Tempest 165: Plastic vs Composite Speed

I’m looking for a fast expedition kayak but due to limited selection in my area the Tempest 165 has emerged as a candidate (very few high performance boats out there for smaller paddlers).

My question is, is there a noticeable difference in speed/efficiency between the plastic and fiberglass versions? The Frontenac Outfitters website compares the two boats and says “The (composite’s) rigid hull provides far greater efficiency and glide compared to the softer polyethylene models.”

I know speed & efficiency are not the same, but do the materials make that much of a noticeable difference? One dealer I talked to said the difference in speed was as little as 1-2%.

Is it possible in this case the Roto-molded Gen2 Polyethylene is just a softer plastic than some other poly boats or is the difference overstated?

The difference is small, and a model
with a physically small hull will be similarly stiff in poly or composite.

The weight difference would affect ease of paddling a bit, because the poly hull sits deeper and you have to re-accelerate the extra weight with each stroke. But honestly, as owner of both composite and poly kayaks, I think the main issue is weight during the portage to and from your car.

Tempest Pro & Poly 165
Based on ezwater; the glass Tempest @ 57# would be harder to manage and slightly slower than the poly Tempest @ 55#. Weights based from manufacturers specs

A more important question maybe

– Last Updated: Nov-04-14 4:10 PM EST –

the water-tightness of the hatches on the respective boats. I really liked the Tempest hull design. It's a very nice all-rounder, but I was never impressed the ability of the hatches on the poly Tempest to keep water out.

I have also seen older composite Tempest hatches perform very poorly. That's the main reason I parted with my 2004 Tempest 165 Pro. The primary hatches leaked and it was fairly easy to dislodge the large aft hatch when performing a deep water reentry.

At sometime in late 2006 WS upgraded the hatch system on the composite boats to KajakSport. They also moved their manufacturing facility around to at least three different locations.

If I choosing between them I would demo both and roll the heck out of them. The one that ended up dry compartments would be the winner.

As to the OP's original question I don't think you will find a huge difference in hull speed. I have two 17' sea kayaks. One poly and the other composite. They are similar, but not identical boats. The composite "feels" faster, but my gps tells me there is very little difference between the two, and that only comes into play when I paddle the boats at a speed north of 4 knots/hour.

I’m not believing the poly is lighter
than the glass, regardless of the website specs.

Can anyone independently verify this?

You can fix the composite tempest much faster.

Thanks for all the input
If performance isn’t really an issue, the price of the poly is probably the deciding factor.

Composite weighs more than the Poly

– Last Updated: Nov-04-14 7:48 PM EST –

I noticed this discrepancy too. Which is kinda strange.

Frontenac Outfitters sometimes lists specs even the manufacturer's don't have, in this case they listed the PRO (glass) as ~57 lbs, and the POLY as ~55 lbs. Yet in their descriptions they said the complete opposite, "The poly versions skeg & cable mechanism is of lesser quality. The craft weighs slightly more but costs far less!"

I can't imagine a different skeg system being accountable for that much additional weight.

catalog writers aren’t wonderfully
consistent about specs. I get a new laugh every time the Mad River catalog re-appears.

Start with normal variation in weight, throw in some careless measurement, add in cheap, heavy, versus light, quality fittings, and you could easily wipe out a bunch of pounds. I’ve noticed that smaller kayaks in poly or glass are often closer in weight than I expected.

Oh, and a poly kayak is not weighed down by gelcoat.

Must have remedied that problem
My buddy has the poly 165 and he doesn’t leak any water, and we roll/surf/etc, so it is being put to the test. It also uses the shitty foam bulkheads that you have to have in poly’s for flexibility, so if it can hold water there and at the coaming, the composite one will probably only be better. A. because kajak sport hatches are better than the WS ones and the composite bulkheads are solid and not flexible, held in by glue.

My Plastic Zephyr 155 was 52lb
My plastic Zephyr 155 was less than 55lb, closer to 50 than to 55. Measured, with seat and hatch covers. The Tempest 165 is a bit longer but also a bit slimmer, so I would not be surprised if it too weighs at around 55lb in reality.

