A TOUCH OF CLASS
115L SLALOM BOARD TEST 2016
Test Editor Tris Best // Second Testers Maurin Rottenwalbter & Tom Wells
Photos Tris Best // Test Location OTC, Portland, Dorset
“The 1968 Lamborghini Miura P400 is often credited with creating the supercar as we know it today. It is a car that so radically changed car design in the late ‘60s that its influence can still be seen in the design of some of the modern hypercars. The transversely mounted mid-engine was something totally new at the time and further design genius can be seen in features such as the doors resembling bullhorns and those now iconic eyelashes around the lights. The 4-litre V12 engine was also a thing of beauty and capable of performance unprecedented at the time, with 350bhp through a six Weber carburettor set-up, producing a top speed north of 175mph.”
This test was originally published in the May 2016 issue.
1968 was also the year that saw the birth of our great sport, thanks to the pioneers and fathers of windsurfing – Jim Drake and Hoyle Schweitzer. As soon as funboard windsurfing evolved, slalom racing emerged, making it one of the sport’s oldest and most established disciplines. It is the simplest form of racing and fuels the most rooted instinct of going fast and beating your peers around a racecourse. As advances in the sport have been made, the quest for faster speeds has been the obvious exercise, matched with a healthy bout of self-preservation through control, as we discussed in the freerace test in last month’s issue. And yet slalom is the discipline without compromise. The path where convention can be challenged and innovation occurs. Which, when relating windsurfing to the car industry, makes the slalom board the supercar of the windsurfing world.
And as with anything where performance is key, the slightest tuning can make all the difference. In automotive terms the variables are endless, due to the number of component parts used to alter a configuration. In windsurfing terms, the variables may be fewer, relying on the innate design qualities of the board’s form. Yet tuning is no less critical. There are the footstrap positions … and the mast-foot position in the track … but the most obvious and influential has to be the fin that the board is partnered with, especially when all modern slalom boards are actually supplied without! For this test, we used a selection of high performance carbon moulded fins from F-Hot and Z-Fins, ranging in size from 36-40cm. Many thanks to BSA slalom pro and UK Speed Champion Kev Greenslade for the loan of his prized fin quiver.
If you haven’t stepped on a slalom board in a while, the tuning required can also amount to you acclimatising, changing your riding style and mind-set. These boards are sharp, precise thoroughbreds and don’t suffer fools. They are designed to ride high out of the water, with a light flighty feel as if the fin is the only thing left in connection with the water. There is no doubt that through tuning, all of these contenders have the minerals to win races … so the question to ask is: “Do you?”
Having talked-up the raw potential of these boards, let us counter any reservation you may have by stating the most compelling finding of this slalom test. And that is: all these boards have a level of control that puts them within reach of a good recreational sailor. With time spent getting used to them and tuning to match your sailing stance, each board here has much wider appeal than the dedicated slalom boards of old.
There are other very important factors to consider however. First of all, all these boards MUST be partnered with efficient sails with enough top end performance to keep up with them. Any mismatch here could result in the rider’s stance being pulled out of shape,resulting in control issues as the board tries to accelerate beyond the sail’s limits. And then there’s the fin issue, of which each of these boards would benefit from at least two if not three, and at £300+ each, ramps the already high-price of these top end boards to another level. So whilst the demand placed on a rider’s ability is now less prohibitive, the demand on the wallet may well be! These slalom boards are for the dedicated speed enthusiast, and if you have the dough to blow, you wont be disappointed.
As we mentioned before, in the right hands, these boards are all podium placers. The Fanatic has incredible balance and flies effortlessly on its fin, coming into its own during the corners. The RRD lights up when it is powered up and charges through heavy seas with such directional determination that it can’t help but swell your confidence. The Starboard provides accessible performance across a simply massive range, with supreme control and ease. That leaves the Tabou – more technical than the rest, but with pure distilled potential that can be tamed through tuning.
Oh, and the Miura you ask? Well, we didn’t get to drive it funnily enough … and for good reason. Privately owned, it took Cheshire Classic Cars 18 months to restore it and recently won an award at the prestigious Salon Prive Concours at Blenheim Palace. That, and its £1M+ price-tag somehow prohibited a quick spin!
Many thanks to Damon Milnes of Cheshire Classic Cars (www.cheshireclassiccars.co.uk) for his time and the use of the Lamborghini for the photo-shoot. Thanks also for his quote used at the start of this article about the Miura’s prominence in automotive history. His company is home to a fleet of incredible works of art on wheels, many of which they have restored to their former glory – just take a look at their site to be spellbound.
This test was conducted at the Official Test Centre (OTC), on Portland, Dorset. The centre is based within the grounds of the National Sailing Academy that hosted the Olympic sailing classes in 2012. With the best wind stats on the south coast, mirror flat water in prevailing winds and a safe launch area with excellent facilities, it provides the ideal test venue. Much of the kit is still on site, so why not go and try some of it for yourself?
THE LINE UP