Sterling Grand Illusion vs. Tiderace Xceed-X

alexsidles

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Jan 10, 2009
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Seattle WA
One of my clunky folding kayaks has reached the end of its service life. Now I'm looking to upgrade. I have a line on two used kayaks, one a Sterling Grand Illusion, the other a Tiderace Xceed-X.

The two boats are comparable in price, but the Tiderace is a couple years younger than the Sterling. Assume both boats are in good condition. Both boats are in the "heavy" fiberglass configuration, which for the Sterling means 50 pounds and the Tiderace 59 pounds. Skegs, not rudders.

Intended use will be expeditions of up to three weeks' duration in open water, with surf launching and landings. Daily paddling distance 20+ miles in conditions up to 25 knots. Your typical west coast Vancouver Island-type stuff.

I am a 6'3" paddler, 230 pounds, US size 13 boots (190 cm, 104 kg, EU size 47).

I would appreciate everyone's thoughts on the relative merits of these boats.

Alex
 

benson

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Aug 28, 2011
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Sequim, Wa
Alex, I can't give a personal recommendation not having paddled either, but I wouldn't pass up the opportunity to check out a Sterling boat. I have several friends that paddled the more standard size Illusion and love it. I'm sure you'll hear from several of the WCP regulars. I have an Explorer for trips, but haven't done any longer than 10 days. I actually like the idea of rudder with an expedition boat, but it's nice to have it still be fun to paddle without the load. Whatever you choose, it's a good investment. Good luck
 

dvfrggr

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Apr 4, 2005
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Alex,
I'm 6'2' was 210 lbs, size 11+. I owned an Explorer for 8 years and loved that boat. In 2013 i dropped the Explorer at Sterling's shop for skeg repair in preparation for our upcoming trip and he talked me into taking the G I for a test drive and come back in a week. First day was a calm Lake Washington paddle and i was amassed at its playfulness. Day 2 was in Elliot bay with 1' chop loaded with my 2 week kit weight and it can still turn on a dime and i'm smiling. Day 3 i was paddling unloaded at west point with 25 kt southerly wind at the light house. With the center drop skeg handling was a little different than i was used to but became confident turning around in the strong wind waves in no time, i'm sold on my new expedition boat, never looked back:) Good luck shopping, hope your able to get in some good test rides!
Dave R
 

chodups

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Nov 2, 2005
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Alex,

I have no opinion on or experience with the Tiderace, however, Dave R and I have paddled together a lot over the past 20 years. We have done many coastal trips together, first with his Explorer and then his GI. Something that was very obvious immediately was how much the quality of his photography improved with his move to the GI. The GI was just so much more comfy in ragged water that it offered him photo ops that didn't exist with the Explorer or maybe they did but he was not comfortable taking his hands off of his paddle.

Something else about the GI is that it will swallow a huge quantity of gear and still dance on the water.

BTW......after he got a taste of the GI he sold his Explorer, Poseiden and Romany. Didn't need them anymore.
 

Peter-CKM

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Dec 1, 2011
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San Francisco, CA
I would do everything possible to be able to sit in both boats and try them out. Better yet, a paddle in each boat. I think you may find the fit varies and one may be more comfortable to you than the other.
 

AM

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Jan 30, 2006
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Of course Peter is right: you should get seat time in the boats, as you already know. I haven’t paddled a Tiderace, but at first blush here’s why I would go with the GI:

- 9 lbs weight difference. That‘s almost 20%. Weight matters.
- local builder, in case you need any assistance with the boat.
- big guys I know paddle it and love it for everything from surfing to tripping.

