FREE TO RACE
110L Freerace board test 2014
Freerace boards, as the name suggests, crossover between the freeride spectrum and the full-on slalom racing segments of the market.
Offered as ‘de-tuned’ versions of brands’ no-compromise slalom machines, they’re designed to offer a little more user-friendliness and comfort that allow everyday windsurfers a chance to maximize their speed or dip their toes into the racing or GPS competition scenes.
This test was originally published in the June issue.
If you’ve read our recent (May issue) slalom tests, you’ll know that the overlap between race boards and freerace shapes is quite significant. PWA or national-level racers like to sail overpowered on all-out boards, deep downwind for short races, while you and I like to mainly reach across the wind more and be able to sustain a session for longer than 10 minutes at a time! Another issue is the level of tuning required. With slightly friendlier, inboard strap settings and subtle variations in rocker line, freerace outlines generally offer comfort and don’t require you to overload the hull with a hideously large rig for the conditions. That also means less tweaks and less time in the shore break or on the beach making adjustments. However, if racing is your eventual target some of these boards will serve as a useful stepping-stone.
PRINCIPAL TEST TEAM
Chris Rainbow 75 kg. Med. Height
Julian Da Vall 83 kg. 1.95 Tall. Experience national and European-level racer.
Brian McDowell 100 kg. 1.90 Tall.
Thanks also to the various PWA pro sailors on hand in Tenerife who also lent a hand, showed us the best tweaks on their affiliated brands’ gear and gave opinion on boards and sails from rival manufacturers.
This test was conducted in super hectic conditions in Tenerife. Hard work but a real eye-opener on what kind of boards work best. And this should be a vital factor in your decision-making process. If you’re wanting to stay local and reach across the wind, maybe the odd deeper downwind run with the GPS on, then buy what boards suit your local stretch of water. If those conditions vary a lot, or you travel or intend to compete in a broad range of conditions then, again, choose comfort over all-out, flat-water speed. At least until you’re a proficient master of the dedicated slalom board. Some of the sticks on offer here suit full-on slalom sails and would therefore allow you to experiment with the levels of rig power you need to race, but on a more forgiving hull and fin setup. Others are better matched with freerace sails such as no-cams and twin cams that you may already own.
Unlike race board, all of these boards are supplied with fins – mostly softer, G10 models – that match the boards and offer a flexier, forgiving nature. As you progress, for any kind of use, you should start experimenting with different foils to see the massive effect they can have in transforming a board’s performance. Our advice is to try out smaller, but still powerful, carbon fins and get in sync with the added acceleration and top speed they offer before buying larger ones nearer to and larger than the supplied G10 models.
In addition to the individual reports to follow, here’s some pointers on how they match up in relation to each other.
The Tabou Speedster is the best ‘racy’ model and quickest in a straight line on all points of sailing – that and it’s comfort make for a compelling proposition. It definitely offers the best natural acceleration and suitability for dedicated sails. The Fanatic RAY is a dark horse for speed. Best for bigger riders and a more traditional stance. Also suits dedicated cammed sails best.
THINGS TO BEAR IN MIND
ABOUT THE TESTING
• We’ve tested individual models, NOT ranges, so have an open mind if it’s other sizes of the products we review that you’re considering.
Rough Water/Surf Slalom Use:
The RRD Firestorm is the best all-round/versatile range of use and night-and-day best rough water choice and new-to-racing or ‘not fussed about racing’ pick. Suits any type of sails, especially no-cam freerace sails.
Comfort and Control:
The Starboard Futura is the best ‘ticking-every-box’ board that’s super smooth and refined. Suits draft-further-back sails best. The JP SuperSport is also good for entry-level comfort and for those who like to sail in a narrower wind band and not so powered-to-the-max. Suits more traditional, outboard stance. Good deep downwind GPS potential. Best on twin cams/friendlier race sails.
The RRD Firestorm, Simmer Monster and Starboard Futura give the most fun and control around the corners.
Which Ones Would We Buy?:
For genuine speed and racing potential, the Tabou is, without doubt amongst our core and guest testers, the benchmark board of the class. If control was a bigger factor or we wanted a wider, freeride/wave/slalom range of use – say in and out of breaking waves – the RRD with a few different rakes of fin would be amazing.