NEIL PRYDE SPEEDSTER 7.2 2020 TEST REVIEW
A new breed of no-cam freerace sail, whose bottom end capacity has been masterfully enhanced without detracting from its top end potency. Expensive, but has the look and feel of something special.
Delivering “slalom without cambers”, the Speedster finds itself in the Neil Pryde lineup once more, sandwiched between the familiar twin-cam V8 and the reinstated Ryde. With its outline and ‘Airflow’ batten orientation lifted directly from the RS:RACING EVO11, its focus is on performance and balanced handling, with tubed battens installed and two stepped clew-eyelet options to choose from. Available in two colour schemes, both of which are equally standout thanks to the brand’s exclusive custom printing technology, it was rigged here on a TPX100 SDM – a mast whose price tag may make your eyes water, but whose performance makes it somewhat justifiable. The sail we had on test was an early one from the production run and as a result had no dimensions or trim markers printed. But rest assured, as with the other 2020 sails tested, they will be present on the Speedster. Downhauling this 7.2m, it sets with a significant amount of luff curve, the leech falling away along its whole length, whilst the lower battens pull away to retain the softest touch with the mast. The sail’s profile is relatively flat at rest, with what shape there is being low down yet relatively far back, in line with the rider. Pryde’s quality design features are in place as usual, including the Fuse Pocket integrated battens, and laminated Forceline load distribution patches in key areas. It is a visually striking sail on land, but would its on water performance serve to match?
“More user friendly than a cambered sail (easier to rig, uphaul and gybe), the Speedster is more balanced, offering greater performance and wind range than a classic freeride sail.”
In the past a typical no-cam freerace sail has provided nigh on the performance of a dedicated cammed slalom sail, in terms of top end control and efficiency, yet lacked the drive and power to get going in more marginal conditions. Times, it seems, have moved on and the Speedster is one of a new crop that really seems to walk the tightrope well. Downhauled with plenty of skin tension and looseness through the leech, it feels very light and neutral at rest, using the upper clew eyelet to increase the boom’s leverage and reduce its angle. Shallow in profile at rest, as a gust hits, the change in pressure is felt instantly, the stretch in the luff sleeve and movement in the panels allowing the power to be transferred to the board purposefully. The secret to the Speedster’s active nature is the position of the centre of effort: low but further back than most, it is centred around the rider and provides direct feedback through both hands. As the wind fills, the sail’s elastic limit is reached in a flash and whilst the pull isn’t grunty or overwhelming, with good technique it can be put to great effect. Even when powered, the depth of the Speedster’s draft is relatively slight, yet the drive and efficiency of the delivery through both hands is compelling. It is such an efficient sail, accelerating through gusts as if it has no limit. As such, it needs to be partnered with a board and fin that has the capacity to keep up with it, otherwise the Speedster’s appetite to keep charging will start to manifest in control issues. With excellent natural range on one setting, the addition of the dropped inset clew eyelet only serves to extend the Speedster’s top end appeal for the blasting enthusiast. And in transition, the light balanced handling of the Speedster bolsters the rider’s courage to enter with speed and conviction, rotating fluidly and powering up quickly on the new tack.
Luff: 467 cm
Boom: 200 / 206 cm
Ideal Mast: Neil Pryde 460 cm SDM
Available Sizes: 5.2, 5.7, 6.2, 6.7, 7.2, 7.7, 8.2.
OTHER SAILS IN TEST