Cheers,
Andrew
 

dermot

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Apr 9, 2015
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i have some seat time the GI, and a Tiderace Vortex

i'm 6.1", size 13, and was 265 at one point, now 208 and still dropping slowly

GI: i rented the GI for a few weekends for courses - i was closer to 265 then, and for a big guy it's amazingly responcive when all other options (other then the Delphin / Aries 155) are varations on a barge

Tiderace: My wife has a Vortex, a plastic version of the Xtra, advertised as rock gardening boat, it very responcive, and i love it as well.. once i'm inside it... the deal being the teeensie tiny little space between thigh braces, impossiable to drop my butt in the boat and fold legs in, tried again last week, but there's just no way my second leg is going to make it past the thigh brace, and that's with me at 208... i have to thread them in together slideing in off the back deck, Eva can fold into the boat easly, so chk out getting in/out

For the same money i'd go for the GI in a heartbeat, but i would also chk out the Current Design's Parana, i know of one GI for sale as the owner is now prefering a Parana, might well be the GI you are looking at, and is in the sameish price range as a used GI
 

JohnAbercrombie

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Victoria, BC
I notice there is a Mariner Express for sale in Seattle... :)
:)

Actually a Mariner (Express or Max) would be a good choice for somebody coming from a folding boat, as the lack of a front bulkhead wouldn't be such a non-starter.
Great boats, and a lot better built (if Mariner Seattle label inside, not NWK) than the couple of Sterlings I've looked at.
Still, the old-fashioned deck rigging on the Mariners would need work for most users. Not a big deal - a few padeyes to support perimeter line.
 

alexsidles

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Jan 10, 2009
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Seattle WA
After comparing the Sterling Grand Illusion side by side with the Tiderace Xplore-X, I decided to buy the Tiderace.

Xplore X.jpg
(In my original post, I called it a Tiderace Xceed-X, but that was incorrect. It was an Xplore-X. Tiderace's model names are Xcruciating.)

My two main objections to the Sterling were fit and gear capacity.

At 6'3", 230 pounds, US size 13 boots (190 cm, 104 kg, EU size 47), I was simply too large for the Sterling. To get past the thigh braces, I had to wedge my legs in one at a time, scraping hard against the brace each time. The second leg was particularly difficult to insert into the limited space available.

Once in the Sterling, there was not enough room for my feet. They were stuck at an uncomfortable, flat Vee-angle that I could not adjust, even for momentary relief. Also, the foot pegs did not extend far enough forward, but the discomfort from this problem was less severe than the discomfort from having to splay my feet so flat and being unable to shift them.

The Sterling's gear storage appeared sufficient for multi-day trips, but I was dubious it would be enough for multi-week trips. The problem was the low decks, which severely limited the space available. My 15-foot Folbot Kodiak had more storage space than this 17+-foot Sterling. No doubt some ultra-light backpacker type could make it work, but that's not the kind of camping I do. (I also insist on drybagging all my gear, even inside hatches, so I need extra volume to accommodate the drybags.)

By contrast, the Tiderace was an absolute breeze to get into and had a generous volume for storage. I was amazed at its speed on the water and pleasantly surprised at my ability to slew it around within a tight radius. At 65 pounds, it was substantially heavier than the 50-pound Sterling, but I am used to hauling an 80+-pound Feathercraft Klondike, so the Tiderace did not strike me as excessively heavy.

One final factor in the Tiderace's favor was its solid construction compared to that of the Sterling. The Sterling had a noticeable amount of flex in the hull and deck, even just pressing with my fingers. No doubt the Sterling would be strong enough under appropriate care, but I am notoriously hard on gear. so I preferred the steel-like fortitude of the Tiderace. Strength of construction was only a minor consideration, not one of the decisive factors. The decisive factors were fit and storage capacity.

Thank you, everyone, for your thoughtful comments. The Sterling seems to be the "people's choice" on here, and I am sure it would be a fantastic boat for some other paddler.

Alex
 
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AM

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Jan 30, 2006
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Congrats, Alex! That’s a big boat!

I’ve never seen a Tiderace north of the border, but I’ve heard good things about them. Go beat it up!

Cheers,
Andrew
 

dermot

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Apr 9, 2015
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Eva prolly has the only one around Vancouver
it's their "rock gardening" plastic boat, so again prolly nothing like Alex's new boat tho!
 

Jurfie

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May 6, 2007
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Semiahmoo, South Surrey, BC
Well done!

