Way back in December 1989, as a part of our commitment to help Steve Gurney win a BMW car, the two of us pooled our resources to create the Evolution racing kayak. Steve argued for the water properties whilst I argued for the properties of wind. The original plug (master artwork) design closely resembled the Edge – but whilst Steve was away doing his training – the first production version ‘accidentally’ became the wider and more stable Classic – which even I could paddle.
In the previous two years Sisson Kayaks had created a new multisport ‘top-boat’ each season. Three ‘top-boats’ in three seasons was just too much for many of our loyal customers. They complained – loudly.
Evolution Edge model was sneaked into production in 1992. The Extreme followed quietly in 1995.
It was time to slow down with multisport ‘top-boat’ development. And for the next 17 years our customers kept right on winning races using the existing Evolution models. There was not very much motivation to make a better Evolution. Concentration on production resulted in over 1000 Evolutions being sold world-wide!
Then about 2005 the multisport kayak market changed. Others had a ‘better’ idea. A ‘new’ design concept intended to obsolete my Evolution. No real breakthrough – just variations of the norm – using some-one else’s hull design. Re-arranging the deck chairs on the Titanic.
Along came those slapped-up sit-inside-surf-ski-hulled-so-called-‘multisport-kayaks’. LOL. The 5.5 metre versions of which closely resembled my most spectacular 1994 kayak design failure – my very own TOTAL LEMON Woodstock Express! LOL. Utterly useless in a river. (Dave Hunter – you are so correct) But quite nice on a following sea – which was never my target market.
Why would anyone want to emulate the Woodstock Express design disaster? Not me! Useless in the Waimak river – which always has been my target market. So maybe – just to save face – new clubs and events may be started just to create a worthwhile use for such designs. Maybe the Woodstock Express design can now be recycled as the Sewer-Side Drive Boulder Bank Express! LOL. But for open water use the Boulder Bank Express should never safely be fitted with just ‘river-boat’ flotation – foam pillar blocks.
In the past some very successful Sisson Kayaks designs have been named after prominent Nelson coastline features – Delaware – Pepin – Astrolab. Sewer Side Drive Express sounds good to me!
With zero confusion I now found myself with enough motivation to create a better ‘top-boat’ multisport kayak design. Allowing nice dreams to prevail whilst the Woodstock Express nightmares faded further into the mists of my sub concious.
Seventeen years I had held off. In late 2008 I started creating the shape that would become the Evolution Omega. Surely the market will forgive me this time! And never forget the fact that the existing Evolution models are the winningest multisport kayaks in the world. So many wins in so many major races – and never overlook Keith Murray’s Speights Coast to Coast record of 10 hours 36 minutes set in an Evolution Classic. Arguably the fastest kayak model for multisport in the world.
Bring on the C to C record reductions! But a Woodstock Express lookalike will never be up to it. There had to be better way.
Since day one in this business, I have believed in zero hype . “No slogans – just facts”. Any new kayak model must in all respects be superior to the one that it replaces. Hard to do – but since 1990 I had been experimenting with two separate – but harmonious – changes with the plan to make a better Evolution.
Change #1 was to adopt the Bifurcated Bow – a very clever invention of the ancient Inuit from the Bering Strait. Their craft (and amazing speed) was documented by Capt Waxell and Joseph Banks in the 1700’s. My initial Bifurcated Bow experiments were fitted to a Woodstock Express early prototype (yuk) using Ian Ferguson as the ‘motor’ – on Nelson Harbour – paddling between the ships with their bulbous bows! Do you get the picture?
Change #2 was to lengthen an Edge hull 200mm BEHIND the cockpit – making it very ‘bow-down’ on the water. The original testing prototype was created and tested in 1995 – then destroyed in the factory fire in 1996. Testing conclusion – even better ‘run’ and more stable than the Edge.
