THE ART OF REDUCTION
5.3M WAVE SAIL TEST 2017
Test Editor Tris Best // Second Testers Maurin Rottenwalbter, Joe North, Nick Moffatt & Tom Squires
Photos Alex Best // Test location Gwithian, Rhosneigr and Overcombe
If you take a look for patterns or trends in sail design through the different disciplines of the sport in the recent past, there has undoubtedly been a conscious effort by all involved to reduce mast lengths used. Sail sizes that were unequivocally set on one mast size have been completely reworked on a mast 30cm its junior. For example, 7.0m sails, once the domain of 460cm masts, are now recommended for use on 430s; and many 4.7m sails on the market in 2017 are best used on 370cm masts.
This test was originally published in the October 2016 issue.
This correlation continues in the 5.3m wave sail bracket, with all the sails in this test championing a 400cm mast, whereas their predecessors in the not too distant past would unanimously plump for a 430. The advantages are obvious – more compact, less swing weight, softer feel. And yet the pitfalls are also glaringly clear – how can you produce the same amount of bottom end power … the same low down grunt to unstick the stubborn wave board with a softer stick in the leading edge? It’s an understandable concern, particularly for the larger rider who craves that guttural punch to counter their own weight. After all, for many, the 5.3m is the largest wave sail in their quiver – their go to sail for marginal winds and bog-out conditions. Well, the truth is that movement to shorter masts has very much taken the iterative design route, with brands slowly but surely phasing it in. The clarity of the concept has however come from an unlikely quarter in the sail spectrum – race sails. Back in the 2015 PWA racing season, North Sails Warp 9.0m used a new material in the cord of the sail, between the head and tack, enabling Kai Hopf to use a reduced luff curve and yet still maintain stability in the sail. With the mast less restricted, its bend under less tension, it can respond more freely, injecting more life and feel into the sail. The Warp responded better to pumping and accelerated positively in marginal winds or out of gybes, enhancing its race performance and success.
And so the same design principle has filtered down into wave sail design. With less luff curve, the mast becomes more responsive to changes in pressure enabling more depth and breathability to be incorporated into the sail’s profile. The concept seems to have been adopted throughout all the sails on tests here, albeit to varying degrees and using different design methods to achieve the same goal, without compromising stability or top end performance. There’s the idea of moving the batten above the boom up, to reduce tension in the belly of the sail and enabling it to breath more. There’s the use of Dacron luff panels, once a given throughout sail design, being brought back in …yet countered with the use of resistant strands of non-expanding fibres radiating from the clew of sail to keep the centre of effort locked forward. Of course, there is one brand here that has been championing the design concept of reduced luff curves for years. David Ezzy has adopted an upright leading edge in his designs for as long as most of us care to think back, using seam shaping to lock the centre of effort forward and ensure the sail’s stability. In the Elite he also raised the batten above the boom (a theory now used by North in the Hero) to help the sail breath as the wind fills. There is no outright winner with regards to which design scheme works best as each has its merits. But what is certain is that the developments in this area are undoubtedly for the benefit of everyone. It means all wave sailors can now get away with just two masts in their quiver. It means that the bottom end power of your sails is now such that you can change down a sail size sooner, and in doing so you’re using a smaller more throw-around engine for a more expressive session. In many cases it has even meant that sailors can change their whole quiver sizes – if you once used sails of 5.3, 4.7 and 4.2, it could mean that you’d be able to get away with sails of 5.0, 4.5 and 4.0. Now there’s a thought…
Lets start with the Ezzy and as mentioned above, the Elite displays many solutions that have now emerged in the products of the other lofts. The fact that the Elite is now over a year and a half old is testament to the innovative nature of Ezzy’s work. The GA Sails Manic has been completely reworked with a constant curve mast to help emphasise the impact of the reduced luff curve, using resistant stringers emanating from the clew to ensure stability. This feature is also evident in the North and Severne, the former possessing a large sail area above the boom and an adjusted batten layout to exact its bottom end performance. The latter uses a large area of Dacron in its luff panel for the same desired effect. The Goya possesses the largest radiating strands in all the sails here (named Carbon Stretch Control – CSC), connecting the clew eyelets to the respective battens in the head of the sail, adjusting the very nature of the sail’s feel simply through use of the different eyelets. The Purelip from Loftsails has stability at its very core and uses a x-ply luff panel for crisp handling combined with movement in its luff sleeve to provide more depth and feel to its draft. The RRD sits at the other end of the spectrum to the Purelip, using a long Dacron luff tube to provide a super soft and forgiving nature, its stability coming from the familiar source of re-tuning and increased tension. That leaves the Neil Pryde Combat – a sail that comes from a loft with heritage in performance. Adopting less luff curve as with all the sails here, Pryde have used the strategy endorsed by Ezzy, increasing seam shaping to ensure stability. Whichever brand you are used to, it is certainly worth trying a few of the sails here to see which suits your riding style. It’s an exciting time in sail design, with development continuing to make strides forward.
THE LINE UP