I purchased the SmartTrack rudder system for my 2001 Necky Looksha 3. The
Necky already has a rudder system, but the original nylon adjustments on the
footpegs have a lot of give and does not allow for optimal paddling. With exception
of the footpegs, installation was pretty simple, hardest part was adjusting the
tension just right and patching holes from the prior rudder rest and rudder clam
cleat. The SmartTrack rudder line clam cleat is much smaller than most other clam
cleats out there, and the thinner line would not work in the original.
Footpegs on the older Necky's do not use the standard 13.5" hole spacing.
Correspondence with SmartTrack suggested purchasing their vertical adjustment
kit and drilling new holes in the plate. However, their response was a form
response and I could not find actual dimensions of the vertical adjustment kit to
indicate that it would accommodate the close to 18" spacing of the Necky holes,
and drilling new holes in my hull was not an option. I ended up purchasing a 1/4"
high density plastic sheet from Amazon and with a drill, tap and die set, router,
sandpaper, and table saw was able to fabricate my own mounting bracket. Not an
easy task and required a high level of precision, an entire evening, and long arms,
but has worked very well.
First time in the water I liked this rudder better for straight travel, but was not
impressed with turning or the smoothness of the mechanism. It took much more
force than necessary to turn, and the Looksha lost its ability to turn on a dime.
However, the solid bracing was a drastic improvement. Before my second paddle I
lubricated the pivots and lines and found it worked significantly better - able to
more easily get the full turning angle with reasonable force. Still not as sharp of
turning as the original Necky rudder, but pretty close, and feels like less overall
drag due to the reduced rudder slop on the straights. I do notice slightly
decreased stability from the reduced surface area of the rudder, hard to know if
it's from me working on my paddle rotation or the smaller rudder.
One note: I bought the tubing kit and did not use it. The cables fit the existing
cable routing through the kayak seam and appeared to be the same diameter
cabling as standard rudder kits (I think it's a 0.125 diameter stainless line).
Is it an improvement? Yes. ACK was great - always are. Took off a product star as
SmartTrack's customer service was not very helpful, and I can't understand why
they didn't answer my questions about the improved and specialized SmartTrack
rudder housings only available on Stellar's website. Think they should also have a
Necky retrofit kit (or at least a template for download), and be better prepared to
answer installation questions. How hard would it really be to make an installation
YouTube video for a company that specializes in retrofits? Great product, just
needs better support.