Incept Tasman K40 test in Scotland

Some of the observations I made here have been corrected once I actually bought and used a K40.

A couple of months ago I speculated about how the Incept K40 may well be my long-sought successor to my ageing Gumotex Sunny, a great IK which I feel I’ve taken to the limit over the years. You may want to read the bottom half of that page first to get the drum on the Incept, but now I’ve actually spent an afternoon paddling a K40 around Shuna Island north of Oban and can conclude that apart from price, the Incept K40 ticks all the boxes. The other boat you see in the pictures is Jon’s P&H Scorpio LV.

Weight in dimensions I didn’t get a ikdims7chance to measure and weight the boat; right are the official stats from Incept compared to my Sunny dims and old FC Java, and official from Grabner and Gumo Seaker 1. The boat is said to be 4-6 inches narrower than a Sunny and a foot and a half longer. It’s nowhere near that narrow as you can see on the left (Jon’s P&H Scorpio LV is only 21″ wide – cripes!) but the twin side tube construction gives higher, swamp-proof sides and more internal storage space – and it certainly looks higher in the water than a Sunny, which is where the rudder may come in handy in choppy conditions.

Material and construction According to the brochure the K40 is heat-welded from “a heavy-duty but light weight high-tech Polyuretane-alloy [with PVC coating] … with 1100 dernier Polyester reinforcing [which is] exceptionally strong and hard wearing and is UV protected…”. Handling the deflated boat out of the water my impression was that it felt no heavier than my 16-kilo Sunny, while the fabric felt harder, stiffer, less elastic and possibly a tad thinner than Gumotex Nitrilon; a bit more like lino compared to a Sunny’s rubbery fabric. That means when you deflate it it doesn’t collapse flat like a Sunny and it may take some effort to get it into the holdall supplied (we just bundled the semi deflated boat into the back of Jon’s car). On the Incept website they admit the material they use is less foldable than Hypalon. The stiffness (good thing for performance – not so good for packing) shows when you inflate it using the supplied K-Pump K100 hand pump. I was expecting many minutes and a sore arm, but before I knew it and with very little effort the three chambers were purging their pressure release valves (PRVs) and the boat was suddenly as stiff as a board.
It’s notable that the K40 has it’s inflation valves (right) set in the cockpit. Should you lose pressure via the PRVs over the course of a hot day (and so lose rigidity and performance) you can re-inflate on the water from the cockpit. One valve on the test boat was a bit stiff to release for pumping (right). Meanwhile the seat and footrest pump up quickly by mouth with elbow valves, like an Alpacka, but with notably thicker fabric than Alpacka uses for its seat. Once set up for your size and with the rudder attached, I imagine the boat takes no longer to get on the water than a Sunny, that’s about 10 minutes. I can’t say I scrutinised it very closely, but the quality of construction looks pretty good; at least as good as a Gumo. They say heat welding means no glue to deteriorate over the years and maybe less weight too (though some parts of the boat are glued).

Getting in and out
Before I saw the boat I feared the cockpit was on the small side, but now I know it’s not. With one leg down in the boat and sat in the seat  can bend the other leg and slide it inside under the front of the cockpit; and this with full dry suit and other clobber on. No real need to sit on the back deck like on a hardshell or a Big Kahuna and best of all, while doing so the boat remains pretty stable. For getting out you can just pull out a leg, put it on the ground/seabed and stand up. Knowing this, my idea of stepping into the boat with the deck unzipped, pulling the hatch over me a bit like a dry suit and then zipping up may not seem necessary, except perhaps when you’ve unzipped to crawl back aboard after capsizing – something I’ve yet to try.
This zip-off deck really is a great idea for access, cooked up they say by IK pioneer Audrey Sutherland. How many folders and hard-shellers struggle cramming little bags through awkward deck hatches and then squeeze gingerly into their boats? I watched Jon doing just this after lunch on Shuna island. It’s the price you pay for speed on the water. With the Incept I can bung my Watershed UDB in the back, lash the other bag or a lunch box to the front deck and put more in front of my feet so I can easily see a week’s worth of supplies fitting with room to spare. I don’t recall seeing any lashing points, easily glued on one imagines, and not strictly necessary with a deck, anyway, but then again spec sheets say there are 25 of them somewhere [there aren’t]. As for paddling undecked, it can be easily achieved by removing the stiff hatch coaming road. The deck also features four curved GRP batons which slip into sleeves and very chunky. It would still be desirable to be able to ride the K40 with the top down on a sunny summertime river in France. I didn’t get fully to grips with the thigh straps and anyway didn’t really need them in the calm conditions, but it sure is nice to have them there as standard [there not], with easy-to-hand micro adjusters. I had a feeling the Java or some boat I had (the Safari?) had curved straps which sat over the knee better. It did take a conscious effort to brace against them and power on, but with the unusual stiffness of the Tasman, that all probably helped achieve the surprisingly high top speed I recorded. In choppier conditions I’d imagine you’d use them to brace against tipping, or of course for rolling the boat, a trick I may yet learn one day.

