Articles - Sea Kayak Head to Head Test - The Taran Sea Kayak V The Inuk Sea Kayak

Rockpool Taran and the Classic Inuk Sea Kayak designs
Rockpool Taran and the Classic Inuk Sea Kayak designs
Test by Pete Wood and Tom Heath, report by Tom Heath Images by Clare Heath and Pete Wood - Posted on 15 May 2012
The Taran Sea Kayak V The Inuk Sea Kayak

The Distinguished Veteran versus the Young Contender

The Taran is the outcome of one man’s quest to push sea kayak design to a new level. For some years John Willacy has been quietly notching up record times on sea routes around Anglesey. On 24th October 2006 he used an Inuk to circle the island in 10-hours 45-minutes (oh, and 40 seconds). And with that record began a mission to create a boat that could do it faster, and better.


John says about his design quest, “I was looking for a kayak to improve on the Anglesey record and do some open crossings. So it had to be fast but friendly enough that I’d be happy offshore. I also wanted a boat that would give a dry ride and maintain its speed through the lumpy stuff.
From a commercial point of view we wanted to offer a boat suitable for fitness or touring, that would appeal to advanced paddlers but could also be used by those with less experience.
I took the Inuk as a class benchmark. It’s fast and friendly but slow to turn and a rather wet ride. We put a lot of work into designing a hull that would substantially improve manoeuvrability without compromising speed or stability.”

The New ContenderSea Kayak record breaker & performance sea kayaker  John Willacy pilots the Inuk Sea Kayakin in the Menai StraightsSea Kayak record breaker & performance sea kayaker  John Willacy pilots the Inuk Sea Kayakin in the Menai Straights
In the summer of 2009 photos were leaked from the Rockpool workshop showing a bright yellow craft with stealth bomber lines. Then suddenly on 22 August, just days after the new shell was complete, John grabbed a tidal window and, through poor weather and lingering fumes of fresh-set resin, broke his own Anglesey Circumnavigation record by 20-minutes: 10:24:54. Taran MkI had arrived.
John then spent winter testing the boat in all conditions. During a ‘wind-over-tide test’ in the Menai Strait he managed to record a 49.8 mph wind speed from the cockpit.
With the concept proved, work began on Taran MkII, which soon earned its stripes, setting a new record by reaching the Isle of Man from Anglesey in 8-hours, 21-minutes; laden with camping gear and provisions.


The Test Drive
So, for one sunny day over a Bank Holiday, Pete Wood and I were entrusted with the MkII Taran and the Inuk John used to set his original round-Anglesey record.
Pete met me at Porth Tryn near Church Bay, with the two boats, a heap of camera gear and the biggest stopwatch I’ve ever seen.

Looks
Sea kayaking is about solitude, but appearances still count, so step one of our kayak comparison was: who’s better looking? The Inuk is indeed a beautiful object, all flowing lines and tidy edges. The Taran, with that aggressive bow shape, looks shockingly, excitingly different — especially for a boat that’s based on the Inuk.

First Contact
Straight away the Taran feels spacious, comfortable, high and dry. The cockpit is larger, the deck comes higher and there’s room to wriggle inside (our boat had basic fittings that’ll be upgraded on the final version). The Inuk is a snug fit by comparison — like a long, narrow curled up slipper. Very cosy, but I can imagine John into his tenth hour at sea dreaming of a boat with more space.

On The Water
The differences between the two boats showed more and more as we headed up round Carmel Head. The Inuk goes low; the Taran sits high.
Both the Taran and Inuk have good secondary stability but as you’d expect with fast boats there’s limited primary stability. If you’re new to sea kayaking that basically means these boats will make your hips twitch but keep your hair dry.
With rudders up, the Inuk is still slow to turn, while the Taran is wonderfully manoeuvrable: impressive for a boat with a waterline that goes right to the nose.
We caught the tide race nicely at Carmel Head and had fun with the overfalls. The Inuk cuts low through the troughs, giving a smooth but wet and sometimes almost submerged ride. Meanwhile the Taran is up there on the crests, buoyant and bouncy but remarkably stable too. It’s a confident ride, and a noisy wave-slapping one too.

Speed
Right, down to business: a short two nautical mile time trial. Pete and I go head-to-head. Pete is representing the slightly more athletic and I’m profiling the mild leisure paddler. There’s a light breeze, a little swell and some cross-current. Pete hits the giant stopwatch and we’re off. After lap one it’s time to break for slices of orange and to stretch the legs before we swapped boats and went again. The results were conclusive; both of us were around thirty seconds faster over the two mile course in the Taran.

And so…

We ended the day pleased to say we loved both boats. But how different they are. It’s true that the Taran came out faster, more comfortable and more manoeuvrable. But the Inuk still has a timeless quality. If it were a car you’d happily spend time waxing it. And if this were Top Gear the debate would rumble on.
Anyway, the Inuk doesn't need our endorsement: it’s one of the all-time greats. What’s news is just how good the Taran turns out to be.

For more great sea kayak tests check out the sea kayaks area of our Reviews Section

Here's a couple of clips of the boats in action. For more sea kkayaing videos and gear & kayak reviews head to Canoe & Kayak UK TV

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