THE DAWN OF A NEW CLASS
4.7M WAVE SAIL TEST 2016
Test Editor Tris Best // Second Testers Maurin Rottenwalter,
Joe North and Dan Sallows
Photos Nick George and Alex Best // Test Location Southwest England
To make up for the limited number of sails in last month’s 5.3m test, we’ve had a bumper supply of 4.7 sails for this month’s review! And what a mix they are. Having started this test, one thing very quickly became clear, that with the emergence and consequent refinement of many three batten wave sails in recent years, several brands were starting to shift their belief and understanding about the true wind range of each sail size. A new breed of wave sail has been born to challenge convention … how did they perform?, read on for our surprising results!
This test was originally published in the November/December 2015 issue.
You may be looking at the line up for this test and think it quite bare. And you’d be right! The truth is that at the time we conducted the test, there was a lack of sails of this size in the country… so we were lucky to get these! On the plus side, we were blessed with a fairly windy summer by UK standards, so had plenty of opportunity to try these five out … and in a variety of conditions. And it is often the ‘less than ideal’ day that you really get a good feel for the performance of the sail. From light cross-onshore conditions to overpowered cross-offshore winds, and everything in between.
The simple rationale behind this new breed of sail can’t be doubted. Empower a smaller sail to generate more power, without compromising its ability to go neutral on demand and you can enable riders to get away with using a smaller sail than most, gaining significantly from the manoeuvre benefits a smaller foil possesses. The principle is great, but in practice that meant going to a 3 batten sail, which soon lost favour with those that tried them due to a lack of stability when the wind increased. Move into 2016 and some leading brands must believe they have now found the answer, introducing the concept to their flagship wave sails. And we have to say, they could well be right! All these sails offer good to exceptional wind ranges, and have enough stability to resist embarrassment if the wind picks up. But the big, bold statement to make here is that you now need to change your train of thought as to where the wind range of a 4.7 actually lies! The new breed has challenged convention and their popularity on the market will undoubtedly swell. Yet there are still new sails being introduced with more battens in their make-up, displaying all too well the virtues of a more typical 4.7m design.
So the most apparent issue facing us as the customer is knowing which style or wind range the sail is designed for, when all sails are simply described as 4.7! You can’t simply guess according to the aspect ratio of the sail, or the number of battens it possesses, (although I think it is a given that a 5 batten configuration is aimed at a more conventional wind range!). After all, it wasn’t that long ago that the four-batten wave sail was viewed as ‘radical’, but has become the standard, judging by today’s line-up. Nor can you draw a conclusion by looking at the length of mast it is recommended for use with. It seems there is a general migration to using smaller, softer masts as standard across sail sizes today. And yet the new breed of sails in this test are recommended for use with a larger stiffer mast, whereas there are conventional sails here, offering masses of bottom end grunt matched with top end stability, yet use a 370cm mast.
After looking at similarities between the sails in the group that favour a revised lower wind range, the best indicator we can see is the amount of luff curve present in the sail. But how do you know this without rigging the sail and measuring it relative to the next 4.7m? Simple answer is you don’t. If our prediction is right and this style of sail becomes more the norm around our shores, perhaps a new additional indicator should be added to the sail’s size classification. Maybe an ‘L’ and an ‘H’? L stands for LOW … for those 4.7 sails that are designed for use in the lightest, most marginal winds possible. H for HIGH … for the 4.7 sails that you can hang on to until the cows come home! Will we see 4.7L and 4.7H on the market in the future? Seems logical to us. Brands, … over to you!
The two standouts in this group were the Ezzy and North, both challenging the range of wind a 4.7m could be used in and both compounding the validity of the newly emerging concept. At the other end of the scale (batten wise) there’s the Simmer, displaying such a massive wind range that some would be left questioning why we ever steered away from 5 battens in the first place! The Point-7 and Neil Pryde both offer a solid, dependable amount of power, whilst the Vandal and Attitude favour a style more focussed on light handling and manoeuvrability. That leaves the RRD and Severne with their forward centre of efforts and excellent structural stability to provide light balanced handling so the rider can concentrate on their own performance. Last, but by no means least are the Goya and GA Sails, both massively tuneable and both pushing the realms of possibility when balancing useable power against precise handling.
This test was conducted on UK shores, in everything from cross-offshore port tack to cross-onshore starboard tack winds. With autumn approaching we’ve had a few good ground swells, pushing fun sized waves in at very accessible locations, making conditions ideal for testing. It has meant we’ve been able to get a true sense of the real world performance of these boards and sails in dealing with typical UK frontal patterns.
THE LINE UP