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It is a sleek smooth ride. Not the lightest kayak on the block but sweet. With it's soft chines and straight unrockered hull I expected that I would give up some comfort and function in rougher conditions, but I discovered not only was it fine in rougher water overall but it surfed nicely in windy downwind conditions. I'm 5'11", 170 lbs. (size 11 feet) so I do appreciate the little bit of extra leg room in the HV.
After three years paddling a P&H Vela--a lovely boat for someone who has about 30 pounds on me--I sold it and bought an Impex Force 3. I love this boat. The fit is amazingly comfortable and snug. It's fast (as it should be at 17') and the low volume makes for very little weathercocking. It's great in wind and waves, and a pleasure to roll, too.
My only complaints are small: 1. the back rim of the combing (behind the seat) is not flush with the slope of the cockpit, so when you lift the front of the boat to drain it, you can't get all the water out. 2. The bungees on the front deck are far enough away from the cockpit that the small paddlers who will love this boat may have trouble reaching any spare paddles stowed there. I am using my old, too-long paddle (a 210) as a spare, and it's really hard for me to reach even that! Small quibbles about a fantastic boat.
Moving from the highly touted Wildsys seating system to a "bucket" made me a little apprehensive, but it works, and works well. A very fast boat, I have no issues keeping up with the hardcore guys at all. Very good primary and secondary stability, better than my Tempest. Way less rocker. Skeg? Don't need to use it, which is a pleasant surprise. The kayak shop kept trying to get me into a larger boat, but all my gear fits, and I hate to buy the extra space "just in case". Besides, it's less boat to move in the water. Very good tracking, and at my weight and size in the boat, it behaves very well in wind and waves. The customer service is top notch as well.
As for the Cat3, cockpit fittings were very good along those very lines. Yet it did not feel as down low and locked in as I liked. This came into play later in the demo.
Seat back feel and fit also good and not oversized. Comfortable right out of the box & kudos to Impex for that. Wanted a couple more inches behind seat back as I like to store a hydration pack & repair kit behind the seat which can otherwise be wasted cockpit space.
Hatch covers: these were the rounded rubber ones that lay on a raised and rounded neck above the decks. Visually this is unappealing and reminds me of the cheap looking & quirky Perception and Wilderness hatches. For some reason Impex made the rear hatch sphere overly wide, appearing to be slightly wider than the kayak deck. This interferes with the sleek look I prefer and may or may not inhibit aerodynamics. I leave that debate to the kayak design experts.
Having said that, the glass work was first rate and the bulkheads fitted neatly. Would've liked thicker deck rigging - these did not look 1/4", although in fairness they may have been.
On the water: large protected lake, 15 mph light steady wind. Some small chop esp through an area narrowed by two floating docks, giving me both flat water and little chop for the test.
Going into the wind I felt like I was sitting too high, bobbing in the boat, and thus not able to edge and turn as cleanly as I would've liked. The deck, being somewhat higher and rounded than my usual kayak, was impeding the progress of the kayak into the wind. Likely the two issues compounded each other.
A little skeg remedied this slightly, but should a kayak need skeg going into the wind? Paddling backwards the boat did creditably well. Paddling forwards it was moderately efficient. Although the sitting position felt good and I can paddle 6-7 hours a day, this did not feel like a boat I would paddle all day. I am aware of its length but I have actually had more refreshing paddles in longer boats (NDK Silhouette, for example)
It was, well, just okay. I'm pretty disappointed to say that.
Back onshore I covered most of these points with the Impex rep, who listened with friendly and creditable interest.
His response was that at my weight, the kayak would get optimum performance with 40 lbs of additional gear.
Huh. Regrettably for the Impex3, wouldn't add 40 lbs of gear (and/or body weight) just to have a good touring experience. Almost all of my paddling is day touring.
Too bad, really, as I entered this demo with high expectations given the company's excellent reputation for build quality and customer service.
Regrettably, the Impex Category 3 comes off my list of candidates for a next kayak.
Seat. It places the paddler in the correct upright position squarely on the sit bones. It is extremely comfortable over five to six hours. The leg position with feet on pegs is without strain, and the thigh braces are immediately available. No struggle to find and hold them. No need to force the legs further apart to find the sides of the boat.
Tracking. The Force tracks solidly. It is fast and I have paddled it at over 4 knots. It glides beautifully, both forward and reverse, and makes the reverse figure of eight almost easy!
Maneuverability. You can steer it with your butt! Drop a hip and breath and the stern will slide around. It is very responsive. It is easy to put on edge and hold it there. As paddling skill increases, the Force's performance increases. Ask and you will receive, it does not fight with you. I have a lot to learn so I expect the Force has a lot yet to show me!
Wind. It does not get blown around as so many other boats do. It will go directly into a headwind with less effort than any boat I have paddled. It will take quartering seas and following seas comfortably, and will pick up rides on waves effortlessly. It's a fun ride. I can turn it upwind and downwind at between 15-20 knots, which at this point is where my comfort level rests.
Volume. At my weight and with my day kit, it sits well in the water with a balanced waterline. Every other boat I've had required additional weight to get the bow lowered into the water. I have not yet camped with it, but there is room for everything I will need.
Rolling. I'm learning. I watched someone smaller than I repeatedly roll it. I can do a static/balance brace. I can easily lay back on the deck. My elbows do not hit the deck/coming. There is nothing to get in the way of good rotation.
The little things: Flexible, tight hatch covers. Cockpit size is ample for easy entry and exit. Excellent primary and secondary stability.
Impex got it right with the sleek and beautiful Force 3. It is a gem!
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