Tips and Techniques - The Phantom
The Phantom—an interview with Bob Foote
Greg Barnett (GB): Bob, I understand that you have been hard at work designing a new open boat.
Bob Foote (BF): Yes, it's called the Phantom. Steve Scarborough and the folks at Dagger have just wrapped up the final details on the mold and the boat is in production.
GB: Tell me about the Phantom.
BF: The Phantom is a short boat that shares some of the same characteristics of the Ocoee and Viper designs. In that regard, it has the boxy look with harder edges and a flat bottom. If you’re a big fan of the Ocoee or Viper, you’ll love the Phantom.
GB: Why is that?
BF: I’ve frequently heard boaters complain that the Ocoee and Vipers are too wet and they tend to be slow. It seems to be a challenge for most paddlers to keep these boats dry and maintain good hull speed. The Phantom addresses both of these issues.
GB: What inspired you to design this boat?
BF: We have reached a crossroad in the short, open boat designs. When the Ocoee and Viper series first came out, they were designed primarily for rodeo-style paddling. Boaters wanted to do spins, enders, and other retentive (wet) moves. As this genre became more popular, advanced paddlers began to cut the boats down (literally cutting them in half and removing several inches of the center section) to make these moves easier to initiate and to improve their competitiveness. These modified hulls also started doing double duty as river runners and creek boats. This is where the challenge came in—how to keep these boats dry and develop good hull speed when running drops and surfing.
With the new designs for rodeo, such as the Quake, cut-down versions of the Ocoee have become obsolete for competitive use. So my goal was to design a shorter, Ocoee-style boat for general river running.
GB: Tell me a bit more about the differences in designs for rodeo vs. river running and creeking.
BF: In a rodeo design, the goal is to make the bow and stern low volume and sharp edged. The idea is that you intentionally want it to slice and dive. Hull speed isn’t an issue in rodeo because you’re trying to stay put, not zip down the river.
Just the opposite is true for a good river running design. Fullness in the bow improves dryness and hull speed is important. You want to be able to make moves quickly and stay dry in the process.
GB: So how does the Phantom accomplish all of this?
BF: The key issue is that although the Phantom is 9’ 9", I designed it with a waterline footprint that is nearly the same as a full-sized Ocoee or Viper. But it actually has a larger amount of waterline volume than either design. The edges have been softened a bit to make the boat more user-friendly when crossing eddy lines and side surfing. To increase its speed, I incorporated a slight arch in the hull, forward of the midsection. An added benefit of this arch is improved boat control through the use of knee pressure.
Side by side waterline view (click to enlarge).
GB: Really? How does that work?
BF: By tilting or "heeling" the boat, you control the intensity of a turn. The greater the boat tilt, the more it turns. In many boats, you actually have to lean your body or shift your weight to get it to tilt. The Phantom was designed to keep your torso centered and use gentle knee pressure to control boat tilt.
GB: Does this affect its stability?
BF: When you get in a flat bottom boat, initially it feels very stable. The price of that stability is that it takes more effort to tilt the boat for a turn and it’s also more difficult to fine-tune the edge. The Phantom will not feel quite as stable when you first get in. But once you get it moving, the advantages of this hull design really kick in. You’ll be able to finesse your turns with gentle knee pressure and add what ever amount of tilt you need. It is like having power steering!
GB: Earlier, you mentioned improved dryness.
BF: Yes, to do this, I added flare from the waterline all the way up to the gunnels. This creates a lifting effect that throws water up and away from the hull. I also made the bow "fuller" to minimize diving on surf waves and drops. An added benefit of this dryness is that larger size paddlers can finally enjoy a smaller boat.
Bow comparison between Phantom (left) and Ocoee (click to enlarge).
GB: Sounds like the Phantom combines elements of design that, up until now, have not come together in a single canoe.
BF: That was my goal. This boat is shorter, faster, dryer, and more user-friendly than any previous design in its class.
GB: What do you mean by "in its class"?
BF: When comparing canoes you need to look at boats that have similar paddling characteristics. For the most part, length and function go hand in hand. So that means you can use length to group boats together into "classes." Boats such as the Ocoee, Viper 11, and Ovation make up a class. They are more or less the same length, have flat bottoms, hard edges, and lots of rocker. They are designed to spin easily, make tight moves, and tend to have slow hull speed.
In the 12 foot class, you find boats like the Rival, Outrage, Shaman and Probe 12' 2". These designs have softer chines, longer waterline footprints and less rocker. They track well, have good hull speed and are not as edgy.
Since there really isn’t a full class of production open boats shorter than 11 feet, I’m comparing the Phantom to this (11 ft.) group. So when I say its fast, that’s not in comparison to something longer like a Rival. Which by the way, I happen to feel is one of the fastest designs in its class!
Class comparison: from left to right, Phantom - 9" 9", Ovation 11', Ocoee 11' 2" (click to enlarge).
GB: How does it surf?
BF: Surfing tends to be more dependent on the size and shape of the wave rather than the boat. No matter what boat you are in, there will be waves that the hull dials in on and others that just won’t hold it. So is the Phantom a great surfing boat? For sure! Does it shred on every wave? No. Does it throw water off the bow and stay dry? You bet!
GB: What are your recommendations for outfitting?
BF: Since the boat is only 9’ 9", correct positioning of the pedestal is critical. In order for the boat to spin and carve at the pivot point, the pedestal must be positioned so that your spine is 7 – 7 ½" behind the center of the boat. Any other placement will adversely affect performance.
GB: Do you have any concerns about paddlers accepting the Phantom?
BF: Paddlers might get the perception that it is slow because the bow is more rounded and much closer than what they are accustomed to. What you have to remember is that the waterline footprint is the same as other boats in its class and because of that, no hull speed was sacrificed. Pointy ends might look fast but just remember how they slice through waves (filling up the boat), rather than riding up and over. The proof is in the performance—try it on the river and you’ll see!
GB: I understand that the Phantom debuted at the Open Canoe Nationals. How did it do?
BF: Great! We had a number of racers put it to the test with Carolyn Allbritton and Shane Sigle taking medals. Carolyn captured 1st place in the OC1, Women's, RE class. Shane took 2nd place in the OC1, PRE, RE event and 3rd place in OC1, PRE, RE, Combined class.
GB: Congratulations to the competitors and to you Bob, for yet another great boat! Thanks for taking the time to tell us about the Phantom.