Dan Heyworth (DanH), Ian (Newcastle Uni) and I went out for a splash down the Upper Tees (High Force -> Low Force). Partly just cos there was little other water about and party because I wanted to try the new DragoRossi Mafia out on some rocks and drops. Levels were a good middle-ish (covering the pin rock on the ‘Dog Leg’ but low enough for evil scraping on the boney bits).
Firstly a confession – I swam. I can’t hide the fact cos DanH wouldn’t let me, so I might as well be frank. Not on the ‘Dog Leg’, not in the ‘Horseshoe’ (as Ian did after recirc’-ing for a little while), not even in a rapid. It was after a sweet boof off the right hand ledge on the little G3 section above the ‘Horseshoe’, I hit a nothingness little seam and flipped. Dunno why but for the life off me I couldn’t roll… I had done before on the day and did do after, but this time the usually VERY easy-to-roll Mafia fought against me.
I could have had a rescue but bailed instead. I was glad to be wearing descent pants (PeakUK Storm Pants) and cag (PeakUK X3-Delux Topdeck) and warm undies (Level6 Proguide Shorts and LaOla thermal) – their first swim test yet. I took a bit of a bump on the trusty J3 Freestyle lid too. Whether the lack of roll was to do with my back, or cramp after having been sat in the boat for a good long while (I’ll come onto that), I don’t know. A shameful first swim in a goodly few years and one I fail to understand. Maybe I should stick to Pool reviews, but “hey ho”.
Straight away the Mafia felt quick and proved itself to be just that. I was mightily impressed at how the boat accelerated to speed and how well it tracked and turned for a creeker. Dodging through the boulder gardens allowed me to see that the boat really turns so quickly (as I thought it would given the hull), but also holds a chosen line really very well. Up and over rocks it felt solid and had great secondary stability when it was needed. What’s more I loved the fact that I could readily choose whether I employed the classic small-boat-paddlers technique or sinking the tail to huck a quick turn (I couldn’t quite get it as deep as my polo boat 😉 ) or carve hard into a turn or eddy. Either of these seemed to speed the boat through the move.
Boofing is something I’ve always found pretty accessible in all my old boats, but they’ve all been short and chubby (Disco, Inferno etc). The Mafia seems to have an auto-boof feature to it. If one thinks about needing to boof, it does it. If one wants to power through, just do that. Simple.
I really enjoyed popping off Low Force. It’s nice and friendly with a good pool at the bottom. I ran it a couple of times to see what happened with different ways of running it. I found that if you get the angle right (see ‘Auto-Boof’ above), the boat will shoot out of the bottom of the water fall at a good pace, clearing the hole. I’m told this is to do with the flat decks allowing the boat to carry the speed forwards through the water rather than resurfacing too quickly and getting held by the hole at the bottom. Whether it’s that or the progressive fore to aft rocker, it works. I also tried to melt real deep at the bottom of the fall but found the volume prohibitive (I’m used to running the fall in little boats and melt deep sometimes for the comedy factor) so pulled a natty old-skool popout-into-faceplant. I’m sure on a bigger drop with a bigger hole I would have got under it, but this is Low Force, right.
All in all, a good giggle and a good little section to bash the Mafia down. It wasn’t without its weird moments (oops!) and the boat wasn’t without its issues.
I found that the backband was great, but the more I got in and out of the boat, the more the vertical supporting strut got bent (cos the backband sprung forward every time I released it to try and get in, so my big ### kept squashing it) and now it is not as straight as it was. However this is not no problem, actually the contrary. The backband now sits high and firm, but still flexes as you twist and bend at the waist. I’m told the supporting strut is designed to be broken-in over the first couple of uses (like Corrans own Ski-Boot analogy). This has happened now, so I may straighten the strut out a bit (given I like a REALLY high, firm backband in any case) using the bolt hole already there for this purpose. I understand this is entirely personal preference dictated – do you like it super stiff?
Ian commented how nice it was to have such a solid feeling support holding him onto the seat, even after I had broken-it-in.
The seat is very very comfortable IMHO. It is a moulded bucket seat, (not as bucketed as a power seat, but much more accessible for me) with contours in all the right places, y’all should have a go – DanH will confirm just how comfy it was for his mini-butt too. It’s supportive and comfortable without needing any frills, add-ons or gadgets – I don’t need hip chocks and feel pretty rooted. The Mafia does not have the thigh hookers fitted. I think this is a good idea given the amount one usually gets in and out of the boat during a descent river run. You’re getting enough boat without them IMHO. Winner!
I have a minor issue with the footrest ratchet straps – more to do with my long legs than anything else. At max length for the footrest I’m a bit tight, but then I am about 6’2” (after chiro’ treatment ) with size 11(US) feet and I was wearing full ‘Langer-time’ booties (rather than my usual Level6 Slippers). Nobody else I’ve let have a spin has had this problem and most have been able to tighten up by a good few inches – so it’s just cursed old me… though I am told this is under review already
I found about 500ml of water in the sealed hatch at the rear. I don’t know if this was due to the swim (*hangs head*) or also the fact that I didn’t have the cover tightened up properly (I found when loading the car at the get out), but I need to investigate. It’s never been an issue with Corran’s rear hatches before – so it’s almost certainly my muppetry! It can’t get through the bulk head as far as I can make out so I certainly need to remember to put the hatch clips on properly next time.
DanH was surprised by the plastic as he expected something with the feel of Prijon to it. Turns out the plugs are much more highly polished, giving a nice finish to the plastic. I managed to boof directly onto a pointed rock (poor skills, Deaves – AKA ‘doing a Chris Jones’) and checked the hull at the get out. Lo!-and-behold!, no hole, fissure or crack – just a small dent that had eased out by the time I checked again at home. Intersting is to note that I have holed a boat doing this self same move on that ledge before. You’d think I’d learn!
All in all, a great boat that really works on rocky rivers and at running drops. I can’t wait to get it on something a bit more… pushy.
Thanks a huge amount to DanH for taking the pictures.