Speed vs. Length Tradeoffs, 16-18 feet..


Not trying to stir up anything here. Maybe some would like to post some discussion on this topic. You may have seen some of my previous posts that skirt this issue.

Bottom Line up Front: You can read the background below, but here are the questions I am getting at: 1. How much of a perceptible difference in speed will there be between a Valley Aquanaut, a Necky Chatham 18, and a QCC 700? 2. How much of a perceptible difference in speed will one of these longer boats have over my 16 foot fiberglass Dagger Meridian? 3. Are the differences in speed (given a strong paddler who is looking to maximize performance and not trying to compensate for weak paddling ability) enough to justify the tradeoffs associated with a longer boat?

Background/more detail? I currently have a 16 foot fiberglass Dagger Meridian. I like the boat. I am living in Monterey, CA and I find this a great day boat for rough days with lots of whitecaps. The boat is great in the rougher water.

I am in the Army though and will only be here another year or so. Afterwards I will probably not be near the ocean and will paddle flatwater. I am a pretty strong paddler and like to paddle fast for exercise and enjoyment. I paddle by myself usually so the desire for speed is not to compensate for lack of paddling ability / inability to keep up with a group. I just like to go fast and to paddle hard.

This being said, I am considering getting rid of the Meridian when I leave here and getting something longer and a bit faster. I like the British style boats (I use this term loosely) a lot because I really like the way that they handle—I find them to be graceful in the water which I think really adds to my enjoyment of paddling.

I am considering getting a Valley Aquanaut, or a Necky Chatham 18. I am also looking a bit at a QCC 700 since everyone really says that this boat is flat out fast. I am concerned though that I may not like its handling as much as I would doubt that it handles as gracefully as the British type designs.

I have seen some posts here recently that seem to suggest that the difference in speed (I know there are a lot more variables than just boat length itself) between a 16 and 18 foot boat is fairly negligible. I know there is a difference but I am not sure how much it will amount to and whether it will be noticeable. Since I am not planning on racing (or at least probably not) I am more concerned with differences in speed that can be felt. There may be a difference in speed between 2 boats that will add up over the long haul, but may be so slight that the paddler cannot perceive the difference unless he is watching the clock.

Given the information above, I wonder how much of a perceptible difference there will be among the boats I am considering getting, and how much of a difference they will make over my current 16 foot boat.

I like the convenience of the shorter boat. It is easier to store and to trasport. It is very maneuverable, and it is the cheapest option for me as by keeping it costs me nothing, while selling it and getting a different boat will obviously end up costing me a bit even if I get a good price for my boat and can find a good deal on another used boat.

What are your thoughts???



The only real answer lies with you. Owning multiple boats is the way to go. If you like your Dagger, keep it. With your new job, you could end up on or near the coast. But the best advice I can give you… lateral transfer to the Navy… bases right on the water.

Of all those boats…

– Last Updated: Jun-17-05 12:52 PM EST –

the QCC 700 will be the fastest, but you could throw an Epic 18 into the mix and between the QCC and the Epic it will be close.

PS, I should have also added that there will be a tremendous difference in speed between the 16 foot yaks and the above two

Only above 4 knots

– Last Updated: Jun-17-05 2:41 PM EST –

The drag difference among sea kayaks is only significant above 4 knots. At 4.5 knots there starts being a noticable difference in drag. By 5-6 knots the difference is significant.

I can feel how much more glide my Aquanuat has than my Elaho or a Romany or an Explorer.

Do you plan on spending lots of time paddling at or above 4.5 knots?

Speed or drag is only one factor in the performance of a kayak. Unless you are racing, it should not be the most important.

If you want flat out speed, on flat water, in a sea kayak, the Epic Endurance 18 is unbeatable.

If you like the feel of Brit style boats (your Meridian was inspired by the Romany), the fastest thus far tested by Sea Kayaker are: the Azul Sultan, Foster Legend, Valley Aquanaut, and Boreal Ellesmere.

Each of these boats feels and performs somewhat differently. Also, all but the Aquanaut are hard chined. Though even each of the hard chined boats feels different, with the Sultan and Legend being the closest to each other in feel.

A domestic Brit style boat that is fast and fun is the Chatham 18. Its hull profile maybe the closest to your Meridian, though significantly narrower.

Surf ski
Meridian is fun and playful. The longer boats will not be as playful, but will allow you to push beyond that 4 knot rhealm which is a real phenomenon. For those who really want to go fast they do need a longer hull. As stated many many times on this board these longer boats are only advantageous to those who can power them. Many cannot, and only fight the drag, windage etc. Sounds like you can, and to that I say go full on surf ski and lets get real. Valley’s, CH 18, Legends, blah blah are all great kayaks but only marginally faster than your Meridian. I’d go with the Epic 18 if I wanted a fast kayak that I could tour in. Otherwise look at surf skis. Now your talking some legit speed and fun. It’s short and way playful for me, or a surf ski. Anything between is a compromise. Neither very playful, nor really fast. Keep the Meridian and get a ski. You’ll be bored otherwise. My thinking…

Away that might compare for folks…
Remember when you got your first Mountain or Cyclocross Bike ? Single track was fun but became even more fun the better your skills got and fitness kept up.

The faster your boat lets you go the more fun you can have in the bumps… just one more pull… till the next set of runners…

Or… (do us all a favor)
You could be the guinea pig and order a Valley Rapier. Then you’d have to check in every so often with your impressions.

