Jackson Villain Review

I have been paddling a Jackson Villain for the past few months and thought I would share my thoughts.

Me in the Villain

Me in the Villain (courtesy of Simon Knox)

About Me
A bit about me to start with: I am 27, 6’6″ (198 cm) and weigh about 15.5 stones (95 kg). I have been paddling for approximately ten years, but only running whitewater for the past 8 years. I am confident on grade 4, and run the occasional grade 5. I have paddled in UK, France, Austria, Switzerland, Norway, Slovenia, Uganda, Nepal and Canada.

I have owned a number of boats over the past ten years, including:

  • Dagger Nomad 8.5
  • 2008 Jackson SuperHero (see my review here)
  • 2008 Jackson SuperStar
  • Bliss-Stick Huka
  • Bliss-Stick RAD 185
  • Jackson SuperStar Classic
  • Jackson SuperFun (2007)
  • Original Jackson SuperHero
  • Riot Booster 60

My favourite boat that I have paddled was the SuperHero. I loved that boat and the only reason I sold it was because it was just too small for me. From the SuperHero I changed to the Nomad. It had more space than the SuperHero but, whilst I enjoyed paddling the Nomad, I didn’t love it. I had taken the Nomad to Slovenia and Nepal and whilst I really enjoyed paddling the Nomad I did not find it the most comfortable boat. I had problems getting comfy in it wearing my paddling shoes, which then impacted on my enjoyment of paddling. I tried a number of different types of shoe without success. Before the Nomad I was paddling my SuperHero.

Lee Valley Whitewater Centre
I had been waiting since launch for a go in the Villain, but it wasn’t until June this year that I managed to arrange it. I picked up the SquareRock demo boat from Brookbank London and popped across the road to the London 2012 Canoe Slalom site – Lee Valley Whitewater Centre for a session on the Olympic course. The first time I climbed into the Villain I felt good. There was much more space in the boat than I had expected which allowed me to set the boat up how I wanted it, rather than being constrained by having to squeeze in (as I had in most of my previous creekers). I was able to position the seat where I wanted it and the same with the footrests. It was comfortable!

On the water, I instantly felt at home. I started off messing around on the flat water lake at the bottom of the course, getting to grips with the handling, paddling in straight lines, circles, practising my support strokes, practising my rolls etc. Having paddled a number of Jackson boats in recent years, the Villain handled like I expected it to – easy to control, great balance and very easy to roll.

On the white-water course it took no time at all for me to feel like I had been paddling it for a long time. I was snapping into, and out of, eddies and this boat just did what I expected every time. Despite its size, it didn’t feel too big.

To give some idea of how much I enjoyed the boat, I ordered a Villain for myself the following week! I managed to paddle it a couple of times at Lee Valley before heading off to Canada for my trip.

Canada
In Canada I paddled it on the Gatineau, Tewkesbury section of the Jacques Cartierthe Malbaie (see my write up for details) and a self-support multi-day on the Magpie (see my Magpie report). This was the first opportunity I had to try the Villain on a river and I was not disappointed. The extra length of the Villain made flat sections (of which there were quite a few on the Gatineau, not to mention on the 26 mile lake on the Magpie!). This combination of rivers provided the opportunity to see how it handled in both the smaller, more technical water and the bigger volume stuff. Apart from the first rapid on the Magpie (where I was still learning how to paddle a loaded boat) at no stage did I feel uncomfortable paddling this boat. Yes there were times when I missed my lines but I don’t think I can blame the boat for those! It boofed well, carried its speed through rapids yet was still manoeuvrable enough for me to get into eddies.

The Villain helping me down Gatineau Falls on the Malbaie

The Villain helping me down Gatineau Falls on the Malbaie

On the Malbaie I was able to test how well the Villain resurfaced at the bottom of drops. My testing ground was Gatineau Falls and I was unable to find fault. I went deep on landing (as did the other two who also paddled the falls) but the resurfacing was smooth and stable; I even managed to resurface upright and paddle away from the bottom of the falls.

