Thursday, January 11, 2007

Valley Nordkapp LV test.

A version of this test first appeared in UK Paddles magazine in April 2006.

There have been a number of changes in the UK sea kayak manufacturing scene recently. P&H are now moving forward as part of the Pyranha stable and Valley are now run by Pete Orton and Jason Buxton who formerly worked at P&H. This test was a chance to see how the new Valley team were doing and involved an exciting new design for the keen paddler; the Nordkapp LV. It was supplied by a dealer new to Valley; Scottish Paddler Supplies.

Testing took place over the Scottish winter, spring and early summer and in a variety of conditions and locations in Scotland.

Scarp in the Outer Hebrides.

Loch Nevis in the north west.

St Abbs Head and

Coldingham in the south east.

The north coast of Rum. Inner Hebrides.

The Gulf of Corryvreckan.

Various locations in the Firth of Clyde and the Solway in the south.

Finally to the Ecrehous reef between Jersey and France.

The boat was paddled alongside reference boats including 2005 Rockpool Alaw and Alaw Bachs, 2005 Nordkapp Jubilee and 2005 P&H Quest. The various male and female testers weighed between 60 and 90 kg and experiences ranged between intermediate to expert. Conditions ranged from force 1 to Force 6 gusting 8, onshore and offshore with a variety of water conditions.

The Valley Nordkapp LV.

This is the most beautiful sea kayak I have ever seen. It is a series of graceful curves and flowing lines. The only straight line is the “V” on the fore deck. Even the keel is highly rockered. Compared with the Nordkapp Jubilee, this boat is a completely new shape. The only dimension it shares with its namesake is overall width. It has much finer bow and stern sections.

Construction, finish and ergonomics.
In the recent test of the Point 65 boats from Sweden, I commented that their finish was superior to some contemporary UK boats. Then last year Rockpool produced their stunningly well finished boats and now Valley have joined them, putting UK manufactures at the top of the quality tree. The finish on this boat is absolutely superb. Including keel strip and ready for the water it weighs 24kg and even smaller women commented on how easy it was to lift. In comparison, the Alaw was 26.5 kg but it does have a thicker lay up on the hull and has proved itself in close contact rockhopping.

The deck lines, fittings and end toggles are all good well proven Valley items. The seat back is supported by four straps that attach to the seat pan and rear bulkhead. It is comfortable and the straps prevent it folding forward under your bum during wet re-entries (unlike other designs which use shock cord). The seat pan is a new plastic moulding. It is lightweight and has a removable pad which gets wet and can’t be wiped dry. This will mean you will get a wet bottom if you like to paddle in shorts in the summer. The three largest paddlers had to remove the seat pad to physically get their thighs under the cockpit rim. (Neoprene pads are supplied unfitted for thinner paddlers to glue under the cockpit coaming.) All still found the unpadded seat and relatively straight legged position to be very comfortable. If you are too big to fit in, it is possible to remove some of the foam under the seat and fit shims under the cockpit coaming. If this still does not give enough room, I would be tempted to remove the seat and replace it with a foam seat. The long keyhole cockpit with a low foredeck makes it one of the easiest boats to get in or out of.

The skeg operated faultlessly and the exposed section of the cable (which is liable to kink in other designs) was enclosed by a stainless steel sleeve. The wire is still easy to remove for lubrication. The hatches were all Valley’s own design. The front one was oval. They were difficult to get on and off with cold fingers but were completely waterproof despite several wet sessions. The footrests are adjustable Yakima pegs on an alloy track which is attached by bolts through the hull. When new these adjusted easily but after a rolling session in a sandy bay, they jammed. Paddlers with small feet found their position comfortable but those with larger feet found the curve of the hull limited contact with the pedals. In contrast, the adjustable, angled full footplate on the Rockpools was so much more comfortable. For a personal boat I would consider not ordering the footrests, order a custom bulkhead and make a large footpad from ethafoam.

They said: "Designed for either the lighter paddler who wants an expedition proven sea kayak or a larger paddler who wants the legendary performance of the full sized Nordkapp but wants more manoeuvrability and doesn't need the full carrying capacity of the full sized version." Two friends have Nordkapp Jubilees and I have enjoyed paddling both when fully loaded, but even with my weight of 85 kg, I find them bouncy when unloaded in a chop with wind. I was really looking forward to the Nordkapp LV

This boat feels so, so alive and responsive! It lacks the initial tippiness of an unladen Nordkapp Jubilee but it is so responsive to the slightest lift of a knee and this (together with the boat’s response to the bow rudder stroke) made manoeuvring round the labyrinth of tight rocky channels of St Abbs an absolute joy. A much more experienced paddler, following in the Aquanaut, could not match the tight lines this boat took. The Rockpool Alaws are designed for manoeuvrability but the Nordkapp LV could match every turn. However, as you edge an Alaw the boat becomes progressively stiffer and more secure feeling, as you edge the Nordkapp LV it just keeps going over smoothly until sploosh. There is no warning when you are just about at the limit of secondary stability. Intermediates learning edging and bow rudder strokes found the Alaws to be much easier.

