Wenonah Sundowner question

I’m an adventure racer in the Atlanta area and this is cut and pasted from an AR message board hence the names may not be familiar. Since this original post this morning I’ve gone to another paddling shop, not the one I purchased the boat from but I have done business w/ them in the past and they also see the problem described below and are sending emailed photos on my behalf.

Okay I’ve had my Wenonah Sundowner since October 2007 and from day 1 it has always pulled to the right. I only race in this boat and train in my Discovery thinking training in a sled will make me faster on race day. I store it upside down on saw horses under my deck out of the sun.

So I’ve raced in it 6 times and it always pulls right so I went back into the outside world back in August after putting out CP’s for MRAR to let them know and was told it was no big deal Wenonah is great with the warranty of their boats to just paddle it again to make sure it is actually pulling. Well I didn’t paddle it again until Sandman last month and it was still pulling so I took it in and the manager Patrick immediatly notices a “bow” or something strange in the front of the boat and the direction of the “bow” or misformation would sure enough direct it to pull to the right.

Soooo they get the wenonah rep Tom Foote involved after wenonah is unable to see the problem via pictures, he comes down and he cannot see anything wrong they paddle the boat and cannot feel it pulling right and b/c of this wenonah has said this is not a warranty issue.

Okay so I want a further explaination so I send an email to Tom Foote on Monday and he has not sent a reply to this point. I wanted another opinion so I met Paul Cox down at the hooch last night and I have not told him anything about the issues other than I’ve had some I did not tell him about the “bow” okay. So w/ the boat still on top of my truck I ask him to take a look at it and the 1st thing he says is that the sun is reflecting wierd on it but then upon closer look realizes that it is not the sun but the “bow” and it is obvious to him as it is to anyone who looks at it. We get in the boat and paddle it and he notices the pull as well, hopefully he is lurking and can add further comment.

Long winded my apologies but my question is what should my next step be?

Not sure this is helpful, but in a
recent discussion of asymmetrical versus symmetrical boats, I joked that the main thing was to look for, not fore/aft symmetry, but right/left symmetry. Well-known canoe and kayak designer Jon Winters commented that I would be surprised how often boat molds did NOT have right/left symmetry.

I’m somewhat surprised that you are solo adventure racing in a tandem canoe. If that is so, the boat is likely to be sitting so light on the water that the sort of front cheek distortion seen by some of those inspecting the boat might not be affecting tracking as much as appears. You may also need to inspect the linearity of the entire bottom of the boat.


– Last Updated: Feb-27-09 6:16 PM EST –

Thanks for the comment, I race w/ 3 people in the boat, Wenonah installed a 3rd seat and foot braces as well. I have pictures if interested. Although it is tough to see in the pictures but you can see it.

All three are paddling?
What is the total load in pounds in the boat?

More Data
Which Sundowner is this, 16’6", 17’, or 18’? and what is the hull layup? The Sundowner series was in production for many years in every composite layup that Wenonah offered and since the move to the “racing catalog” is now only shown as Royalex. It would be very helpful to know the hull layup and whether the trim was aluminum or vinyl or wood. Hanging the 3rd seat can affect the gunwales, as can a poor trim attachment job in the bow.


17’ and the way I understand it there are 2 options in royalex, straight royalex and 2 layers of royalex with a foam core between the 2 layers. I had conversations w/ Wenonah about this and b/c I was racing w/ 3 people they reccomended the straight royalex which this is b/c the foam while reduciung weight makes the skin more fragile.

The trim is vinyl and all extras were installed by wenonah and I talked with them extensively about my use of the boat which is only for racing I do no training in the boat, The sundowner is known as one of the 2 best royalex boats for AR with the other being the old town penobscot.

The total weight in the boat is around 500-515# keep in mind that many teams in AR paddle this boat and do not experience this problem and I myself have paddled other sundowners and have not experienced this before.

