'How's your boiled egg?' thundered the bishop. The new young curate, clearly daunted at the prospect of having breakfast in such exalted company, looked down at the obvious evidence of a developing foetus attached to the yolk, and replied: 'Good, in parts.' So goes the old story. And I, likewise, found the new Sea Quest Raider BC to be 'good, in parts'. When I was told about it by an enthusiastic purchaser, I got the impression that the Raider was a tidy little wing-style BC that would be ideal for me to pack for a trip on which the all-up weight of my baggage was important. In fact it proved to be quite massively built, obviously aimed at the twin-tank user. It weighs in at 5.5kg and the wing is so wide that, when used with a single tank, spinnakers and other large billowing sails come to mind. It measures 73cm across at its widest point. I remember, years ago, writing a glowing review of another Sea Quest wing which was quickly followed by a phone-call from a disgruntled purchaser. Having fitted two steel cylinders and fully inflated the buoyancy bag, he had flung his rig over the side of his boat only to see it sink without trace, luckily without himself attached. Not enough lift with that one, then! There can be little danger of that happening with the Raider. This wing has around 22kg of lift available, and if that is not enough you have the option to fit a second 22kg redundant bladder along with the twin-tank mounting kit - and a crotch-strap too, to stop the whole lot falling over your head during a duck 'n' dive. So what do you get with the basic item? A patented harness that allows full adjustment not only for girth but for height too, a semi-rigid backpack, two cambands for a single tank, and Sea Quest's patent 'self-adjusting lumbar support'. The cummerbund can be customised to fit almost any girth of diver, and this is done with the aid of a cross-head screwdriver. That is not to say that you cannot make instant adjustments by means of the Velcro-covered forward flaps of the cummerbund, or indeed the 5cm webbing with pinch-clip that you wear over it. The integrated-weight system is of the commonly used Velcro-flap type but the weight pouches are double-sized, so you could probably fit 8kg of block weights either side of the BC. I wouldn't recommend that, but what you do get is the option to position the weights you use within the pouches accurately, thereby giving you a choice of trim. When it comes to using floaty aluminium cylinders, especially noticeable with twins, there is a band that clamps around the tank with two more weight pockets. These will take another 2kg each and are secured with pinch clips. So you could theoretically jump in with a single cylinder and 20kg of lead. Sea Quest claims 19kg, which should keep you down all right! The more water you displace (that's body volume, not weight), the more weights you need. In a drysuit and bulky undersuit even I, at 1.95m tall, normally use only 14kg with a 15 litre steel tank. I can't foresee anyone needing to use much more unless you're using twin aluminium tanks, in which case I can see business looming for a physiotherapist. If you do need more, you're probably doing it wrong, so I hope no-one is silly enough to load this integrated-weight system to the maximum, which takes us back to the unfortunate diver I mentioned earlier. There are two cambands for a single tank, four for twins. Like most, if not all Sea Quest BCs, this one has the swivelling buckles to each shoulder strap which help with fit. There are also six pre-bent stainless-steel D-rings, two of them adjustable for height, for clipping on the ancillaries. Two shoulder dumps, the right-hand one threaded through the front shoulder facing to a large toggle, make dumping air when dropping feet-first easy. There are two bottom dumps, designed to aid a head-first descent and for draining water from the inverted-U-shaped bladder. Two large zipped pockets are mounted either side of the harness and these are big enough to stow a small reel and DSMB. Finally, the whole thing can be lifted by means of a handle with a thick rubber covering to stop it biting into your fingers - and you need it. I made sure to carry my rig on my back when out of the water. The patented lumbar-support helps keep things comfortable. So why was it only 'good, in parts'? Well, the two cambands and trim weightbelt made it complicated when it came to swapping tanks but, more importantly, with a 15 litre steel cylinder and a drysuit, I found that, however I installed the weights, I was tipped dangerously head-down under water. This effect was so powerful that I spent each of the first three dives on which I tried this combination finning desperately to prevent myself becoming inverted. It certainly spoiled my fun. The Sea Quest Raider is made in Mexico, and steel cylinders are unusual on that side of the Atlantic. I suggest that this BC is designed for use with twin aluminium cylinders when using a drysuit, though you will then need to use a great deal of lead. When I swapped to a wetsuit I needed fewer weights. I still needed 2kg more than normal just to overcome the inherent buoyancy in the BC, but at least I could relax. Getting air out of the BC proved something of a challenge too, because so many creases are formed in which odd bubbles can lodge. I needed to pull both bottom dumps during a head-down descent and had to be very careful during head-up ascents. I could hear water trickling about inside as I did my best to shed the last remnants of air. The Sea Quest Raider in basic single-tank form costs £500.
Aqua-Lung UK 0116 212 4200, www.aqualung.co.uk
A band clamps around one or more tanks carrying two more weight pockets that will each take 2kg weights.
Adjustable straps are designed to stop the wing billowing, though even on the tightest setting they were not entirely successful