From France: the RTM Disco. C'e Manufique!
I just can't tell you how long I've had my eye on this design, simply drooling from afar. RTM (Rotomod) of France is THE company to watch, with a whole stable of awesome designs, some of which are now appearing here in S. Florida.
RTM was the manufacturer of several of the Ocean Kayak designs, including the Scramblers and the great Scupper Pro. After OK decided to go dumpster diving with WS and dropped good performers like the Pro, Cabo and Drifter in favor of hi-primary bargettes, RTM bought the rights and kept the molds to at least the Pro.
This forward thinking company continues to manufacture a better equipped Pro TW as the "Tempo", among other terrific designs, and entered the US market. OK will rue the day. It's simply a Pro out of the old molds, but with much improved fittings and some minor improvements. But more about that later.
Today we are here to discuss what for some may be a Pro killer depending on your weight. It's the RTM Disco.
It's really hard to believe this is a plastic SOT! Looks more like a smaller sea kayak with it's swoopy overhangs, lovely rocker and shallow vee hull. Looks as fast as snot, and it is!
But first the specs: 14' x 26" x 45lb. Is this ideal or what! And when I tell you the Disco lists at $579, why good grief! It simply doesn't get any better than that. But...
First let's look at the layout:
This is a nice top view. Can you tell which is the Disco and which are the anemic American tubs? Let's start at the bow. Nice chunky rubber handles, well attached. Front grab lines and optional front hatch. All forward fittings are indented! And check this hull..
Wow! Nice sharp (and quiet) entry, smoothly flowing into a wonderfully seaworthy shallow vee-hull. Superb. Two channels designed more for rigidity than tracking. You can't see them, but the tracks have a venturi-like molding at the front, and the scuppers dump into the track at this location. The result: venturi-like suction, minimal turbulence and quiet, effective draining. Now let's move to the cockpit...
A great deep, smooth, butt-shaped seat (you won't need a backrest) with molded in channels for good seat drainage (into the footwells). Notice the molded indented side carry handles (located at the balance point). More great design. And check those fittings. Solid plastic and stainless clips, stronger and longer lasting than the usual plastic "inchworms". More important, they are low profile and MUCH less likely to snag your paddle.
Optional center hatch, smooth and comfortable support for your thighs. Effective OK-type footrests that you can really push against for effective power and torso paddling, and just enough of a heelrest to make a difference. The entire cockpit is properly pebble grained to eliminate slippage. Two nice big QUIET scuppers that I found remarkably fast draining due to RTM's unique semi-venturi design and track location. More great design, and on to the well...
Finally, a sensible well. Taking after the two-layer design of the Paddleyak Kingfisher (or the instant draining design of the French Bic Scapa), this well is properly deep toward the bow/front and smoothly shallows toward the stern/rear.
Wonder why? In rough weather, a big well fulla water is SOOOO heavy that it can literally raise your bow, dramatically increase windage and make steering impossible. It's downright dangerous. The RTM Disco's well effectively allows water to quickly slosh out the rear, while the scuppers drain the remainder.
The nylon stretch netting easily clips on and off, and the stern, like the bow, sports nice safety grab lines. Drain at the stern. Do note the indents for all fittings. Impressive.
That's a stern view by the way. Time for my impressions.
Water Test and Review
First, my sincere thanks to Kayak Jeff of, uh, Kayak Jeff on Dania Beach Blvd (shameless commercial plug) for his hospitality and for allowing me the great pleasure and opportunity for an extended test of the Disco. Never really thought RTM and the Tempo/Disco would make it here, but am I glad they did. Vive la France!
Conditions? I decided to launch at George English (my usual launch) as this would allow me to thoroughly test the Disco in calm lagoon waters for turning and stationary turns, then into the channel, culminating in the ICW to experience progressively more rougher water. I'd expected to be challenged as there is typically a strong chop and wakes in the large bay (Xmas viewing location), but finally had to head toward the Las Olas bridge to experience some real chop, current and eddies.
Weight? The first thing I noted was the light (45 lb) weight of the Disco. A real joy to lift and carry - the indented side handles are placed perfectly at the balance point (unlike so many American designs). Like carrying a briefcase, with the hull brushing your leg. Nice. The Disco floated well (that's a joke, bozo).
Stability? Like all shallow vees, the Disco may feel a tad tippy to the newbie, but you quickly settle in. Actually the Disco has decent primary and EXCELLENT secondary, very reminiscent of the Necky Spike. But unlike the Spike the Disco is quiet. No, I've got that wrong. It isn't quiet, it's absolutely SILENT. No hullslap, no way, not at any time. Silent. No problem sitting sideways in the seat (the center hatch area is too high for safe sidesaddling).
