• 6th April 2017 - By greg

    Probably the single most significant factor in my ability to go father than 249 km in 24 hours (a new world record) is my choice of water course. And with a course, there are 6 considerations shown in order of importance, with the importance of each factor shown as an approximate percentage:

    1. Water surface condition (40% important)
      • My speed tests are always conducted on mirror calm water. Even the slightest ripple will degrade my speed. Here are some average water conditions, resulting speeds, and resulting distances over 24 hours:
        • Mirror calm = 10.5 kph, 252 km (WR)
        • Slight ripple = 10.2 kph, 244 km
        • Slightly wavy = 9.5 kph, 228 km
        • 3 inch waves = <9 kph, 216 km
    2. # of Turns, and turn radius. (30% important)
      • When I turn my rudder to turn the boat, my speed drops significantly. The shorter the course, with tighter turns has a serious effect on my over all speed and distance. For example, during the last record attempt on Whitefish lake with Carter – the Pedal vs. Paddle challenge where weather caused us to cancel our 24 hour record attempt, I could keep up with Carter on the straight sections of the course, but as soon as I went into one of the 2 turn arounds at each end (see map), he would easily pass me, as our turn-arounds were far too tight for my boat.
    3. Minimum water depth (15% important)
      • At any depth less than 6 feet, I would suffer a 1.6% slowdown. So at 10.5 kph ave speed in deep, calm water, if I were to glide over an area that is 6 feet deep, my boat would slow down to 10.26 kph (significant). If depth were only 3 feet, I would slow down to 9.5 kph (very significant!).
    4. Access to docks and services (5% important)
      • I need constant access to food and water (hydration) during a 24 hour event, and the easiest way is to fly-by a dock to pick up required supplies. During the original 24 hour record attempt on Whitefish Lake, I didn’t have easy access to a dock, so Helen and volunteers visited me with a pontoon boat, and handed supplies to me using a basket and extendable golf ball retriever. This works, but it’s way less convenient than a dock visit. One advantage of a boat is that if I were to ever encounter a technical problem, a radio call to the support boat would bring a resolution very quickly. If I’m relying on a dock for support, if I were to ever to need assistance, it would be more difficult for support to get to my location on the course.
    5. Lighting at night (5% important)
      • I need to be able to see where I’m going, and to use an area that is well lit at night is convenient, but not absolutely required. During the original record on Whitefish lake, I put flashing LED lights on the course buoys and I could see them in the dark in the distance. However, I relied on my GPS which ensured that I stayed on a very straight and efficient line between buoys, so the lights were absolutely required. One consideration though, is that Guinness rules requires an official observer to physically watch and confirm that I rounded every course marker. At night, this usually means that I need to have a light on my boat, along with a light on the buoy so the official can confirm that I did indeed clear the marker. A well lit venue avoids having to place lights on the markers and my boat.
    6. Water temperature (5% important)
      • Cold water is more dense, and therefore slower. I don’t remember exactly what the numbers are, but warm water is always preferable.

    So, when designing a 24 hour course, my first consideration is ensuring that the area is protected from wind because wind typically creates waves. No wind usually equals mirror calm water. Boat traffic also can disrupt the mirror calm, but traffic is usually temporary – ie: no traffic during at least 12 hours. The 2nd most important consideration is making sure that the course is long enough that the turns are few and of large enough radius. I’m fastest while traveling in a straight line. Actually, I take that back. I’m fastest while traveling in a very slight turn to port due to the clockwise spinning prop causing a slight counter clockwise turn reaction. To travel in a straight line creates a bit of drag by the rudder correcting for the natural left hand turn.

    Below are 6 course options along with pros and cons for each. If you happen to know of a lake or ocean course worthy of consideration, and that meets my criteria, please let me know.

    Glenmore reservoir Calgary (3 km)


    My very first record attempt was in June of 2006 on the Glenmore reservoir in Calgary where I pedaled a converted kayak 173.76 km and broke the International Human Powered Vehicle Association record for the most distance in 24 hour by human power on water, and set my first Guinness world record for the most distance achieved by pedal powered boat in 24 hours. I hadn’t known at the time, that the ACTUAL WR 24 hour distance by “human power” was Carter Johnson’s 240+ km by kayak which was not recognized by the IHPVA. The Glenmore course is a rectangular 3 km course with tight turns protected water (due to the high elevation land to the west protecting the course from prevailing Calgary west winds. There was also a dock, and I had access to a support boat through the night.


