Quinn Connell’s White Water Kayak Project – Part 1: Design

In the Fall of 2013, Quinn Connell was only a few credits short of an Engineering Degree from Dartmouth College.  With the help of the Engineering Department and his Fluid Dynamics professor, Quinn devised an Independent Study in Kayak Design using free courseware from an MIT Naval Architecture Graduate program.

Quinn was able to combine his experience as a kayaker with his studies in fluid dynamics and design his dream white water kayak. He then approached Jamestown Distributors and asked to sponsor his project  in order to make his dream boat into a reality. 

"Design Development"










This past winter, I had the opportunity to design and build a kayak.  As any paddler does, I’ve constanly critiqued boats, formulating opinions about design elements that worked, those that could have been better, and which ones downright sucked.

After graduating with a BA in June, I was headed back to school for another 6 months to finish up an engineering degree.  For this “victory lap,” I wanted to make sure I my studies focused on topics I was actually interested in. Upon arrival to campus, I approached my fluid dynamics professor about setting up an independent study in boat design.  As it turned out, a few of my friends were interested in similar projects and we started a special topics course in Naval Architecture based on MIT open courseware.  For a final project, I combined my experience as a kayaker with the fluid-body dynamics we spent the course studying to develop a design that would perform as I desired.  Using composite materials, I was able to turn my design into a reality; composites also yielded a lighter, stiffer boat than traditional plastic, amplifying its hull speed and altitude for aerial tricks.

For the last 12 years or so, I’ve slowly been formulating an opinion about what my “ideal” kayak would look like.  This past winter I used SolidWorks to turn these ideas into hard dimensions.  As my design developed, I was able to bring in profiles of different boats to compare against.  Knowing how these boats perform informed design decisions about certain elements such as the rocker profile.   For some features, I took inspiration from previous designers were I thought they had nailed it.  In areas I thought there was room for improvement, I innovated.  As the virtual boat began to take shape, it started to resemble more and more closely this idyllic kayak that had been brewing in my head.

Click the Gallery photos to view Quinn’s design process!

Two months and roughly 20 iterations later, I had locked down my final design – aggressively sharp chines and a hybrid rocker profile built for speed and performance. The deck maximized volume in critical areas while maintaining a streamlined figure that would fit my body like a glove.  Now that I had the design finalized, it was time for the real work to begin.

Check back soon for Part 2!

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