Opinions on Epic 18x or Stellar 18R

5 days 2 hours ago #35749 by SpaceSputnik
Hi all.

Been toying with an idea of a decked boat like Epic 18x. I have several sea kayaking friends that go on trips. It would be nice to be able to join them but this is not something I can even approach with my boats. Besides learning to roll can be a fun thing to do as a side activity just to add some variety.
I do not like traditional sea kayaks. They are way to heavy but my main irritant is the seating position. If I ever get a decked boat it would be one that can be paddled knees up like a surfski.
So, with the boats I mentioned above, does technique transfers 100% from a ski? Performance wise, are they about the level of a beginner ski like a V8?

Current: Think Evo II, Stellar SES 1g.
Past: Epic V7

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4 days 3 hours ago #35752 by Cerca Trova
Having owned both the Stellar is slightly faster. The Epic has slightly better initial stability though the 18R slightly better ultimate stability. 
Joe Zellner won the race across Missouri  (340 miles) in the 2012 MR 340. Afterwards I ask him why he thought he won in 2012 and finished 2nd in 2011. His answer; in 2011 I was in a Epic 18x and this year the 18R. He said the 18R is almost 2/10 of a mile quicker and in a 340 mile race that makes a huge difference. 
I haven't paddled a sea kayak in years, and most likely never will. If so, I would definitely want a 18x or 18R.
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3 days 8 hours ago #35763 by mcnye1
Both of those boats have large "competition" style cockpits that allow knees up pumping just like a ski.  I have a couple of similar wooded boats that I routinely race and in some conditions and on some races, I find the decked boats a better choice than the ski.  For shorter races, hot weather and big waves, the ski rules.  For longer races (20+ miles) and/or cold weather, my decked boats are just as fast but warmer and more comfortable.  They also have room for more water and other gear.

I routinely use the shorter of my two wooden race boats (Wahoo designed by John Winters, 18.5'x20.5") for touring and find that it works well.  Thanks to my surf ski skills, I can pretty much handle any conditions and am far faster than those in more traditional sea kayaks.

I have not paddled the newest version of either the Stellar or Epic, but have paddled older versions of both.  If you are buying new, I lean towards the Stellar because they sell it in a very tough "Multi-Sport" carbon/Kevlar layup.  One of the ladies in the racing association used her Multi-Sport S18R in the Suwannee River Challenge (230 miles) this year and it held up well despite very low water (lots of rocks).

If you are buying used, I would add the QCC700 to the list.  One of my buddies has one that he has used for multiple Water Tribe events.  QCC is out of production.  

Picture is me hitting the sprint at ChattaJack.  Note the knees up.
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3 days 4 hours ago - 3 days 4 hours ago #35764 by SpaceSputnik
Thank you.
A couple of questions.
Any issues using a spray skirt? On all the knee up pictures I see them rising above the coaming. I went to a kayak pool class and they had us wearing tight neoprene skirts. I was uncomfortable in the knee apart position and kept sticking them up, which would have been fine except I kept bumping my knees into the skirt. I imagine that would get tiring over time.
The second question is rollability. I have no doubt these are highly rollable boats but say you are going at a good tempo knees up and and dump, wouldn't you end up not in contact with the boat while under? Wet exiting is and the following self-rescue is more involved than a ski remount.

Current: Think Evo II, Stellar SES 1g.
Past: Epic V7

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3 days 34 minutes ago #35765 by mcnye1
No problem paddling with a skirt as long as you get the right one.  I prefer the nylon ones because they are baggy giving more room for leg pumping and they breath better in warm climates.  They are not absolutely waterproof like neoprene but they keep almost all of the water out.  You do not want one of the low, tight neoprene skirts made for rolling.  Honestly, I almost never wear a skirt.  It has to be cold, heavy rain and/or waves over 3'.  I paddled the ChattaJack this year without a skirt and ended the race with maybe 1" of water in the cockpit.    