    1. Water was generally calm throughout the 24 hour period
    2. Access to a dock
    3. Access to a support boat (Glenmore safety boat)
    4. Easy access to volunteers because I live in Calgary
    5. Deep water


    1. Waves created by the SS Moyie paddle wheeler from Heritage Park that ran during the day once per hour or so.
    2. This area can be prone to rough water created by very high west winds, or winds that come from another direction. Not likely, but I would estimate that at any point during summer months, there is a 50% chance that the water surface is rougher than “slightly wavy”.
    3. The 4 corner turns would be too tight for Libby, and I would loose a lot of speed, and travel additional distance turning the tight corners is a wide radius turn.
    4. Summer months can get quite weedy in spots on the reservoir. Weeds can collect on my rudder and prop thus destroying speed.

    Whitefish Lake (6 km)



    The upper image is the course I used when I set my second world record of 245.16 km on Whitefish Lake in October of 2008. This record set a new IHPVA record, as well as Guinness pedal boat record. Also, this record exceeded Carter Johnson’s kayak record, although there is no general category for that at Guinness, and the IHPVA never recognized his original record for some unknown reason (but I did). This was a good course because it was very long at 6 km total distance around, and the turns were very wide radius. I was also LUCKY that the water condition for the 24 hour period was fairly calm. Based on my extensive experience training on Whitefish Lake, it is far more likely that I will encounter rough water than calm water and it is for this reason that I think WF lake is unsuitable for a record attempt.


    1. Access to volunteers because it’s close to Calgary and we own a house near there.
    2. Easy drive to Whitefish
    3. WF lake is 10 km long, and I can plot out a very long course with few turns.
    4. Deep water


    1. Water conditions are more likely to be quite wavy at some point during the 24 hours. The second image is the “Pedal vs. Paddle” challenge which was a 24 hour record attempt and “race” between Carter and I in 2013. We tried to stage this event for a week, and were unable to due to bad weather. When we did finally start the event, we had to call it off after 12 hours due to VERY rough conditions.
    2. No dock unless I want to get very close to shore and the possibility of weeds getting tangled in my rudder and prop
    3. Debris likely. My prop struck a submerged log during the PvsP race and broke a blade. I have hit submerged debris before in WF lake.
    4. No lighting at night. Could get very dark
    5. Wake board boat HUGE waves. In the summer, wake boarding is popular on WF lake, and these boats kick up huge wakes that are meant to surf on.

    Finlayson Arm (Saanich inlet) (8.5 km)


    Finlayson Arm is at the very end of Saanich Inlet on Vancouver Island. Helen and I trained here with Special K while getting ready for the MR340 race. Finlayson Arm is very protected from wind by mountains on both sides of the inlet. There is a marina at the far South end of the inlet. The biggest potential problem with Finlayson is that the water could potentially get quite rough further north as the arm opens up. Also, this northern end can see ocean swells coming from the Straight of Juan de Fuca. In order to avoid possible rough water, I could shorten the course to less than 4 km up from the far South end, but that would result in more tight turn-arounds at both ends.


    1. Deep water
    2. Potential calm as it is very sheltered at the south end
    3. Access to a dock at the marina


    1. Potential rough water at the North end
    2. Shallow water at low tide at the South end
    3. No lighting at night – could get very dark.
    4. Safety – this is a failry secluded part of the ocean on Vancouver Island, and the course is large enough that if I were to encounter a serious problem (attached by a killer whale, capsized by a tsunami, etc), nobody would be around to see me – especially at night. Colliding and puncturing the hull with an object like a log at night is possible.
    5. It might be difficult to mark a buoy course due to ocean, depth, and tides
    6. Long 12 hour drive.

    Brentwood Bay / Todd Inlet (4.3 km)


    Helen and I trained in this area with Special K before the MR340. Todd inlet is probably the most reliably calm bit of water I have seen. It is protected by big hills all around. However, Todd inlet is very short, with the inlet itself being less than 1 km long. To extend this course, I added a bit of Brentwood Bay. The water outside of Todd in the entrance to the bay is less likely to be perfectly calm, but it is also well protected. Boat traffic is a concern outside the inlet along with waves produced by large, fast fishing boats.