Resurfacing at the bottom of Gatineau Falls on the Malbaie

Resurfacing at the bottom of Gatineau Falls on the Malbaie

Multi-day self-support
I used my Villain on our 6 day self-support trip on the Magpie. Other boats on the trip included my old Nomad 8.5, Pyranha Burn, Pyranha Everest, LiquidLogic Jefe and Jackson Hero.

For ease of packing in gear I have to say that the Villain won hands-down! The back of this boat is cavernous and, due to the design of the back band, getting gear in and out was a breeze. The gap between the seat, the central pillar and the side of the boat is large enough for my Peli Case 1200 to slide into the stern. However, the Villain’s “party trick” has to be its footrests. If you pull the rope so that the footrest is right at the front of the cockpit you can pull the footrest plates (one at a time) away from the rest of the footrest by sliding it forwards. This trick enabled me to get gear in and out from the nose of my boat in seconds rather than the minutes it took for the other guys with their full plate footrest system. I ended up storing all of my food in the nose of the boat (half either side of the central pillar), giving me even more space in the back of my boat as well as helping out with the weight distribution.

It took me a while to get used to paddling a fully-loaded boat (this was my first self-support and so first time paddling such a heavy boat). Once I had worked it out, however, the boat was great. When on the water it did not feel slow and sluggish at all. I reckon that I must have had approx 20kg of kit and food, on top of my fully-kitted-up self but the boat took it all in its stride. I expected to be sitting very low in the water but at no stage did I notice this. The only times I noticed the weight was when portaging or carrying the boat!

On the Gatineau

On the Gatineau

Conclusion

  • Spacious for the taller paddler whilst not feeling too big
  • Similar seating position to the Hero and Fun ranges
  • Longer length makes paddling easier water a breeze
  • Resurfaces in a controlled manner
  • Very easy access to stern for storing stuff
  • Removable foot rests to aid getting kit in from of them

I wouldn’t have wanted any other boat out in Canada and I can’t wait to take it on some rivers back in the UK.

Fine food and Fresh Air

Lindsay and I were looking for a hotel for a long weekend break with Mike and Rach (my brother and his girlfriend). Location-wise we weren’t particularly fussy. We had spent a long time looking for somewhere without success. Then I received an email from Rach about a Travelzoo offer she had seen for the Borrowdale Hotel in the Lake District. That was our location sorted! We were to travel up on Friday morning, stay with Lindsay’s aunt near Cockermouth on Friday night and then have two nights at the Borrowdale Hotel before retuning home on the Monday.

Time passed at the weekend for our trip was soon upon us. Mike and Rach were travelling up from Somerset and we were travelling up from Hertfordshire so we decided to meet up just north of Birmingham to travel the remainder of the way in one car. The roads were clear all the way to Cockermouth, where we were to stay for the night with Lindsay’s aunt. After depositing our bags and taking a quick bite, we changed into our walking gear and set off up the hill towards Ling Fell.

Walking up Ling Fell

Walking up Ling Fell

At the top of Ling Fell

At the top of Ling Fell

After walking down from the top of Link Fell we all enjoyed a lovely evening of great food and board games.

Saturday morning we set off for Catbells. As it was such a lovely day, it seemed that everyone in the Lakes had also decided to climb Catbells!

Climbing the last bit of Catbells

Climbing the last bit of Catbells

View from the top of Catbells

View from the top of Catbells

In the evening we all enjoyed an amazing dinner at the Borrowdale Hotel, which felt well deserved after a good walk. The following day we headed towards Seathwaite for a walk around Seathwaite Fell. The weather wasn’t as great as the previous day but we had a good day none-the-less. It turned out that the walk had considerably more ascent and descent than any of us initially realised.

Walking in the mist and rain

Walking in the mist and rain

After thoroughly tiring ourselves out on the walk, we retired back to the hotel for a quick nap before yet more fine food at the hotel.

More photos can be found at http://photos.andywicks.com/FineFoodAndFreshAir