Turning? My first test is my standard stationary turn test, compared always to the fabulous Scupper Pro, which can easily go a 140 degrees (up to 160) in a single stroke. With a bit of practice I was able to predictably turn the Disco from 120 to 130 degrees/single stroke. This is very good. A lighter paddler (I am 182 lb) will do better. This is signficantly better than the T120, and WAY better than the T140/160.
Tracking? I then headed out into a light chop, some current and eddies. Silent and smooth. The Disco tracks very well, yet with it's smooth vee-hull, when you want to turn, a slight lean and it turns just as well. Tried different heading with regard to the wind - the Disco held track and required almost no correction. Amazing. Very similar to the touted Mariner designs which track well, yet lean turn nicely. Though you don't have to lean turn, it's nice to know you can. Brought it to a stop, turned 90 deg to the wind and discovered it has a neutral drift. Perfect for yakfishin.
Speed? The Disco is very, very fast. At first I thought I'd caught a current, but not so. This design is amazingly fast, and with excellent glide. This was a big surprise. It's definitely faster than my Pro, and I'd have to say I've never been in any ordinary SOT that paddled so fast, so easily. This is the advantage of a shorter design - less wetted surface, a fine entry, narrow right back to the cockpit. This leads to a kayak that can cruise fast with minimal effort. Sadly, I forgot my GPS, but I'm gonna say an easy cruise that is closing on 4 mph. For a 14 footer with such overhangs, this is exceptional.
Seaworthy? Yes. I purposefully ran into some decent wakes, waves and cross chop - also tried some surfing with following wakes from various angles. The Disco handles all easily, tends to hold track, and leaves you with a nice sense of stability and control. Although I had about 190 on board I was able to bury the bow only once and briefly. The bow properly rose quickly and smoothly, and shed water well before reaching the cockpit. In bad conditions the raised area in front of the cockpit is designed to shed water and keep the cockpit relatively dry.
The Disco can fairly be described as a smaller sea kayak and resembles RTM's long fiberglass sea touring kayaks. Its design is remarkable and far superior to almost all ordinary plastic SOTS. It is well thought out in almost every regard and handles well and absolutely quietly. It is very fast and has superb glide. I have absolutely no negative comments regarding the fast, light, well-constructed and inexpensive SOT...
I do not yet know the practical max load for the Disco. Further tests are scheduled with a 220 lb paddler. I was completely satisfied with it's performance at my 182 lb plus gear. At this weight, the footwells carried perhaps 3/4 inch (or less) of water, which quickly drained underway. This is very much like my surfski and is of no consequence. The anally retentive will simply mount scupper plugs. At my weight the design had an unexpected advantage - great low windage and maxing out of the waterline for some really exceptional speed.
Bottom line: I love this kayak. The Pro/Tempo has a reputation as perhaps one of the most seaworthy SOT's we've known, particularly for newer kayakers. The Disco is at least the same, if not superior, particularly as one gains watertime and skills. Based on it's length, width, weight, price and performance it is really impossible to beat. The only reason NOT to buy a Disco is your weight. If you exceed 220 lb. by much, you may want to consider the Tempo/Pro which can handle the heavier yakbrothers and sisters. Now I know what you're gonna ask?
Does it beat out my beloved Scupper Pro/Tempo as the Best All-Around Fishing Kayak for S. Florida?
Whew! Double-whew!! Good god, WHEW!!! The answer is... a definite maybe. The Disco is a great kayak and I'm tempted to say yes, but to be completely honest, I don't have the watertime that I've had with my Pro. I do plan to buy a Disco for Sue Sea, and you can bet I'm gonna get that watertime, and then...
I'll letcha know...
Late Breaking News!
Since the original review (above) I have had a chance to rethink the potential weight capacity/displacement of the Disco (particularly after a recent paddle with Charlie the skin-on-frame builder). Greenland yaks were famous for their low profile and windage. I think the Disco may be the same. Even at my 190 including gear I still had reasonable freeboard, more than most SOF's. I do think at heavier weights there will be a bit more water in the footwells (which will drain quickly), but this is really meaningless.
I have just been able to find the (translated) specs provided by Rotomod of France. They are:
1. Max load: 286 lb. (assuming they do mean "load" and not displacement, this would mean most paddlers will do fine in the Disco.
2. Preferred paddler weight range: 165 - 220 lb (not including gear). One could exceed 220 to some degree, but I'm gonna guess that it will start to slog at 240 or so.
Even Later Breaking News!
Although it was my opinion that the Disco could effectively accommodate up to a 220 lb paddler (which also fell into RTM's recommended range), I wanted proof.
I got it.
I was able to arrange a test of the Disco by a skilled, 220 lb. sea kayaker and instructor. He found the Disco to be entirely competent at his weight.
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