I was expecting it to be manoeuvrable, given all that keel rocker, but I was not expecting it to be fast. However, it accelerates to top speed with fewer strokes than any other boat I have paddled. And what a burst speed it has! The Nordkapp LV managed 11.6km/hr. In comparison; the Quest managed 10.5 km/hr, the Alaw 10.1km/hr, the Jubilee 9.8km/hr and the Aquanaut 8.6km/hr. This top speed is just the thing if you need to power round a headland against a tide but in truth all the boats seemed to settle down nicely at 6.9km/hr, my usual cruising speed.

This boat handles rough water. It thrives in wind against tide or a combination of overfalls and clapotis under a headland. Like many Valley designs it tends to throw its bow high over approaching steep waves. In strong winds in an unladen Jubilee or Aquanaut this can result in the bow getting blown downwind. In the Nordkapp LV this does not happen. However, it is quite a wet boat and you will need to have a well fitting spray deck. Above force 4 it starts to weathercock and although you can control this with edging, the skeg makes for a much more relaxed paddle on an exposed crossing. The Alaw Bach has no skeg but is a very well balanced boat even in strong winds. However, paddling it side by side with the LV in force 5 to 6 winds demonstrated the extra versatility given by the Nordkapp LVs skeg. You might not need it very often but when you do, it does make life much easier. We had planned a day to the Cuan Sound to see how the Nordkapp LV handled tidal eddy lines. Unfortunately, the boat arrived too late so we took it to the tidal weir at the mouth of the River Doon. The jet coming out the weir was travelling at 26km/hour and the boat handled crossings like a dream.

Crossing the eddyline at the tidal weir on the Doon.

With such a narrow stern, I was not expecting the Nordkapp LV to be able to pick up following seas as easily as a boat like the Alaw. I was wrong, the Nordkapp LV’s acceleration means you can pick up swells actively rather than relying on the hull shape of the stern to give you that final boost to catch a wave. I managed a burst speed 18.6km/hr on a nice piece of Solway surf! This brings me to rolling. The LV rolls very easily. It is also very easy to re-enter and roll the boat; the straps keep the back rest well out of the way. In a rescue situation, it is very easy for the rescuer to completely empty the Nordkapp LV simply by raising the bow and using the bow rocker as a lever to twist the boat upside down. The Alaw has less bow rocker and is more difficult to twist over.

What about the LV’s use as an expedition boat? Well there was not much enthusiasm for camping at this time of year but I tried it loaded with 40kg of weight. Together with my weight of 85kg plus 10kg for clothing and safety gear, this brought the waterline up to the deck seam. Heavy weights can use it as an expedition boat if they accept having less volume for bulky items than a Nordkapp or a Quest. When the Nordkapp LV is loaded it has a much more predictable limit of secondary stability. This means that if you are light and value secondary stability, it might be best to view this as an expedition boat rather than as a day boat.

In the fore hatch I managed to fit in a 3 man tunnel tent, 5mm full length Thermarest, down sleeping bag, Force 10 4 man mountain shelter, oddment dry bag with SLR size camera, radio, car keys, spare batteries etc. and a 1 litre wide mouth nalgene bottle with repair kit. In the cockpit, I had a six litre water bag and I am sure there would be room for my Kelly Kettle in place of a knee tube. In the stern hatch I had a folding stool, walking boots, two dry bags with clothes, toilet bag, folding bowl, folding wind shield, MSR 1.5l/1.0l/frying pan cookset with mini stove inside, large gas cylinder, two cups, bowl, plate, cutlery, kitchen roll and kindling, firelighters and lighter for Kelly Kettle. The day hatch was free for food etc. Despite its LV name, this is still an expedition boat.

As measured rather than quoted: Length 532cm, breadth 53cm, cockpit 79cm x 40cm, height of cockpit front 33cm, weight standard construction with keel strip 24.0kg.

Hull plan shapes.