Speed, stability and tracking The weather conditions for the test day in early March were very calm with a high pressure, white cloud and some mist, all clearing by the afternoon. On the water we headed out southwest against an incoming tide backed by a wind said to be 4mph (6kph), about as calm as it gets out on Loch Linnhe. In a couple of days it was forecast for 30mph+ out of Oban and was much calmer than our previous visit here. In these conditions stability was hardly tested but felt fine which was a relief considering the boat is 4-6 inches narrower than a Sunny and less even than the Java which was less confidence inspiring for me. Although I took it pretty easy I never had ‘a moment’, not even getting in and out. So with stability not an issue next test was to see what this baby will do flat out! Jon had already cranked up 9kph on his Scorpio which I was faffing about, and hammering away with the 220-cm paddle the shop lent me (20cm shorter than I’m used to on IKs) I clocked a top speed of 9.8kph (6mph) at some point against the breeze and tide, with a more readily sustainable 6-7kph (4mph). This boat is definitely faster than my Sunny and these are about the same speeds I recorded in my Feathercraft Java a few years ago, also in calm conditions. The Incept is about 15% narrower and longer than the Sunny and a foot (30cm) shorter than the Java which is apparently wider but I very much doubt it. It has to be said that after less than 10km on the water that day I was worn out and aching, but I hadn’t paddled for nearly two months. Out with a speedy hardshell I was sometimes ahead, not because I was faster than Jon’s P&H, but because compared to previous runs in my Sunny with him it took him more time than he expected to catch me up in the Incept after fiddling about with a camera and so on. We had a bit of a race as you do, and he certainly pulled away faster, having less width to get moving, but I had a feeling I caught up and if I’d had my normal paddle and my spandex ski jumping suit I’d have had him! One day soon we’ll do a race round two points on a loch somewhere to see how our speed and turning match up, boat for boat. We did a similar test once in the desert, jump starting a loaded Honda XR650L. I lost that one and it’s gnawed at me for years.
Speaking of which, I’ve never owned a boat with a rudder before though I’ve tried others here and there and it was fun, especially when engaged in ramming (left). Initially I didn’t bother with steering and just used it as a trailing skeg. Foot pedal actuation seemed a bit vague as you press flaps on top of the inflatable footrest thwart to move the rudder lines, but by the end of my session I’d got the knack and with the wind and tide behind us, I was ruddering a lot more and finding it useful. A bit more experimentation with positioning and tension would pin it down.  Early on I tried paddling with the rudder up, and into the wind the K40 did spin out after a few strokes if I didn’t correct hard, but then so did my Sunny before I got the knack of skeg-free paddling. Jon in his Scorpio was also deploying his retractable skeg in the same conditions and explained that in a proper Brit-style sea kayak you’d edge a bit to counteract the deflection of the wind on the front. Anyway, with the rudder always there and not vulnerable to fouling like a fixed skeg on a Sunny, why would you not use it except when paddling backwards, in which case it’s dead easy to flip it up and reverse all engines.

So there it is… What in Neptune’s name is there not to like about the K40 apart from the hefty price and I suppose the IK’s bete noir: appearance? Looks like a sort of over-buoyant torpedo to me, sat high in the water, but I can get over that if it takes me to more places than my Sunny.
Right now I’m told Sea Kayak Oban who rented me the K for £30 can get them for £1500 with straps and deck included. With the US distributors it’s ‘POA’ but The Boat People stuck their neck out with a special order price of around $2600 give or take (note, some of their facts are parroted from Incept and so are out-of-date/wrong). Colours seem confusing, but I’ve been told the latest batch will be: all red, or a grey hull with yellow-, red, burgundy- or green deck.

2016: None of these places, including the one in Germany where I bought mine sells the K40 anymore

Wherever you buy, make sure you know exactly what you’re getting – accessories- and colour-wise. Rudder is not an extra and they should come with an American K-Pump (unobtainable in the UK – sold in France) and a big dry bag and repair kit, but spray deck and thigh straps are supposedly extra. The ’25 D-rings and attachment points’ you read on many vendor’s pages were not present on the test boat or the boat I eventually bought. More on this post. And it’s worth noting with boats like the similar Grabners, many of these basic items are expensive extras.
The most similar boat I know of is the Gumotex/Innova Seaker 1, no longer listed at Gumotex.cz and going for €1869 in Germany or just $1500 (reduced from $2900!) in the US. A Seaker 1 is half-a-metre longer but nearly twice the weight of the K40. A semi-decked (like Helios) Austrian Grabner Explorer II is the most similar to a K40 and goes for around €2400 + rudder and bits. For more impressions on my new boat see this.

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