I am a little surprised with the size issue of the Grand Illusion? I always heard that was a big guys boat...
Me too. I’m 6’-6”, 36“ inseam, ~220 lbs and size 12; the GI was my go to rental when DCCK had one in their fleet. I actually prefer the lower volume Illusion as a play boat, but the GI would be my choice for touring.
 

chodups

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Me too. I’m 6’-6”, 36“ inseam, ~220 lbs and size 12; the GI was my go to rental when DCCK had one in their fleet. I actually prefer the lower volume Illusion as a play boat, but the GI would be my choice for touring.
I wonder if the GI is question was a cut model. The cockpit deck height and coaming size on all of them that I have paddled has seemed pretty huge.
 

NWimport

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Aug 31, 2019
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Seattle Wa
After comparing the Sterling Grand Illusion side by side with the Tiderace Xplore-X, I decided to buy the Tiderace.

(In my original post, I called it a Tiderace Xceed-X, but that was incorrect. It was an Xplore-X. Tiderace's model names are Xcruciating.)

My two main objections to the Sterling were fit and gear capacity.

At 6'3", 230 pounds, US size 13 boots (190 cm, 104 kg, EU size 47), I was simply too large for the Sterling. To get past the thigh braces, I had to wedge my legs in one at a time, scraping hard against the brace each time. The second leg was particularly difficult to insert into the limited space available.

Once in the Sterling, there was not enough room for my feet. They were stuck at an uncomfortable, flat Vee-angle that I could not adjust, even for momentary relief. Also, the foot pegs did not extend far enough forward, but the discomfort from this problem was less severe than the discomfort from having to splay my feet so flat and being unable to shift them.

The Sterling's gear storage appeared sufficient for multi-day trips, but I was dubious it would be enough for multi-week trips. The problem was the low decks, which severely limited the space available. My 15-foot Folbot Kodiak had more storage space than this 17+-foot Sterling. No doubt some ultra-light backpacker type could make it work, but that's not the kind of camping I do. (I also insist on drybagging all my gear, even inside hatches, so I need extra volume to accommodate the drybags.)

By contrast, the Tiderace was an absolute breeze to get into and had a generous volume for storage. I was amazed at its speed on the water and pleasantly surprised at my ability to slew it around within a tight radius. At 65 pounds, it was substantially heavier than the 50-pound Sterling, but I am used to hauling an 80+-pound Feathercraft Klondike, so the Tiderace did not strike me as excessively heavy.

One final factor in the Tiderace's favor was its solid construction compared to that of the Sterling. The Sterling had a noticeable amount of flex in the hull and deck, even just pressing with my fingers. No doubt the Sterling would be strong enough under appropriate care, but I am notoriously hard on gear. so I preferred the steel-like fortitude of the Tiderace. Strength of construction was only a minor consideration, not one of the decisive factors. The decisive factors were fit and storage capacity.

Thank you, everyone, for your thoughtful comments. The Sterling seems to be the "people's choice" on here, and I am sure it would be a fantastic boat for some other paddler.

Alex
Did you buy it at Kayak Academy/George? Tiderace is a bulletproof brand and heavily recommended by George and rightfully so. Did you paddle the yellow GI he has out there? I too am surprised you had a fit issue as I have a GI and I’m 6’1”, 34” inseam and 10.5 feet and 240-5-ish. Either way everything starts and finishes with how it fits YOU not your buddies or forums guys. I love my Sterling and no longer need either my Tempest or my Romany because the Sterling just does everything so well. And so much less weight.
 

alexsidles

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Jan 10, 2009
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Seattle WA
I did get the boat from George, and he did indeed strongly recommend the Tiderace as an alternative to the yellow Sterling (which is still for sale on his website). I did not paddle the Sterling, because it was obvious just from sitting in it on George's lawn that the fit was going to be terrible for me: pegs too close for my legs, deck too low for my feet, braces too close for my thighs. Also, storage space was insufficient.

As it happened, I had already independently selected the Tiderace as an alternative to the Sterling, even before George recommended it. The Tiderace had none of the Sterling's fit issues and offered more storage space, though still not as much as the folders I am used to.

I can't speak to the Sterling's performance on water, which I had been looking forward to testing until I discovered what a poor fit for me the Sterling was. I have been more than satisfied so far with the Tiderace's performance on straightaways, surf launches and landings, windy conditions, and, yes, tide races. I'll write a review in another year or so.

Alex
 
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