2014 7.8 SLALOM SAIL TEST REVIEW REPORTS
It’s an age-old question. Tame and channel the power to your advantage, OR, be (arguably) smarter and choose a more energy-efficient method to beat your rivals?
But can you have both? And, is genuine, raw power actually ever controllable? We think it can be – and there are a couple of examples in this very test – although, largely, cammed sails generally all fit into a scale ranging from more user-friendly and freeridey, to unabashed, terrifying levels of force.
BETTER THAN BIG WAVES?
If you haven’t read this issue’s slalom board test intro and picked-up on our newfound passion for slalom, then please do! We’re hooked! Normally we test all this stuff in Egypt where the going’s easy and everything feels perfect. But not in Tenerife where we ended-up!
However, despite having the workout of our lives, we’re addicted and can’t stop buzzing after sailing all this gear. If you’re a fanatical, wave-only sailor, we think you seriously need to look in the mirror and ask yourselves some critical questions.
Namely – without wanting to sound discriminative – have you got the balls? Because this is one side of the sport that will give you kicks you’d never imagine. It’s definitely time to ‘man-up’ …
Chest-beating aside, Slalom is a special scene – even just drag-racing as opposed to 4-minutes-of-genuine-intense-deep-downwind-racing – because you spend time in the shorebreak socialising and sharing info and experiences on the session.
You’re always tweaking kit and finding better combinations to suit the immediate conditions to hand and get better at being in-sync with your gear.
It goes without saying all this will carry over to other types of sailing you do – slalom WILL bring your sailing level higher all-round. Fact.
Why the shorebreak time then? Well, if you’re really pushing it, you won’t be able to breathe if you sail flat-out for more than ten minutes at a time! Go and try it for yourself and see…
WHAT DID WE FIND?
So what have we got here then? Generally there’s two types of sail and power delivery types in this test. ‘Tractors’ and ‘Magic Carpets’.
Before we go into details – and just to confuse you – we also suggest you check our upcoming twin-cam tests and previous no-cam freerace sail reviews (April 2014 issue) as there’s some interesting overlaps.
If we picked our ideal quivers (okay, later in the year we may well do!) there would be sails/boards from all these categories mixed in with the hard-core stuff in our personal picks.
THE POWER SCALE
• For serious racing in mind
• Require skill and fitness, plus body weight helps too
• Are sailed overpowered at all times. (‘Rig for the lulls – man-up in the gusts’)
• Suit gusty conditions
• Perform best deep downwind
• Demand you to ‘sail efficient’ and, when required ‘pounce’ and to turn on the power.
MAGIC CARPETS – FRIENDLIER/DE-TUNED PRODUCTS:
• Good for entry-level racers and/or lightweights
• Easier to control and more energy efficient
• Suit more consistent conditions and less hard-core boards
• Overlap with ‘freerace’ models
• Best for across-the-wind reaching not just deep downwind legs
• Finer foils with less glide and ‘carry’ through lulls
• For rougher conditions where control beats brute strength
How to choose:
GO TO DEMOS! After reading these reports and getting a shortlist to test, trust your instincts and be aware of ‘feel’ – but be brave.
Strive for low-resistance products that you can trim to suit your skill and style, yet leave yourself some ‘growing room’ for when you progress and are fitter. (Even regular wavesailors will struggle for breath!)
Most Powerful A toss-up between the Point-7 AC-1 and the Gaastra Vapor.
Easiest To Handle The RRD is undoubtedly the easiest and most ‘freeridey’. The North, Simmer and NeilPryde are all ‘chuck-about-able’, but the surprise package is the grunty Severne Reflex 5 that’s also very forgiving despite being a ‘full-on’ sail.
Fastest That’s subjective as comfort can bring great speed over a course. It’s also pretty board-type and fin dependent too. In a straight line, on a dedicated top-of-the-line board and deep off the wind, for us it’s the Gaastra. But, if you’re a monster, the Point-7 would be hard to catch – and the Severne brings a great mix of both worlds to the table too.
Best Value For sail-only and without calculating mast prices in we think the Point-7 and RRD definitely deliver the most bang for the bucks.
Which Ones Would We Buy? With a mix of experienced slalom heads and new-to-the pain members on the team, our collective choice would be the Severne Reflex 5 closely followed by the Gaastra, which is not exclusively a heavyweights sail.
If we all weighed 110 kg. and only wanted to race downwind – not just tear around our local waters – the Point-7 would probably be the pick.
Lightweights should also consider the North, which is pretty rapid as well. Both newcomers to slalom and old hands might also want to read our no-cam freerace reviews and watch out for some interesting results in the upcoming 7.8 twin-cam test …
Special thanks to Tenerife Windsurf Solution (TWS) centre for hosting us – the best demo/hire centre in the world, F-Hot/Dave White for the loan of their mast mounts, I Love Meet and Greet Airport Valet Parking Services and windsurfingfins.co.uk for the loan of control fins. BM
READ THE INDIVIDUAL REPORTS
PRINCIPAL TEST TEAM
Chris Rainbow 75 kg. Med. Height
Julian Da Vall 83 kg. 1.95 Tall. Experience national and European-level racer.
Brian McDowell 100 kg. 1.90 Tall.
Thanks also to the various PWA pro sailors on hand in Tenerife who also lent a hand, showed us the best tweaks on their affiliated brands’ gear and gave opinion on boards and sails from rival manufacturers.
Due to camera battery and GoPro failures during our test trip, we’ve had to use brand-produced images to show the gear in action.