    1. Deep water
    2. Guaranteed calm in Todd inlet
    3. Access to a dock in the inlet, and a hotel nearby


    1. Potential rough water caused by boats at the North end
    2. Shallow water at low tide at the far South end
    3. No lighting at night – could get very dark.
    4. The turn-around at the south side is very tight.
    5. It might be difficult to mark a buoy course due to ocean, depth, and tides
    6. long 12 hour drive

    Huntington Harbor (5 km) & Carters record route (2.6 km)


    The red route marked on the map is the course that Carter Johnson used in 2014 when he set the current record of 249 km. I spoke with Carter about it, and he said that this course checked-off 80% of the requirements for an acceptable course. The only 2 issues according to Carter, were boat traffic, and water depth at the far sourth side during low tide which is only 4 feet. Aside from those issues, the course was well lit during the night, there were plenty of docks available for support, the water was dead calm for 24 hours, and probably guaranteed to be calm at almost any other time.

    The green route marked on the map is another option I have indicated. This route is 5 km round and has more longer straight sections (less turns in 24 hours), but might be harder to officiate. Official observers are required to be stationed at every surveyed buoy to confirm that I indeed did not cheat and miss the turn.


    1. Guaranteed calm except for some boat traffic which would be temporary
    2. Access to lots of docks and amenities.
    3. Well lit at night
    4. Easy to survey a course
    5. The current world record was set on this course
    6. Access to volunteers (my son Cody and his friends live in LA)


    1. Potential waves water caused by boat traffic mid day
    2. Shallow water at low tide at the South end during low tide
    3. Having to periodically route around Boat traffic
    4. Very long 2 day drive

    Alamitos Bay (4 km) and Naples canal (1.16 km)


    Alamitos Bay (marked in blue) is 4 km around, is near Huntington and would be similar to Huntington Harbor. Naples canal is only 1.15 km around and is marked on red on the map. Naples canal is the most guaranteed protected dead calm water aside from boat traffic, which should be light because the area is small and boats would have to move very slowly. This short 1.15 km circle, if travelled in a counter clockwise direction, just might be very close to Libby’s most efficient vector (a constant slight turn to port / left). According to sources, the minimum water depth at low tide is 6 feet, which would be equivalent to a .2 reduction in speed, but that would only be during the lowest tide, and that would occur twice a day. I think the guaranteed calm water could easily make up the difference, and if there is a slight speed advantage to a slight constant left turn, then this could be the best option.

    The only problem with the Naples canal, as far as I can tell is routing around boat traffic (boats, yachts, kayaks, and SUP’s), AND the additional uncounted distance I must travel due to the difference between the minimum surveyed distance of this short loop vs the distance that I ACTUALLY travel.

    Because the loop is so small, I would need to circle this approximately 216.52 times. If the surveyed distance around the inside perimeter (from dock edge to dock edge to dock edge) is exactly, say, 115 km, then I would need to travel OUTSIDE this minimum circumference due to the width of my boat, and the fact that I won’t be coming so close to each dock turning point. If the outside circumference that I actually travel ends up being 1.18 km, then I’ll end up traveling 255.5 km (1.18*216 loops = 255.5 km) in 24 hours just to end up with an official 249 km measured. That means I’ll end up pedaling an additional 6.5 km just because of the width of my boat between stabilizer floats. That’s a 2.6% penalty which would be the same as a .27 kph average speed reduction (based on 10.5 kph average). Dam…

    Screen Shot 2017-04-06 at 11.48.27 AM


    1. Guaranteed calm except for some boat traffic which would be temporary
    2. Access to lots of docks and amenities.
    3. Well lit at night
    4. Easy to survey a course
    5. The current world record was set on a course similar to this
    6. Access to volunteers (my son Cody and his friends live in LA)
    7. Possible constant left turn speed advantage (Naples canal)


    1. Potential waves water caused by boat traffic mid day (not a concern with Naples canal)
    2. Having to periodically route around Boat traffic
    3. Naples canal additional distance required to compensate for a smaller surveyed circumference
    4. Very long 2 day drive

    Final thoughts

    I was mostly convinced that Naples canal was the obvious choice if I can confirm that my speed actually increase from a constant slight left turn. However, I’m a bit dismayed due to the small loop and the difference between how far I’ll need to actually travel, just to get credit for the surveyed course. This could be worth up to .27 kph average speed. However, the water would be very calm which could be worth a .27 kph average increase in speed. If you add a possible .1 kph increase in left hand turn speed, the pros of Naples canal could outweigh the cons.

    What do you think?

  • Comments are closed.