two athletes in the longer boat, thus he netted a faster overall speed.

This is EXACTLY why small petite, non-powerful paddlers will go faster in a shorter boat with the same width, than a longer one. The science is equal opportunity. This is, I believe, the toughest concept for sea kayakers to grasp.

It’s all about matching the boat to the engine(s) to achieve the best compromise. Just as people intuitively do with paddles.

Put an overhanging upturned bow and stern on that double with some hard edged chines though, and watch out!! Just kidding…

This is an important point. As the other tandem in that race, the difference in beam was certainly felt at 29". Through the slow section in Spuyten Duyvil felt like paddling through molasses. Factor in stroke mechanics as well-kept smashing the wing blade on the forward deck due to the increased width of the boat. I knew I might be faster in my single, but opted for the added stability and companionship of the double (and I’m glad I did). Not to take anything away from Mark and Andrew-frankly, I was amazed (but not surprised) that two paddlers could hop in a boat they had never paddled in together, and set the pace they did through the conditions they did. ‘Rec paddlers’ is just Andrew being modest-‘accomplished, proficient, and fast paddlers’ would be more appropos.

BTW, I liked #3, and plan on copying/pasting this link and sending it to my partner with a rather wicked grin.