8.5M MULTI-CAM SAIL TEST 2021: ENDLESS SUMMER
With many realising last year that the summer months were going to be spent in the UK, the whole British watersports industry witnessed a massive spike in activity. Retailers were buoyant; watersports centres over-subscribed … even the weather played ball. Across the country it seemed there was a resurgence of interest in windsurfing, from ex-windsurfers returning to the sport, to fresh blood coming in and converting to fully-fledged windsurfers, proudly owning their own kit for the first time. At the OTC we also witnessed many people, who would normally go abroad for their annual fix, deciding to buy their own kit to use in the UK for the first time in more than a decade. And the situation looks set to remain for this season too. So, what’s on the market for getting the most out of those light UK summer breezes? Without peering down the foiling route (if you’re keen on this option, check the tests in the previous two issues), let’s look at the traditional ‘big engine’ solution and the 8.5 multi-cam. But before we start, it doesn’t take an eagle-eye to note that there are some big players missing from this test lineup due to production and delivery delays; hopefully these delays become less as the year goes on and the Covid and Brexit related problems improve. Please note, since the initial test three extra sails have been added as catch up tests!
EDITOR: TRIS BEST // SECOND TESTERS: Scott Stallman And Joe Adams // PHOTOS: BRYONY WEBB // LOCATION: PORTLAND HARBOUR
Sails of this size tend to be the largest most discerning recreational sailors show any real interest in. Beyond 8.5 and the likely necessity to buy a 520cm mast too is often enough of a deterrent for most. So being the largest sail in a quiver, the obvious design prerequisite for this sail size is power. Lots of it! Pound for pound, this sail size needs to deliver in the lightest possible airs. But that’s not all. As we all know, to say that conditions in the UK can be variable is a bit of an understatement. So can the sail handle a wide wind range on one setting or does it need to be repeatedly re-tuned. And finally, despite their size, these sails still need to be fun to use! Light in handling and a pleasure in transitions … is it possible for them to disguise their size on the water?
First up there’s the Mark 2 Pro from Goya. Easy to rig and set according to the visual markings, it is a really muscular sail, generating masses of grunt with its deep profile, with plenty of feel through its high skin tension. It doesn’t have the slippery top end efficiency of some, yet with an excellent natural range, it is an incredibly dependable freeride engine. The Loftsails Switchblade is the chameleon amongst the group – satisfying the freeride and freerace role admirably. It has the grunt and substance in the light airs, but really comes to life as the wind strength increases, becoming increasingly light to the touch when fully lit. Neil Pryde’s V8 holds a hefty price tag, but my gosh, does it perform! Light, crisp and dynamic, it hides none of its race programme heritage, but requires a little tinkering to really appreciate its handling and potential. And lastly, there’s the Turbo from Severne – a 6.0m disguised with the power of an 8.0m! It feels small, playful and super user-friendly. If you’re ever doubting whether you can handle a sail of this size, just grab a go on the Turbo and put your fears to rest! With the right engine this season can be extended well beyond the summer months, so get out there and make the most of where we live!