5.7M CROSSOVER SAIL TEST 2015
Board testing is a relatively straight forward affair, being easy to control variables as you experiment with different set-ups in changeable conditions. Sail testing on the other hand can be quite tricky, as the main variable (i.e. the wind) has a frustrating ability to shift, fluctuate and generally not do what it is supposed to! And if you don’t get the results you expect, or feel the sail warrants, there are then a myriad of tweaks and adjustments that can be made to the set. You may even need to try the sail on an altogether different mast… Luckily, with the test centre so close to the water’s edge, the practicality of making all these tuning refinements during the testing period was as easy and pain-free as we have ever known, and the exposure to the wind that Portland experiences means the forecast is invariably right.
This test was originally published in the April 2015 issue.
So what new trend did this test bring up? Well, out of the nine sails tested, two are 4-battened whilst the rest retain the more conventional and accepted five-batten configuration. Is this to be expected? We think so. These sails have a hard job description, harder than most in our opinion. They should be powerful with good bottom end potential, yet light and balanced in the hands; versatile in their stance so that they can be used for most disciplines and can partner different board styles … and do all this over a massive wind range. No easy task.
It has been interesting to understand the different approaches used by the various lofts here to answer this tough design brief. Ezzy, North and Severne have incorporated relatively little luff curve, and by doing so have increased the responsive handling and flicky feel in their sails. The downside to this, is that the structure to the sail decays quickly as the wind increases, so to lock stability into the sail, they both use a significant amount of shaping in the sail’s profile. Their sails feel different in the hands, but the principle used by both is largely the same. Naish, however, are at the other end of the spectrum. The Boxer has much of its sail area above the boom to get the most influence possible to the wind. Great for light marginal winds, the worry is that this makes the sail vulnerable as the wind increases, so to help lock the structure in the sail, Naish have employed a good dose of luff curve, bending and tensioning the mast massively to provide the skin tension and therefore stability. Both are very interesting concepts and have their own merits, leading to very different feeling sails. It is up to you as the consumer to decide which style of sail is for you.
All these sails on test set on RDM masts as standard, but that is where the similarities for some stop! Some display more bias towards manoeuvres (the Ezzy for example), whilst others are most useful blasting around a break in a locked-in stance, such as the Simmer. The key to deciding which one is for you is to be honest with yourself in the style of sailing that you do. How subtle are you with power and delivering it to the board? What type of board are you likely to be partnering this sail with? And what other sails are you partnering this one with – will it be the largest in your wave quiver, or smallest in your blasting sail line-up? Answer these questions initially, then read the reports to see which sail matches your requirements best. There are some fantastic options here to match the market’s diverse needs.
This test was conducted at the beaches of Overcombe and Bandstead within Weymouth bay and the Official Test Centre (OTC) at Portland, Dorset. The OTC 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?