Racing Question

I’m paddling along with my buddies and one takes off. He’s trying to beat me to the bridge. I get right in behind and keep my bow a few inches from his stern. At about 100 yards to go, I swing out to the left and start to pass. When I do this the boat starts to weathercock to the left… much more than when I was ‘drafting’. I was in a skegged boat, so I stopped paddling and slid the skeg half way down. I lost some strokes and had to get back behind him.

Any ideas why the boat wanted to veer off like that? Vortices from his paddles? Maybe the water got shallower?

I didn’t notice any change in the wind speed.

Are situations like this the reason racers prefer rudders?


I suspect that you began to surf his wake off to the side, once you got off his stern wave. Shallow water shouldn’t have made you pull to the left.

Pretty much all serious racing boats have rudders, and none have skegs. There’s your answer. Skegs aren’t really designed for the sort of situation you described, where you need a quick correction.

My suggestion in that situation would have been to throw a few powerful sweep strokes on that side and to edge the boat, trying to maintain as much speed as possible.


Sounds Like
you picked up his true wake. Drafting directly behind gives you a little break, but the place you want to be is in the ‘sweet spot’ of the ‘v’ shaped wake to the side,approximately your bow to his waist, to take full advantage of his effort. Having a rudder definitely makes it easier to enact the small corrections necessary to stay on his wake. Otherwise you have to edge, or as you did, drop the skeg, both of which interrupt your stroke cadence significantly. It’s similar and different to drafting on the bikes. On bicycles the best window is directly behind, taking advantage of the hole the lead rider punches through the air. As a road cyclist you know when coming around in a sprint, never accelerate into undisturbed air-you slingshot. In the kayak, you’re truly riding a wake, the speeds are generally so slow that any true aerodynamic advantage is neglible, and coming around happens sooooo slowly. On a bike too, as you know, echelon formation can give you a break from wind coming at angles to the riders. I imagine this situation would be similar in kayaks, although if the wind were that strong, I don’t know how much close wake riding you’d be doing; I envision there would be a fair amount of fetch or chop to make it interesting. Never really diced with anyone wake riding when the winds were that strong.

I had real problems with starts without a rudder because I spent half my energy trying to seperate from my neighbor enough to get full strokes on both sides. Maybe it’s my imagination, but it seemed I was being sucked into them when broadside.

hard to do
Hard to control a rudderless boat on wash. I beat a couple of surfskis once using a rudderless Q600 by sitting on the diamond for most of the race but it was really hard to stay there and one of them called me names. I was edging constantly. I don’t know that I’ve ever ridden wake off to the side for any significant length of time in a rudderless boat. Climbing over the wave from behind the bow gets deflected out to the side. Then once you get over the wave the bow will try to suck right into the side of their boat. You can use that to advantage by letting your boat drift out a little while going over the wave. Then you accellerate while your boat sucks back toward theirs after cresting the wave. Might be tough to do in a rudderless boat.

As for riding directly behind, there is a little wave back there with a crest at the stern of the lead boat and the next crest a boat length back (assuming they’re at or above “hullspeed”). Sitting directly behind gets a boost from this but it isn’t as good as sitting on the stearn quarter.

You might also try keeping the power on
while leaning back just a bit to let the wake go Let the boat just out of it then sort of ‘hunt it down’ 'till you are off to side a little more… and just run with the full skeg if right ‘racing’ next to folks. rudder is truly superior here in teres of keeping directional control while staying on power.

A Thought
Lots of things discussed could have had an affect. There was a thread a couple of months ago that talked about skegs and how they worked. There was a link for more information, According to this information you would get the same type of affect by leaning forward or back, (as Patrick pointed out). My point, you may have shifted your body forward when prepping to pass your buddy and changed the CG of your boat and caused it to weather cock.

Happy Paddling,


It’s pretty hard to climb over a wake when two boats are really moving at the same speed. A rudder would be the way to go. I once raced with guy in a downriver kayak class (no rudders allowed) it took 30 mins to catch him. I got on his stern wake, rested & tried 3x to pass him, but couldn’t break his side wake & lost by less than a second. It’s very difficult to ride wakes without a rudder. Good luck!

rudders rule
Preferably tiller. My seda glider has tiller. A stick between your feet that you flic with your foot and maintain solid foot control to rotate. Drafting is called grab and ride, especially upstream against the wind you just rest but you make enemies if you do not take your turn at the front. Racing is about making friends not enemies. At drafting is illegal. Too bad because it would be grand to be sucked along by an oc8-hawaian outrigger. Skeg would be good in ocean race with no drafting allowed.

You were probably hitting his bow
wake after you got over his stern one.

Not only that but you had a nice easy go of it while you were riding his stern one.

A rudder is a must and eliminates any wasted body maneuvers or skeg adjustments, so you can concentrate on simply power paddling.

Hey on another note; I don’t know if anyone wrote about Canunut’s custom built rudder in the Bogy and Bacall race, but you being a cyclist would have loved it. He used a Shimano derailleur and lever with a cable and made up a rig so that the rudder could be kept in the vertical down position, but could be raised or lowered to any level depending on the wave and water conditions.



Custom Rudder
deployment. Excellent that Steve worked it out; was curious if he was able to find the Campy Nuovo Record derailleur he was looking for. Little bit of Italian style hanging off the stern…molto bene.