The Valley Nordkapp LV is a superbly made expedition boat for smaller paddlers. It is as manoeuvrable as a day boat (albeit at the cost of some secondary stability) and it is also fast. Valley seem to have achieved the Holy Grail of sea kayak design: the LV has speed, manoeuvrability and sufficient volume! It is a boat that the progressing paddler will delight in for its excitement and responsiveness. It is also a superb day boat for heavier paddlers while still having enough expedition carrying capacity for all but the heaviest of packers. What else should you consider? Early intermediates looking for a day boat should also try the superb Rockpool Alaw Bach which is just as manoeuvrable but is a more predictable learning platform that will flatter ability and speed skill development. Hardcore rockhoppers should also consider the Rockpool for its heavier and stronger construction and in extreme conditions even experts appreciate secondary stability.

What is the overall verdict of the Valley Nordkapp LV? Well apart from carrying capacity, we could not find a single criterion in which the Nordkapp Jubilee retained superiority. The Nordkapp is dead. Long live the Nordkapp LV! It is outstanding, beauty really isn't skin deep! As a result of this test, three Nordkapp LV’s have already been ordered and more are being saved for! I feel I must award this boat 12/10!

Since this review was published, several friends and I have bought Nordkapp LV's. Experience since then has not changed any of the conclusions above. Mine developed a leak from where the skeg cable enters the skeg box. It was fixed without question and returned within 3 days. I have used it successfully for weekend camps but I chose to take my Quest for a 10 day trip to the Outer Hebrides due to its greater carrying capacity . The plastic seat fitted to 5 boats supplied in the spring and early summer of 2006 were fitted much higher than in the tested demo boat. Indeed two purchasers were physically unable to fit into their own boats despite having fitted in the demo. Slimmer purchasers found their boats to be tippier than the demo boat. Valley sent us a batch of alternative plastic seats which allowed lower fitting. This was achieved by removing foam from under the seat and shimming the resulting space under the cockpit and the top of the seat mounts. The Nordkapp LV has only been available with the plastic seat but it was noted that a 2006 Nordkapp with a plastic seat had
its seat 4.5cm higher than a 2005 Nordkapp Jubilee with the original GRP seat. This problem is not restricted to Valley. P&H plastic seats are also fitted higher than their GRP seats but at least P&H still offer the GRP seat as an option.

Second footnote.
Jonny asks:
I am just wondering if anyone has experience of this boat in reasonably big surf. (5-8ft). I live in Cape Town, South Africa. Often I will need to beach with the surf pumping. Getting out is never a problem.
Just hoping that this boat does not nose dive, and wondering how it handles sitting on the wall of a wave?

Jonny the Nordkapp LV's ability in surf outdoes my abilites, so I will just answer by posting a sequence of photos of my friend Cailean MacLeod coming in through the surf in at Coldingham.

Does that answer your question? :o)


  1. The photo of the kayaks stacked up is very interesting Douglas. Isn't it amazing how comparitively small changes in hull shape have a massive effect on handling characteristics.

  2. Thought the white and red boat was my Sirius, until I saw the rocker, wow !

  3. For a kayak review ... as good as it gets, Douglas.

  4. Grazie it is rather surprising but there are some pretty significant differences. Look how far forward and back the Aquanaut carries its volume.

    Muzz I do like all white boats though the green/yellow/white combination of the test boat grew on me!

    Thanks Wenley, what colour of seam line did you go for?

  5. I think they had a cheek calling it a nordkapp at all. the nordkapp is what it is, all 'newer models' are interlopers and frauds.
    sure the old one only tips a wee bit anyway.
    thats me, the Nordkapp Princess, in case you missed me as I hurtled past you out of control. . . . .

  6. Hello Claire, you are right, unlike the Explorer LV and the Quest LV, it's a completely different boat to its bigger namesake. (See my Quest LV review)

    However it does share a lot of characteristics with the Nordkapp and is probably a better boat for smaller paddlers. By the time I have all my kit on I am 95 kgs and I use one for all my day and weekend paddling.

  7. Hello Douglas,
    Real interesting kayak is this. Like to paddle her myself.
    I would like to ask you something about her.
    You describe that the LV shows no sign of leecocking. Could there be a relationship with the weight of the paddler? Your weight probably holds the LV low, giving her less windage and anchoring her in the wave despite her bow rising high.
    I can imagine that a 60-70kg-person, floating higher, could experience some leecocking. Did you have also some experience with these persons?
    Migth there be a negative effect of the paddlersweigth, I can not think of this as a serious issue because the good manoeuvrability surely will minimise the effect.