I’ve handled a glass Zephyr 155 and it did not feel lighter than what I had in plastic (but I have not measured the composite so I don’t know for sure).

tempest 165 plastic vs glass
I had both for several years. what I found is that the poly is not as exact in the hull as the glass, though its close enough to feel the same normally. I do feel a difference a little in precision with the glass as far as edging, etc but not much. I dont feel a difference in speed. the newest rendition of rear hatch on the plastic does not leak on mine. I havent heard if it leaks for others.

probably not much
In terms of speed difference in materials, I agree with what the dealer said in a few percentage due to loss from the plastic flexing, but don’t have data to back it up. Maybe a few more if the plastic boat has been scratched up and now has little pieces of plastic hanging off. Overall, not a lot.

One of the challenges is what Landsharc said - even thigh they are the same model, they are not exactly the same hull shape. So direct comparisons are hard.

But I think this is all a red herring - the real issue should be boat choice. The 165 is not a fast boat. Actually, it and the other boats with similar designs (Chatham 16, Romany, etc.) are known to be slow but playful boats. If WS Tempest is the boat line of choice, look at the 170 for a faster boat.

I’ve paddled both the 165 and 170 several times and much prefer the 170. I also prefer a Chatham 17 to the Tempest 170, but if it was between the 165 or 170 I find the 170 a bit faster, more comfortable in the cockpit, and it still rolls and edges quite well.

Tempest 165 was plan E
No, you’re right, the Tempest is a compromise and neither version, glass nor plastic, would be called fast. Unfortunately, other choices like the Impex Force 3, Nigel Foster Silhouette, etc. are not available.

I’m 142 lbs, the Tempest 165 fits me like a glove and the seat is ridiculously comfortable. If I were to get it I wanted to make sure the poly wasn’t a further compromise in performance.

My current kayak offers little chance for skills progression (it’s too big) and I just don’t want to spend another season waiting for that perfect boat to appear.

Not bad
It really isn’t bad. When I paddle the 165 it’s the plastic version. A friend has a kevlar version (no longer available) and she says it’s her favorite boat. I just found the cockpit uncomfortable, but I have very long legs and am a bit larger than you. If you find the boat comfortable, it’s not a bad one. I wouldn’t think of it as “fast” but it’s one of the better all-around boats that I’ve paddled.

this question always makes me wonder

– Last Updated: Nov-06-14 9:13 AM EST –

Yes, I know, in laboratory conditions...but we're not talking about those, are we?

I wonder how much of this difference in speed is perceived incorrectly because of the difference in materials. The tactile differences, the thicker profile of a poly boat, the shiny finish of composite. Heck, "plastic" starts out in a deficit simply because of the connotations of "plastic".

Silhouette in classifieds here
If you look under classifieds for Ontario, there is a Silhouette listed for sale. I don’t know how close you are to one another in Ontario. But in case you hadn’t noticed it, and since you mentioned the Silhouette, there may be a good test paddle opportunity - and purchase opportunity for you there.

So what IS your present kayak?
The 165 isn’t a go-fast boat but it’s not slow, either. Depending on what boat you already use, it might be fast by comparison.

Really, you said the thing that matters most, aside from seaworthiness:

“The 165 fits me like a glove and the seat is ridiculously comfortable.” If you’re comfortable and fit well (which your 142 lbs does), you’ll spend more time paddling, which makes it more likely you’ll progress.

I used to own a roto 165 and thought it was a great kayak. Eventually I got a narrower and slightly longer kayak, but plastic vs. glass was not the deciding factor. All the standard layups and plastic are pretty heavy and not worth fussing over if the boat is otherwise suitable.

Walden Silhouette
I’ve seen that ad. Unless I’m mistaken, it looks like a Walden Silhouette. There was a newer and much less expensive Seaward Silhouette (but still +10 years old) with Greenland paddle listed earlier this summer that was 5 hours away from me. Unfortunately, I hadn’t made up my mind on getting a new boat.