Friday, March 18, 2011
I picked up my new Villain Elite Large a few weeks back and have paddled approximately 100 miles of class IV and V rivers in the last two weeks. I went with the Large because I wanted a larger volume boat and the Elite model has cross link plastic. (i am 5'11, 195lbs) Cross-link plastic was the biggest factor when choosing my new creek boat. I have paddled two different cross-link Wavesport Y boats very hard over 10 years and I have never broken a cross link boat. I will add more material to this review with more water time.
The first thing that stood out was it's comfort. This boat is very roomy and the outfitting is very adjustable to your likings. You can easily navigate your way through the outfitting to make it your own.
The boat is very forgiving and easy to paddle. Anyone from a beginner to well seasoned veteran running Class V will enjoy this boat.
It is quite nimble for being an 8'8". This boat is designed to carve with the smallest leans and you have plenty of time to react to where it takes you. You may want to adjust the seat forward or backwards to find your optimal balance point.
This boat has great performance. I have never been in a kayak that boofs better than the Villain. It wants to boof you every chance it gets. You timing can be slightly off and you can still make your boof stroke. When your timing is perfect, be prepared for a great ride and a soft landing. I was very impressed by the soft landings the Villain gives you. There is not a flat surface on the bottom of this boat which helps hard impacts while running waterfalls. After running waterfalls the Villian has great resurfacing to keep you in control. This boat creates amazing amounts of speed in whitewater. This speed combined with a well thought out bow design punches through holes while remaining in control.
The Villain is very stable. The way I see it, the Villain has three dimensions of stability. The first is the semi flat bottom, the second is the bottom chine, and the third is the chine on the sidewall. It takes some effort to make it flip over. You will notice immediately that shape of the boat creates a stable platform. The secondary chines work very well for balance support. The third chine on the side wall adds another dimension of stability. This third chine works very well when you want to make a fast hard turn. Even in the pool practicing hand rolls, I had to lean over to nearly 90 degrees to fall over.
Cons:(may not be cons for you)
The cockpit rim is huge. The cockpit was designed big for good safety reasons, to help with exiting easily in dire situations. When putting your spray skirt on, you really have to work hard to get the back of your skirt around the rim. It takes a lot of effort to stretch to the front rim even with a wet skirt. You can unlock the backband and that helps to get the back of the skirt started, but if you liked the backband position the last time you paddled, you will have to readjust it to get back to where you like the backband.
The performance is so good on this boat that sometimes it's difficult to control your speed after a big boof. The Villain is no slouch in the weight category. The Villain L ranges from 48lbs to 50lbs. This weight plus it's ability to create great speed on the river can be a hand full at times. After you get a big boof be ready to put on the brakes if the situation calls for it.
Rolling this boat takes some effort. It is not difficult to roll, but there are easier creek boats to roll than the Villain. Hand rolling the Villain takes pretty precise technique.