Wenonah Royalex Models
I see you mention the other popular royalex canoe is the Old Town Penobscot. I have owned both and initially Wenonahs description of the Sundowner convinced me to buy it. Don’t get me wrong, I really like some Wenonah models, but I don’t think they have a good Royalex layup. Their Royalex has more flex than most, and dents much easier than an Old Town. After being disappointed in our Royalex Sundowner we purchase an Old Town Penobscot and love it. It has a much better Royalex layup with noticeably less flex to the hull and just a better overall quality. I feel sometimes Wenonah sacrifices quality or thickness of material to save weight causing bad hull flex. You might want to try a Penobscot sometime if a friend has one, might find you like it better. We did for our down river races where royalex was required.

Sorry to hear about your issue not being resolved. We have not had any problems with our Wenonahs, but I believe your issue can happen. I have had high end carbon racing canoes built for me and had to have them modified because of hull dimension issues. You think if all canoes of that model came out of the same mold they would all be the same, but they are not.

Good luck.

Ok, now we know its royalex, vinyl trim. Now we need to determine if the hull is warped or deformed.

Composite hulls rarely suffer either, but royalex being the thermoplastic that it is, can do both.

Does the hull oil-can when paddled?

If you put this canoe squarely on level sawhorses does it rest evenly at the four contact points? And by level sawhorses, I mean a pair that have their tops dead level, not even a quarter bubble off level.

If you paddle the canoe straight at cruising speed and stop paddling, does it glide straight? If it turns, how many degrees will it veer right before it stops gliding?

To track straight, the keel line must be straight, and there must be symmetry left and right of the keel line. At paddling load you have a displacement water level and the hull shape at and below this line is the important thing. To make a noticable pull, the keel must be warped out of alignment, or the hull has a deformation that is causing more drag on the side it pulls towards.

Some more questions. How do you measure and set your trim? Do you adjust trim to be level? Fore and Aft, side to side?

Since you train in a Discovery and race in the Sundowner,if the team sits in the same order, there could be a trim issue that affects tracking. The Discovery is much fatter in the bow, and a team that trims level in the Discovery might not in the Sundowner.

You mentioned paddling other Sundowners and not having a pull issue. Were you paddling with the same team in the other canoes?

Its a lot of additional questions, but not being there to see your canoe or your team using it, i need to ask.


Royalex is a sandwich of PVC over ABS, ABS foam, ABS and then PVC. There have been a couple of versions of “light Royalex” R-86 and R-Light have been the trade names used for this version. The R-86 R-Light material is Royalex with the outer and inner PVC layers replaced with a modified ABS skin. There is 12 + lbs of PVC on an average canoe and it looked like a great way to save weight. Unfortunately the PVC is quite an important component of Royalex as it protects the UV vulnerable ABS layer from the sun!

Also the companies that tried this lighter material ran into dificulties glueing in D-rings etc.

In fact there is one provider of Royalex to the canoe industry. The sheets vary both by design and by supply error. Inner and outer ABS thickness varies. Foam thickness varies and frankly it’s not a very exact science. I advise not buying Royalex whenever possible. I have time trialed similar models of canoes Royalex vs Composite. It’s always the same result. Stiffer materials win. I have also compared two identical Royalex canoes with diffferent seating.

A 17 Sundowner with bucket seats and ft Brace vs one with hung web seats. 4-6 seconds in a 2 minute trial.

I then blocked the center thwart Ft Br and cross bar under the front slider. Blocked boat was 1-2 seconds faster. I did the same with a Dagger Passage and a Venture 17 Once again the steps I took to stiffen the Daggers always improved the speed.

I placed We No Nah seats in the Daggers and improved the speed. One thing that was noticible in all cases. The bucket seats “Locked the paddlers in the center of the boat” . Thus running on line better. This in turn helps speed as any effort required to make a craft run straight is energy not making it run fast!

I did time trial the OT Penobscot The 16 faired well against other 16’ canos of the day. Far better then the 17 did against the We No Nah Sundowner,and Dagger Passage. I ran the trials both at a 60% rate and at 100%. At 100% the Sundowner showed a very noticable superiority. At 60% the difference was still there but not as great. I also tossed in a composite version of a 17 Sundowner and a We No Nah SPII. The differences grew thus proving that stiff is good and stiff and light is better