Some would expect this new longer Omega hull to be wetter for the paddler. WRONG. The Bifurcated Bow acts as a shock absorber. As the bow slams down onto the next ‘green-water’ wave, the Acetal plastic rod exhibits downwards drag. The Evolution Omega is in fact the driest Evolution model on big wavetrains. But hey – this advantage is also reported by bulbous bow ships crews.
Read more (second item from the top) here http://www.sissonkayaks.co.nz/blog/advice/frequently-asked-questions/
So – you may ask – is this new Evolution Omega faster? Multisport kayak performance is as much about ‘greater-distance-made-good-for-lower-fuel-burn’ as it is about ‘speed’. But hey – this advantage is also reported by bulbous bow ships crews.
Evolution Omega testing has taken place on the Rangitata Diversion Race (RDR), just over the fence from our Methven factory. Luke Vaughan has compared his Edge to his Omega over many 700 metre runs at 130 HBPM and 160HBPM
Shortly I will be posting some photos of Luke in action. The wave-making action of the Omega is considerably less than the wave-making of the Edge. The Omega was ‘faster’ than the Edge on every run. Less wave-making drag. Luke returned on a second day for further testing – same result. And when Basil Pettigrew did the same testing against his Edge – same result.
Strangely my biggest marketing nightmare has been one that I did not anticipate. How to convince my Evolution Classic and Edge customers that their beloved kayaks were partly obsolete? Slowly they came to believe my predictions. They ordered Omega kayaks.
All Omega customers have reported better than expected stability. Some, including Gordon Walker have been able to set their seats higher in order to achieve better paddling dynamics.
All Omega customers have reported better “run” between paddle strokes.
All Omega customers have reported drier paddling through big water.
All Omega customers have reported shorter paddle times on known courses (speed – how I think that word is miss-used when kayaking is just one multisport segment of a potential hit-the-wall race).
The Evolution Omega – paddled by Gordon Walker when he won the 2010 Speights Coast to Coast race – and set the fastest 2010 Longest Day paddle time. The Evolution Omega – paddled by Dougal Allan when he came a close second to Gordon. Gordon is a man of few words. “Awesome” will suffice.
The Evolution Omega is a ‘Clean-water’ kayak. For use on ‘dirty-water’ a replaceable ‘fillet’ is currently being developed.
The Evolution Omega – it could only have come from a semi-retired (but proven) kayak designer who could not really care what the current ‘cafe-influenced’ (kayak has to look great on roof rack) multisport kayak market (slow over-caffinated sheep sitting inside converted surf skis?) really thinks. My kayak business is just a 30 BoatsPerYear retirement hobby. Totally impervious to boycott! It also helps greatly if that same kayak designer invented the original parameters for REAL multisport kayaks way back in 1987. It mainly helps that this same proven kayak designer can publicly admit the whole 1994 Woodstock Express false-lead design fiasco. LOL.
Random photo (refresh browser several times) at the top of this page. Check out Gordon Walker winning at Motu in his beloved (nicely trimmed) Edge. Note the Woodstock Express lookalike (sinking stern – bow aimed at the moon) following in the distant background. Laugh Out Loud. LOL. Lots Of Laughs. Take your pick!
For the record #1.
At the time of the 1996 factory fire we had traded back (swapped at no cost) almost all of the Woodstock Express kayaks ever sold. About 20 of these were destroyed in that fire. YEAH! The surviving two have since been gifted to Mt Hutt College, Methven, for the students to gain paddling experience on the RDR. Not a river – so they work great for that job.
For the record #2
The hull of the Woodstock Express was created in 1990 and tested by Ian Ferguson. The deck was created after gathering customer feedback over the next two years. Everything was done slowly and properly. The resulting product was a total disaster!
For the record #3
The Evolution Omega was developed in total secrecy. Zero customers were asked what they wanted. I worked fast-and-dirty. Any mistakes are 100% mine. And the best reason for bringing it into production – I wanted an Omega for myself – and I love it!
For the record#4
As early as 1976 our weekly output of kayaks often exceeded my own 2010 annual target of 30 BoatsPerYear – just a ripple on the pond.
Posted in: Multisport Racing Kayaks