Friday, September 12, 2014

Matt Layden’s Paradox – A True Story – The 2003 Everglades Challenge

An Illustration from Don's 'Building Paradox'

Don testing stability on 'The Edge', his own Paradox

Matt's Paradox

Matt's Paradox again

Matt's Paradox yet again

A good many readers will know of Don Elliott who died several years ago. He was an enthusiastic builder of Matt Laydens’ Paradox, and he had a Yahoo discussion group for the support of Paradox builders. He wrote long, and sometimes controversial, articles which were often illustrated with excellent drawings detailing the boat’s structure. He produced an illustrated booklet entitled, ‘Building Paradox’, which is still available from Don’s widowed wife, Wanda.  For a PDF download contact her at: Paradox plans can be had from David Bolduc at
Don was extremely strict on copyright, but he gave me permission to publish a two part article by him that I copied from his Yahoo group postings. Originally, I published them at my old Small Sailboats website. The article is reproduced here, verbatim with no editorial changes, because Don stipulated that this should be the case, and I am honouring his request.

Note: All photos come from my old Small Sailboats website.

A Story, a True One (Part 1)


A dictionary definition;
"A seemingly contradictory statement that may nonetheless be

The Gladiator picks up his shield and sword and strides out into the
open arena. Today is his day; today he shall win or fall. What
determines who shall be the victor and the vanquished?

Paradox plunges through the night; it moves steadily towards its
goal. The dark purple light of dawn gradually enters the cabin; Matt
is aroused from a short nap. Today he shall win. Everything about
Paradox is very familiar to Matt, he created it, built it, and has
sailed it thousands of miles; it is his soul mate.

What special advantage does Paradox have in this race, does it have a
Kevlar hull, a tall Carbon fiber spar or the latest Spectra sails,
nope. Paradox is built of materials that are available from your
local lumberyard. What then makes it superior?

"Hi, buddy", I hear over my shoulder as I prepare Paradox for
a sail, "What the hell is that".
"A boat" I reply.
"What the hell happen to the rest of the mast"?
"It's all there"
He bends over, looking in the cabin, "What its' for
midgets", "Where's the center board, this thing will
never go to weather".
"It for normal people and it does goes to weather".
"Could you move along, I would like to get going".
"Good luck, buddy you'll need it", as he strolls away
feeling quite smug. He is sure he knows it all and has all the

The race…
If you read Matt's log on the Everglades Challenge you may note
that all his remarks are all positive, this is the sign of someone
that is successful or about to be so. Nothing there about how things
are going wrong, compare this to some of the comments of the other

The question is how will Paradox and Matt be able to best the others.
The answer of course is complex. Matt obviously is a great sailor,
and Paradox must have special features that allow it to perform
against seemingly superior craft. That superiority is now in

Perhaps now we must look harder at what we believe. Obviously many
still cannot see how Paradox can do what it does; maybe they have to
look a little harder.

Even though the Gladiator has now won, he now must turn to Caesar and
the crowd; they will now decide the final outcome. So must we, for
our judgment of what has occurred in the recent Everglades Challenge
will determine what we think in the future about boat design and how
different types perform and what they do or don't do and why.

Matt has taken, "the path less traveled" and won. He is the
victor and has proven himself and his Paradox concept; this surely
must be a great feeling for him.

This is at a time when most thought there is nothing new in boat
design or worse that Paradox would not work at all. Those doubts are
now in question. Don


A Story, a True One (Part 2)


How did Matt Layden and Paradox win the 2003 Everglades Challenge?

At the start line of the 2003 Everglades Challenge race you would see
lined up on the beach a row of very special kayaks, a few lightweight
production sailing dinghies, sleek multihulls, a large craft with
multiple sails, and an oddly looking, stubby, heavy homemade craft;
it is the smallest craft in the race; that boat is Paradox.

How could one risk entering such a craft as this against such
powerful competition and expect to do well? Everyone surely must have
viewed this odd craft as no competition at all, writing it off
completely, mistake! (Note to racers: all competition is still
competition and all must be taken seriously)

There were to be some fifty entrees, it appears however that it
turned out to be about thirty competitors that actually raced; still
this is a lot of competition to race against. The Everglades
Challenge race will cover a distance of 304 miles along the Florida
coast, it is apparent this is not a day race; it is a long distance
endurance race.

After a race the ones that have lost stand around studying hard the
winner and his craft, wondering how did this happen, was there some
kind of unfair advantage, would a new rule have to be created to
eliminate such stubby heavy homemade vessels from the race entirely,
that is just to keep things `fair'. Was there something
lacking in the crafts that have lost, was there some weather
condition that gave the winner a special advantage? Those questions
and hundreds more were in the minds of the ones that didn't win.