    By the way, I didn't recieve mail from you lately. It could be, in the battle against spam, that you were accidentialy move to the blacklist. Please let me know if you sent me mail which you are awaiting an answer on.
    It could also well be that I was moved to your blacklist, blocking my mail, as I noticed last week that spammers were using my emailadres as "sender".

    Kind regards

  8. Hello Rene, you have identified a very important point regarding paddler weight and boat volume. I think a lot of people paddle boats that are too big for them.

    I never liked paddling an empty Nordkapp Jubilee, even with my weight of about 85kg. The Nordkapp LV was a revelation to me for use as a day boat. I know several lighter paddlers who paddle the Nordkapp LV. One previously paddled the Nordkapp Jubilee and she reports that both weather cocking and lee cocking tendencies are reduced in the Nordkapp LV.

    Even with my heavy weight and resulting high waterline on the Nordkapp LV, I still find very manoeuvrable.

    I am not aware of any mail you have sent me. I cannot access my spam folder from home but will check it tomorrow.


  9. Rene van der Zwan05/04/2007, 10:15

    Hello Douglass,

    I fully agree with you, saying that people oft are paddling kayaks too big for them.

    It should be more widely spread that people preferably should not buy a kayak with lots of volume for the trip with camping gear "once a year", while paddling the rest of the year in a kayak which is in fact too big.

    People should realise that paddling a kayak with too much volume can make kayakking less fun and less easy, when compared with a volume-dedicated kayak for them.

  10. How does the Nordkapp LV compare to the original Nordkapp HS? I have a 1980 Nordkapp, so was wondering if the Nordkapp LV was worth ordering.

    Doug Lloyd
    Victoria BC Canada

  11. I see the specifications for the Nordkapp LV are 6 inches shorter and 1/2 inch narrower than the early 80's Nordkapp - so I guess that helps answer my question.

    Doug Lloyd
    Victoria BC

  12. Hello Doug,

    I have not paddled a Nordkapp HS but the Nordkapp LV is a much superior boat to a 1984 Nordkapp HM, particularly with respect to behaviour in a wind. My friend Mair paddled an 84 Nordkapp HM. After 20 years she changed it for a 2004 Nordkapp Jubilee. She changed this for a 2006 Nordkapp LV and has no regrets.

    I am 85 kg and find the Nordkapp LV fantastic in rough windy conditions as I sit pretty low in the water. I like paddling a Nordkapp when fully loaded for an expedition but find I prefer the Nordkapp LV as a day boat.

    You should try one if you get the chance. :o)

  13. Hi everyone, this is a really interesting thread. My wife is looking for a new kayak after being blown around the ocean in a 15' plastic barge for the laast couple of years. We were looking at the P&H Sirius but would the CappLV be a good bet? She's beginner to int. and weighs about 70KG. he has struggled most with winds as the easky she paddles sits really high in the water. I'd really welcome your comments.

  14. Hello Martin, The Nordkapp LV reviewed here would be a bit big for your wife to use as a day boat. The P&H Sirius is also a bit big and is quite an old design which, although good, has been superseded by a number of kayaks which are more versatile. Sticking with P&H I would suggest that she tries the Cetus LV or its polyethylene sister, the Scorpio LV. A feature of these kayaks is that they hare low and have little windage.


  15. I am just wondering if anyone has experience of this boat in reasonably big surf. (5-8ft)
    I live in Cape Town, South Africa. Often i will need to beach with the surf pumping. Getting out is never a problem.
    Just hoping that this boat does not nose dive, and wondering how it handles sitting on the wall of a wave?

  16. Hello Jonny, see footnote 2 in the main test post above.


  17. Douglas, this may be an old post, but still extremely useful, thank you.

    I'm trying hard to find myself a first boat, having fallen for the RM Nordkapp (on a 3* course), but it was too big. This looks like a solution, but how practical is the LV to shoot stills or video from? I fear that this may be a problem?

  18. Hello Nick I spend most of my paddling in the Nordkapp LV and manage to use an expensive DSLR to produce most of the on water photos in this blog. Something like the lower volume Etain or Cetus models will be much easier though due to their better primary stability.


  19. Hope you don't mind me sticking my 'two penneth' in (Nick and Douglas). This post was extremely instrumental in my purchasing a Nordkapp LV, despite my lack of experience and fears of immediate dunking.

    Four years on and it's still the best choice I could have made. You get used to it's initial tippyness for photographing, and using a fast shutter speed helps.

    Not quite as good a photographic platform as my Prowler 13 SOT, but streets ahead in paddling finesse. Aesthetically, it's form and function personified.

    Great blog Douglas and delicious photos.

