5.3 POWER WAVE SAILS TEST REPORTS
A 5.3 has an important place in pretty much every windsurfer’s quiver. This could be the biggest sail for hard-core wave or freestyle riders, or the smallest sail for more crossover, freeride sailors. The two quite different demands on this size bracket, from opposite ends of the scale, ultimately define what this category is all about.
Report by Dan Newman Pics by Julia Toms
(This review originally appeared in the Nov/Dec 2012 issue of Windsurf Magazine. To read the latest features, print and digital subscriptions for readers worldwide are available HERE.)
‘Power Wave’ is often the term used to describe wave sails designed for heftier riders and/or use in onshore conditions. Read: cross-shore drift, inside wind shadows and heavier pilots. Factors that all demand pure, unadulterated grunt and drive!
While many sail brands will have these muscle-bound motors in their ranges, they can do far more than just haul around big guys! They’re also very good crossover sails from the surf into freestyle (early-planing in between moves) or freeride (powering bulkier, deep-finned boards) use. Of course they’re also great for lighter riders who may want to use a smaller rig for extra manoeuvrability, yet still be planing nice and early.
Back-in-the-day, powerful sails were all well and good until they ran into trouble at the top of their range. Strong gusts tested their handling, even when flattened-out to their limits. What we’ve noticed now is that nearly all the models in this test boasted much-improved behaviour at the higher end of their scope. Throw in the movement to more compact (shorter luff) shapes and we’ve got a new breed of multipurpose sails for most sizes of rider to use almost anywhere that can, in some cases, even replace larger sails when paired with the latest larger, floatier waveboards or freestyle-wave shapes.
There’s ten fresh new 2013 model power wave sails in this test, with the Gaastra Poison 5.4, Goya Eclipse 5.3, Naish Force 5.3, NeilPryde Atlas 5.4, North Volt 5.3, Point 7 Sado 5.0, RRD Move 5.2, Severne Blade 5.3, Simmer Iron 5.3 and Tushingham Rock 5.2 under the microscope.
It has to be said that not all of these sails are billed as out-and-out wave sails – for example the NeilPryde Atlas and RRD Move are marketed as ‘Freestyle Wave’ and ‘Freemove’ sails respectively. You’ll discover what we thought of each further on, but let’s just say that we found some sails definitely more suitable for wave riding use and some much more compatible with freeride or freestyle-wave boards.
All of the sails in this category were rigged on RDMs (Reduced Diameter Mast), which are proven to provide the best performance and durability in the waves. The masts were also mostly 80-100% carbon content for the highest possible performance. Sails in the 5.3 to 5.6 bracket are also generally the largest sails that a 400 mast can service, which in the surf environment is poignant as, the more length presented to the wave in a wipe-out the more likely you are to suffer a breakage. In handling terms, we would always recommend investing in the highest quality mast that your budget allows, but more cost-effective options are definitely available in lower carbon content.
LOCATION AND TESTERS
Our test location was Tenerife and we were based at the OTC in El Medano. This is a perfect place to test windsurfing kit due to the array of excellent conditions on offer every day. During our stay we were lucky enough to get everything from small onshore waves and bump & jump to logo-high, side-shore surf. We also had a wide variety of wind strengths, (15-40 knots) that pushed the capabilities of these sails to the max at either end of their spectrums. The team for this segment consisted of myself at the lighter end of the weight scale, ex-Pro Jamie Hawkins (heavyweight) plus West Country wave-head Dan Labato and Western Oz/Tenerife regular Justin Stuart.
When testing sails, everything starts on dry land and, as soon as we un-roll them, we check-out their measurements, materials and build quality. We note their weight and investigate any interesting features. Then it’s on to rigging. This is so crucial and can make a massive difference to how a sail performs – literally transforming a terrible experience into something beautiful – so it’s vital to get this right and also explore each sail’s full tuning range. Next we hit the water where the serious graft begins! For wave testing we’re focusing on how the sail performs throughout its wind range, how it reacts to gusts and lulls, its power delivery, level of control and handling through maneuvers – both on the wave and also in the air.
It’s been a long time since a mainstream brand put a dud sail out onto the market and this competitive sector offers products targeting a range of use. We have to say the level of refinement is at an all-time high and that several models in this test have met their intended or claimed briefs superbly. Nevertheless, not every product is likely to everyone’s cup ‘o tea, although there’s a few strong contenders for all-round use! Read on to see what products tick off the most boxes in your personal wish list and likely use before scribbling to Santa about leaving one under the tree! DN
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