Another one already here.

– Last Updated: Jun-17-05 6:14 PM EST –


These boats are super fast, and well made in the good old USA.

Don't worry about the graphics, I can go up there and tell Keith to take it easy with the striping tape.

Keep the Meridian
if you can, and add the longer boat. You may find yourself missing having a boat that you can just go out and play around in if you have only the longer one, and if you have a well-laid up Meridian you could find it impossible to replace. The were one of Dagger’s absolutley best ideas ever - it’s a shame they pretty much abandoned them.

what they said
keep the meridian, hang it in a relatives rafters,but if you want fast then get fast. The Aquanaut and Chatham 18 are faster than the Meridian but like the Meridian are designed for bouncy water.

If your weight is in the range of under 180lbs then get a QCC600, You’ll enjoy the accelleration and ability to cruise at high speeds efficiently but still have a tossable kayak,if your horsepower is sufficient to utilize the fast boats then don’t bother with “sea kayaks” and get “fast kayaks”. West Side EFT for example.

if you want fast buy a fast boat
Keep the Meridian for bouncy water and touring.

If you are truly going to the land of flatwater you might want to try an ICF trainer like the SRS Laser or Kirton Tercel (D.A.M. Good Gear offers a US built copy at a reasonable price). I prefer the ICF boats (trainers and full on tippy racers) to sea kayaks and skis for fitness paddling on flatwater. The ergonomics of the seat, footboard/tiller, and narrow paddle entry point are better for technique. I can stuff a dry bag with a change of clothes and lunch behind the seat and paddle most of the day at a brisk pace. These boats are shorter and lighter than most “fast sea kayaks”. That and a used fiberglass one can be had cheap.

Still, a boat like the Q600, Q700, Epic Endurance, EFT, etc… is fun for fitness paddling and fast enough to keep most people happy. They are also versatile. I’ve used my Q600 in everything from cypress swamps to small craft advisory conditions for winds and seas on the Atlantic.

If you are going to a warm climate, a surfski is a good bet and useful in just about any condition that you can handle.

16’ fast kayaks
I think the average paddler who isn’t a high hp paddler will be better off with boats like the QCC600 and Epic 16 than going to the racing boats,it’s kind of silly to be paddling along at 4mph in a kayak that’s designed for 6mph paddling.

I’ve seen a lot of guys paddling “fast” boats too slowly. If one isn’t pushing a boat at or slightly above its hullspeed for extended periods a faster boat won’t help.

What is this 4 and 6mph stuff though?

Q600 is a 6-7mph boat. Epic 18 is a solid 7mph boat.

As for the OP and the perceptual difference between a 16’ and 18’ kayak…It is pretty small. My Q600 is 5minutes slower in 10km than my 21’ surfski. The Q600 might be 1-2minutes slower than an Epic 18 or Q700 ( a couple of tenths of mph).

Far From Being An Expert
Kayaks are displacement type boats. I have been sailing boats which are displacement type boats for ever and newer to paddling boat. The pricipals apply. The displacement, shape, length, and width will all contribute to a particular boats hull speed. A displacement type hull will travel up to it’s hull speed with much less effort, (applied work) as compared to above its hull speed. Making a displacement hull boat go faster than its hull speed takes significant additional work. The amount of additional work required to go beyond hull speed is far in excess to the relative increase in speed.


Add waves to the picture
and I think much of the theoretical stuff goes out the window for a long, skinny hull, especially with a following sea.

Meridian Alternatives

Name 2 knots 3 knots 4 knots 4.5 knots 5 knots 6 knots

Glider 1.03 2.07 3.78 4.82 6.38 10.85

Extreme 0.92 1.94 3.50 4.62 6.45 11.70

Epic 1.01 2.05 3.75 4.79 6.38 10.66

QCC 700 1.01 2.12 3.79 5.11 7.02

Meridian 0.90 1.89 3.59 5.39 8.69 15.58

Aquanaut 0.97 2.00 3.72 5.15 7.28 12.47

I couldn’t find any Necky Chatham 18 drag figures or the QCC 6 kt figure so they aren’t included in this summary.

board is getting better
Lately I’m seeing a trend on this board toward factual information Vs innaccurate nonsense common in the industry. I believe that many people end up in the wrong boat secondary to mis-informed sales people or friends. I’m happy to see this trend and think it will only help people, and perhaps drive some product design.

what about 6kts for the Q700
What about the drag at 6kts for the Q700?

QCC @ 6kts

– Last Updated: Jun-20-05 6:17 PM EST –

QCC never published that figure. My guess is that since it has a similar trend line to the Aquanaut it would be approximately the same as the Aquanaut at 6 kts.

The trend line for the Glider and the newer Epic Endurance are also approximately the same.

QCC Drag
Real world seat of the pants testing would put it right about at the Epic, maybe a tick or two more, slightly less than a Glider. What the numbers don’t reflect, assuming of course that they’re accurate, at least in reference to one another, is that even slight differences in drag can equate to significant advantages/differences in E/T over longer marathon distances. This assumes that the motor is exactly the same, which, of course, we know is unrealistic. If those figures were true for the QCC, everybody’d be paddling one. Something’s askew in the data collection there. I wish mine were that effortless; I could give a friendly wave to the T-Bolt racers as I glided on by…