The low rating is for the stock version of the boat. The glass layup of my boat was thin and weak, causing undue flexing in the stern hatch when loaded. The coaming separated from the deck during a cowboy scramble. The glass seat cracked and rubbed partly through the glass of the hull below it. The end pours seem shoddy so I am reluctant to drill holes for a robust grab handle. The bayonet pin rudder assembly broke so that the entire assembly would fall out when the boat was capsized. The local rep said that it would not be a “fun” fix. Finally, I cracked the Smart Trek footpeg plate by pushing hard when trying to catch a wave.
So I did some repairs: kevlar reinforcement in the back hatch; carbon reinforcement of the coaming; glass patches under the seat; new foam seat, hip pads, and thigh pads; ditched the entire rudder assembly/footpegs and replaced it with a foam footplate against the bulkhead; glass keel strip and reinforcement on the bulkheads. The boat is heavier, but structurally sound.
With all the mods done the boat is an 8/10, 9/10 when I’m in a good mood. The stability profile is fun: a little tender on primary, very solid on secondary. Excellent roller. Maneuverable on edge. The low profile bow/stern mean that it is reasonably wind neutral for a 17.5’ boat. Storage is generous and the glove box is large enough for all sorts of day paddling goodies. The skeg is solid and all that I need (I am not a fun of the European rudder/skeg combo). And the hull is fast. The only drawback is that the bow plunges due to its very low volume, but that is a tradeoff for the low windage.
So, yes, I’m now very happy with the boat. But that is after a lot of work.