I don't think that you can roll one of these boats, at least I can't.  As you said, there is no way to brace your knees under the deck.  When pumping, your contact with the boat is limited to the foot brace/straps and your bottom.  In bigger waves, you can spread your legs to lay your knees against the inside of the coaming for more control/contact.  

I have a couple of thousand miles in my two boats and have only been knocked out once.  I was caught out in a big squall (3.5' breaking waves) without a skirt and with my small flat water rudder.  The remount was surprisingly easy and I was able to quickly pump the cockpit and keep going.  Both of my wood boats are easier to reboard than my Stellar SEI.  I always carry the pump when paddling open water but have only had to use it that once.

I regularly race against both the Epic and Stellar, and both are competitive with the V8.  
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2 days 21 hours ago - 2 days 21 hours ago #35766 by SpaceSputnik
Re: rolling. 
Epic 18x seems quite rollable: 

Stellar 18r has thigh braces, so if that does not make it rollable then I am a little confused as to what they are for. I thought the idea was to have a choice of being in a performant knee up position or just use it as any other sea kayak depending on what's going on. I would not want to paddle knees apart for any sort of distance, but for getting through a rough spot being prepared to roll would be pretty attractive. 

Your boat (beautiful btw!) has no braces, so I can see how that would not be rollable. 

A tight neoprene skirt would actually be quite alright for Toronto winters :D I paddled a ski in November/December last year and no matter what I wore on my feet under and over a drysuit my toes would turn into icicles, while the rest of the body was perfectly fine.
However, I am not sure I would like to capsize a decked boat into a 2C water even with properly layered suit. I'd have to wear a neoprene hood for this experience to be tolerable (uncomfortable and impossible to maintain a conversation). In a ski, a good wool hat is all I need even doing remounts in that sort of water, as I never dunk my head anywhere as significantly as with a sea kayak capsize.

Current: Think Evo II, Stellar SES 1g.
Past: Epic V7

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2 days 3 hours ago #35767 by mcnye1
Thanks for the compliment.

I don't think that I could roll even if I had I had those little knee braces, unless I moved my foot brace forward.  In its normal position, my knees are too high to get under.

I must admit that I really don't get the rolling thing that so many kayakers are into.  On my boats with a keyhole cockpit that are easily rolled, I just set myself back upright when I get knocked over instead of rolling.

The last point to make is that if you cannot find the right boat, you should consider building.  It is surprising easy if you are the least bit handy, and you can customize it so it is exactly what you want.  

My Petrel Play designed by Nick Schade.  It is a great boat for BIG waves and rolling.

Wahoo (18.5'x20.5") designed by John Winters at the start of the Suwannee River 26.  

Mystery (20'x20") at the start of Chattajack 2019

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2 days 3 hours ago - 2 days 3 hours ago #35768 by SpaceSputnik
Nice boats.
I am handy, but frankly just don't have the time for it. I am sure it's super rewarding, but not too realistic for me.
I went to a rolling class just for the heck of it recently and I enjoyed it. I can't say to myself decisively that rolling is the best self-rescue tool since it's a pretty high maintenance skill and there seem to be drawbacks when it comes to cold water and exertion. A remount on a stable ski may very well be a more practical thing to do, but rolling is fun to learn. I almost understand greenland folks who make it their primary activity.

From what you are saying it sounds like there really may not be  that much middle ground between sea kayaks and performance craft. I really can't accept the stroke technique I see in many sea kayakers, coming from surfskis it just looks inefficient as well their involved non-rolling rescue techniques (most of which I am actually somewhat skilled at). If I were to pick a boat for a longer expedition by following cold logic I'd probably go with Epic V6 since it has the cargo volume comparable to sea kayaks, really stable and ergonomic. But part of me wants to mess around with things and perhaps be a part of the team oriented sea kayaking culture as opposed to competitive and individualistic surfski culture. Basically, when I was in a sea kayak I was in a group often, being in a ski I am on my own 99.9% if the time. It's nice to train with performance in mind, I like that, but it's not all that nice when it's literally the only thing I do.

Current: Think Evo II, Stellar SES 1g.
Past: Epic V7

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