FIVE OF THE BEST
5.3M WAVE SAIL TEST 2016
Test Editor Tris Best // Second Testers Maurin Rottenwalter, Joe North
Photos Nick George // Test Location Southwest England
The 5.3m is quite often the largest sail in a wave-sailor’s quiver. For that, they want bottom end power to make the most of float and ride days, and the extra bit of sparkle if the wind does increase enough to resemble planing conditions. Yet for other coastal sailors, the 5.3m is so much more. We hand over to the OTC test team to try out the latest offerings for the 2016 season.
This test was originally published in the October 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.
Today,most sailors tend to choose their quiver with the fewest sails possible that still enables them to cover the desired wind range. It simply makes financial and practical sense! So a real game changer that would significantly reduce cost would be the ability to dispense with a mast. And that is exactly what has happened here. The 430cm mast has been replaced with the softer 400cm option throughout these sails. It is a bold move, but a wise one, making riders more inclined to buy a new sail for 2016. The most impressive part of the change though is that there is little noticeable loss in bottom end power. With clever luff curve and shaping refinement, several of these sails have the bottom end drive to match their predecessors.
Another distinctly noticeable trend throughout wave sail design is the move towards the use of less battens. The theory being that with less battens in a sail, the lighter the handling and therefore the more responsive/free it is for use in transitions. There are also new sails on the market with ¾ length battens (Ezzy Taka 2 for example – see next month’s test); whilst GA Sails go one step further by providing the extra batten, so that you can configure it to suit your style or preference. The truth is that here in the UK, we are contending with gusty shifting ‘real world’ winds. One minute you’re dealing with a 30 knot squall heading you straight on; the next second you’re being lifted by a gust of the same size but from a 30 degree shift in direction. And then you head straight into a lull where the wind disappears to a 6 knot whimper! Sound familiar? So how can a sail with less battens, and therefore stability, possibly contend? And yet they do. To clarify that statement, the sail with the least top end stability in this group was a five-batten foil … and the one with the most tuneable range was the only four-batten sail on test.
In the past, a high centre of effort was used to create bottom end drive and response, whereas most of the sails here have quite a low centre of effort, relying on a deep profile and movement in the draft to make the most of marginal winds. The 400cm mast makes their response a little softer and easier in the hands, whilst a tighter mid-leech provides response, depending on twist through clever luff curve refinement to cope when the wind increases.
Although there are only five sails on review here, there are some very different directions in design concept. First off, the Ezzy is a case study in itself, providing constant dependable power, yet soft balanced handling over a staggering tuneable range. The feeling is not to everyone’s taste, but if you were once put off the brand by previous models, I challenge you to try their wave sails once more to understand how they have changed. There’s the North that has been revised significantly in this size to maximize its potential in light winds. If you want to make the most of light airs before changing down to your ‘go-to’ sail size when the wind picks up, the Volt may just be the ticket. The Neil Pryde has also been reworked for 2016 and has the most direct handling in the group, providing excellent bottom end drive, yet vastly improved handling over its previous incarnation. The Bionic by Sailloft uses a unique laminate to lock the structure low into the sail and has the stability and manners to be used as a high wind ‘freeride’ sail as much as in a wave break. So that leaves GA Sails with the Manic.
The kingpin of their wave sail range that has been made super-compact in dimension, combining smooth power with easy handling. But above all, it has reached into the past and pulled out a concept from history (the ¾ length batten) that, when used in conjunction with modern rig technology, is as relevant today for manoeuvre-oriented sailing as it was back in the sport’s heyday. It has brought a new tuning option into the mix without the need for the consumer to take an educated gamble. Now that can only be a good thing!
This test was conducted around the UK shores at more than 6 wave sailing locations. UK conditions can certainly be unpredictable at times, yet with a good summer of wind, we had time to test the boards and sails at a variety of locations and in a mixture of conditions, from cross-onshore to firing cross-off.
THE LINE UP