  20. Thank you CB. while on holiday, I was sailing, fishing from and photographing from my Nordkapp LV all at the same time so it can't be that tippy!


  21. Thanks Douglas and C B for your feedback. I borrowed the LV for a few days and indeed it was perfect size and joy to paddle.

    However a stills camera would certainly work, but not so sure about my EX3, so I am now the happy (and very proud) owner of an Etain 17.5 (question elsewhere about trolleys ;)

  22. Pleasure Nick, and congratulations on your purchase. I reckon I would've ent-etain-ed one if it was around when I got old 'Nordy' it's not as fast though........;o) Here's to many bon voyages.

    The 'storm brewing' photos of the Arran mountains are particularly awesome Douglas, if you don't mind me saying.

  23. Thank you CB, the view on the crossing from Bute to Glen Sannox on Arran is one of the finest in |Scotland.


  24. Dear Douglas,

    Even if it has been a while since you posted this I am sure it is still the most read Nordlow post around.

    I have a question for you: Like yourself I was a bit surprised to see how much Valley had raised the seat in this otherwise exceptional kayak. Now, I understand there is a trade-off as the coaming at the back is quite high, so I guess lowering the seat makes the coaming feel even higher.

    I still would like to lower the seat, though, and was wandering if you have any images or a description of how this can be accomlished in a "gradual" way (little by little does it, I think).



  25. Hi Douglas,

    i am an absolute beginner which got my hands on a plastic nordkapp and an aquanaut.

    Do you know how the plastic version compares? I ask because, while the aquanat feels rocksolid - it's also a bit boring. However the nordkapp is so fast, fun and alive - I love it. But when I get tired and loose concentration for a moment, it is very easy to fall in the water.

    I find the Nordkapp very hard to reenter - even in calm water. In fact - It's impossible for me without a paddlefloat.

    I weigh 95kg and paddle it without any extra load.

    Would you recommend to but a few kg og rock in the hatches?

  26. Ps. this is the plastic nordkapp:

  27. Greetings ach, I found the same. Many nordkapp rms were supplied with a very high seat. You could try removing foam from under the seat and putting spacers between the top of the seat and the cockpit rim. that cured it for me, I am about the same weight. :o)

  28. Hi Douglas, thank you for answering!

    If I understand this correctly, the theory is that lower point of gravity a paddler has relative to the water, the better control that paddler will have? If so, then it does seem reasonable to lower the seet.

    What exactly do you mean with 'spacers'? Do you mean that the foam removed from under seat, should be refitted to the cockpit rim, so to keep a snug fit?

    Am I correct that the seats are not screwed in place? It seems removing the padding will require quite a bit of violence from my part?


  29. Ahh - sorry.. If I remove padding from beneath the seat, I of course need spacers to compensate above the seat. And yes - the seats have now been removed - and yes, they were screwed in place... Don't know what I was thinking in my comment above...

    BUT: Having removed the foam: This will at the very best give me one centimeter. More likely, only 0.5 cm. - Is this really something that will be noticed?

  30. Hi all,

    The revival of an ancient thread!

    I have some experience with kayaks but not much, yet I have years of experience with canoes on rivers. I live about 65 miles from the Atlantic ocean and I would like to give that a try. And a kayak seems to be the way for me to go.

    I am 5'10" and 185 lbs. I might eventually pack a few days worth of backpacker camping gear, so I do not need a big cargo ship, and at this time I am considering the P&H Cetus MV and the Valley Nordkapp LV, the Cetus MV because it offers a bit more stability, good for beginners, and the Nordkapp LV because it poses such a challenge. Oh, worry not, until I learn how to paddle I will not go far offshore, just far enough so that I will not bump my head on the bottom of the ocean when I roll the boat and that way if anything goes really wrong I could then simply swim back to shore.

    Douglas, I thank you for this very insightful review. Both the P&H and the Valley are very attractive boats for somebody of my size. But I think I am leaning ever so slightly toward the Valley. More than just a challenge, it has been said that the Valley Nordkapp will FORCE a paddler to do it right. And so it looks like I could be spending quite some time not all that far from shore. But that will be time well spent.

    1. Hi Doug, I felt the same way as you about being challenged and that is why I bought the Nordkapp LV when I did. However having paddled both the Nordkapp LV and the Cetus MV for many years now I would not do the same. At an earlier stage in my paddling career, I would now definitely go for the Cetus MV. I think this will allow you to progress your skills into more challenging conditions more quickly. I rarely paddle my Nordkapp LV now but when I do I very much enjoy it, for what it is. Douglas