How could a small sailboat like Paradox, one that is hundred of
pounds heavier than the other competitors, best boats that are far
lighter (in most cases a thousand pound lighter), and having a much
faster overall speed. Isn't also true that boats with longer
waterlines should be much faster than ones with shorter lines, and
isn't it also a given that something lighter should always be
much faster through the water than something that is heavier, and
therefore out perform one without these qualities, this wasn't
the case at the 2003 Everglades Challenge, it was a paradox. How can
this occur?

Is this Aesop's classic story of the tortoise and the hare? In a
way yes, but there is far more to the story obviously, Paradox
finished almost a day ahead of the next finisher in this 304 mile
race, an astounding demonstration of skill and performance by its
designer Matt Layden and his craft. A highly skilled and experienced
sailor, which without a doubt was a major factor in winning this
race. Yet the craft must also be given a great deal of the credit.

Matt won not only in his class, but overall. If you have never seen a
kayak speeding along through the water, you therefore would not have
any idea of how really fast they can be, kayaks also can be launched
and landed with little effort, far easier than the much heavier
Paradox, which is so heavy that it requires block and tackle. Yet to
maintain the speed the kayak requires human power, sustained human
power, which is simply not possible over this distance, that is,
without some kind of rest, therefore it is safe to assume that the
winning craft of this long distance race will always be one carrying
a sail. In addition, the crew of any open craft is constantly exposed
to all the elements, chilling winds, cold spray and rain if it
happens; meaning hypothermia is always a possibility for the exposed
crew, not with Paradoxes protective environment. Exposure is a major
issue in all long distance ventures.

But what, you say, if there is no wind and you have this heavy little
craft, there is always wind, one however must find it, and that is
exactlly what Matt did, he sought the clear, steady offshore winds,
avoiding the finicky, shifty inland breeze that are close to land

All indications are that the future winners of this race will always
be a craft that carries a sail or sails and the crew must plan and be
prepared for being exposed to the elements.

The crew of Paradox could rest in total comfort (A major asset in an
endurance type of race). The kayaks must seek the shore to set up
camp in order to rest properly, landing in surf (If present) is not
always an easy task and sometimes the camping spots are not ideal,
for along this coast you can be pestered by the evening raids of
raccoons and rats, not to mention sand fleas and chiggers, to win
this kind of long distance race, the crew must have good rest in
order to perform, day after day. I would imagine one could go two
days (Maximum) without sleep but it appears that being able to rest
in comfort for short periods might prove the better (Catnaps
don't work). The crew of Paradox can do this easily, that is, out
of winds and rain and as the craft forges on.

Weather definitely is a major factor, if one has strong headwinds or
heavy rain, the paddling craft will fall behind. Contrary waves and
current can also cause one to lose a great deal of time in a
lightweight craft (A heavier craft has some momentum to prevent it
from losing way), or simply discourage competitors enough, causing
them to give up and drop out of the race.

What if a storm occurs, one so bad, that the racers must give up?
Paradox would not be stopped, as it is an all-weather cruiser; it
would simply press on, as it can be buttoned up and sailed completely
from within. This gives it a special advantage over the open and
lightweight racing production dinghies, and beach cats, which should
be far faster than Paradox at any given time, they failed to do this
in the long run. Paradox must therefore must be judged a more capable
type of craft for this race. (Maybe others as well.)

Long distance races are apparently won by a craft that is fully
capable of being pressed on in all conditions, that is, while not
exhausting its crew. It is not a craft that can get to one marker
before another but one that is capable of performing on all legs of
the race, that is, with winds, seas and currents from any and all
direction and of ever kind. Paradox can do this; this has been
soundly demonstrated, that is by winning this race overall almost a
day ahead of anyone else.

Matt has proven that his unusual concept works and very well at
that; any question about that, there shouldn't be. Don


 Paradox For Sale


Other Related Links


Watertribe Everglades Challenge 2015


Don Elliott’s Illusion


Brian said...

Hi Bill, you are putting together such a superb knowledge base on Paradox, that I wanted to let others know about it so they too can learn more. Hope it was ok to post a new thread on the Wooden Boat Forum,


William Serjeant said...

Thanks Brian,

The rules stipulate no self-promotion; therefore I'll observe, but not take part. Incidentally, the costs for building a Paradox were for 'Faith', not 'Minnow'. The latter would have been less, on account of being built with exterior grade plywood, as per plan. 'Faith' was built with marine plywood, and other woods were top grade, including some mahogany and teak.

Jim Schofield said...

Hi Bill,

I have just bought Paradox plans from David Bolduc at and the Building Paradox pdf from Wanda at


William Serjeant said...


Thank you for updating information about where to obtain Paradox plans and the Building Paradox PDF.

If you proceed with building a Paradox, I hope you will derive as much or more satisfaction from building her as I did mine.

I'll amend details on the main page.


Jeremy said...

Thank you for making this. I plan to build a Paradox in the next 2 years. I have been "Googling" like mad trying to find photos, plans, builds, blogs etc. JT in Louisiana