DOES BUDGET MEAN BOGUS?
6.5M FREERIDE SAIL TEST 2017
Test Editor Tris Best // Second Testers Maurin Rottenwalter & Joe North
Photos Alex Best // Test location Portland Harbour
In a slight twist to the test category this year, many of the brands decided to put their more price-pointed freeride offerings in for test. Windsurfing has to compete with so many other commitments on the purse strings nowadays – family life … other passions … travel … and boringly I suppose we have to mention escalating living costs.
This test was originally published in the March 2017 issue.
All are a drain on funds, so it is only right that sail manufacturers provide a sliding scale of products to meet every budget. But does opting for a cheaper sail force a compromise in performance and functionality? We have a proper mix of freeride sails here in this group to try and answer that question. From the most economical to the most extravagant, there is a £175.00 gap … easily enough for a new aluminium boom, or an upgrade in mast. So where is the wise money at? We sent the test team onto the water to find out.
When you’re learning a new skill or technique, venturing into ‘challenging’ conditions for the first time, or trying unfamiliar kit, you’re pushing yourself out of your comfort zone slightly. Change all three variables together (skill, conditions and kit) and you are very likely to come unstuck. You’ll have punched well clear of your comfort zone, bypassed the key area that sports-coach philosopher-types call the ‘zone of proximal development’ (the hallowed ground) and jumped headlong into the panic zone, where there’s little to no chance of the session being productive. The truth is we have all been there, not least at the intermediate stage of our windsurfing career. It’s when everything is new – the possibilities in windsurfing seem limitless and you seem to be learning something every time you go on the water. Then you have one of those sessions. Your enthusiasm gets the better of you and you throw caution to the wind (excuse the pun), attempting to tame Mother Nature in conditions you know are really well beyond anything you’ve been out in before. And it is these instances that you realise the Mother is not to be messed with. If you’re lucky, the session is short lived and all is intact to fight another day. Truth is, it’s these occasions that kit gets broken … and that is often the sail as you try to star-burst through the middle of it. So would it be wise to act now and save a few pennies before the inevitable happens, or is it a false economy to buy cheap? Would a more expensive sail withstand these impacts better?
In truth it is hard to test genuine durability without testing to destruction and I don’t think the distributors that provided the test kit, nor my limbs are up for accurately enacting the operation of trying to punch through each of these sails. So instead we’ve tried to judge durability through looking at attention to detail and speculating longevity through our own experiences. And encouragingly, what seems consistent throughout the brands is that budget doesn’t equate to a reduction in build quality. What it does mean is that the most indulgent materials aren’t used in abundance … and some finer elements may be missing. And yet, key reinforcements remain present in all vulnerable areas; the quality of seams and workmanship is never neglected. As Ezzy says, the “bells and whistles” of the high end products are stripped away … and what you’re left with are the pure minerals of the raw product.
Another point worth considering is that the sail itself is just one component that contributes to the rig’s performance on the water. The other major item is the mast. And from our collective experience in the centre, we would argue that a good quality (i.e. high carbon content) mast would have more of an influence over performance than the sail itself, particularly considering modern rigs. With that in mind, any saving in the cost of the sail could be used to upgrade the mast. Get a good mast at this stage and you’ll never outgrow it, the same of which can’t necessarily be said of a freeride sail.
The line up of eight sails on test here covers a good cross-section of what is available on the market. The Severne Convert is a cost conscious contender, with specific features to make it as accessible to the progressing sailor as possible. Within its wind range it does its job exceptionally well, relying on the excellent Gator in the Severne range for those that want to venture into stronger winds. GA Sails and Ezzy present their budget offerings in the Hybrid and Legacy, yet take different paths from there. The Hybrid is a new range with new designs and has a distinctly cruising / manoeuvre-oriented nature, whereas the legacy is based on Cheetah profiles of old and is most at home locked in and blasting. The Ryde from Neil Pryde and Nexus from Goya are certainly the most involving sails to use in the group, rewarding positive sailing styles with real performance that even freerace no-cams would be proud of. The RRD is due to be updated very shortly, but if it keeps its easy power delivery and wide range it will remain worthy of consideration. That leaves the North and Point-7. Two very different looking and feeling sails, but both do the same job well. The North has shape and softness built in to provide the bottom end drive and shock absorbing qualities to retain its manners as the conditions mature. The Point-7 on the other hand relies on leverage and efficiency to help give the rider just the right amount of useable feedback. The trick for you as the consumer is to read through the reviews and decide which sail best suits your current ability, riding style … and budget!
THE LINE UP