First impressions. This is, according to Venture, the Islay SOT is a boat to bridge the gap between the more recreational type of SOT and say for instance an Islay 14 touring kayak…and at first glance it does look very sleek with its narrow bow and almost anti radar type styling, this is definitely not your stereotypical Sit on Top.
Once aboard we were pleasantly surprised to find the those sleek looks transfer to performance, you get a boat that feels plenty stable, with the seating position low down and the extra width just behind the seat, but importantly for a touring sit on top that needs to compete with more traditional kayaks in the touring bracket, without the barge like quality. The bow rapidly narrows away in front of you and cuts through the water cleanly and quietly. On a longer paddle on the Thames it was easy enough to keep up with its sit in namesake. First time paddlers might not find it as reassuring as other SOT options in terms of stability, but it does strike a good balance between having the efficiency to cope with longer trips and the appeal of how easy a SOT is to use.
Our demo model had Ventures Skudder system fitted which when fully deployed as a rudder made it possible to gently switch the bows direction keeping the boat stable which on longer paddles on open water will be really useful. When the skudder is only partly deployed it acts as a skeg, this is beneficial for beginner paddlers as it will assist in keeping the boat traveling in a straight line, and we believe it will be great addition for paddlers using this boat along the coast in windy conditions.
The other impressive area of performance came when we did want to change direction, just bring the skudder up, apply some edge and this boat is capable of performing some fairly tight turns comparable with a sit in kayak without feeling unstable or twitchy .
As you would expect for a boat aimed at touring the Islay offers great for day trip storage with a day hatch at the bow and a large well at the stern covered with webbing offering a total carrying capacity of 113kg.
Its adjustable foot pegs are quickly and easily adjusted to suit you. Fishing accessories can be easily equipped to multiple positions on the kayak which means the paddle park comes in handy as well. The built in handles are good too, cut away to avoid to much water being shipped through them and allowing you to easily turn the boat back over after a capsize as well as making carrying it or car topping it by yourself easier but if you like to have a friend to help carry as it is a heavy boat it has a toggle at the bow and stern of the boat.
In conclusion Venture seem to have built a Sit on Top that does what they set out to do…bridge that gap between recreational SOT’s and a touring boat…we’d definitely recommend having a go while we still have the demo here!
The Islay 14 SOT is available now in 3 specs; Standard (without Skeg) with a Skeg or with a Skudder system.
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