RRD COMPACT FIRE 5.7M
2020 TEST REVIEW
With powered performance assured, the Compact Fire extends the boundaries of what is conceivably possible for a foldable sail. It is not cheap and the uniqueness of the concept adds to the additional cost of the rig. Yet what price do you put on the exciting practicality of carrying a complete rig in a backpack, and the doors to adventures it can unlock? Will other brands follow? We’re sold … so we think they should!
This is the third opportunity we have had to test RRD’s unique and pioneering Compact Rig concept, having tried the Compact Freefoil back in 2019 and the Compact Vogue earlier this year in the Jan-Feb issue. The industry has flirted with the idea of ‘foldable sails’ several times in the past, but nothing worthy of note has ever amounted from it, largely down to their compromised performance. Fast forward to 2020 and RRD are now confident they have cracked this tough nut. The amount of energy and investment the brand (and their sail designer John Skye), has made in the concept is clear to see, with a total of six ranges now in the series, from the Vogue wave sail to the foiling Freefoil, and two freeride numbers (including this Fire), a youth targeted Grom lineup and wind-sup specific engine. This Compact Fire is their ‘performance freeride’ engine, sitting next to the ‘easy freeride’ X-tra, and comes in four sizes from 5.0m to 6.8m. All four sizes are designed for use with the Compact Freeride Rig Pack, which itself is available in either PRO or HD format, the main difference (amongst other niceties) being the high-priced collapsible carbon boom in the PRO package. RRD go on to state the Compact sails also work with standard components, so that the initial outlay can be broken down into more palatable staged payments. Easy to understand and rig, the fact that the Fire is put together from a folded start adds relatively little to the rigging time, albeit the most time-consuming process is fixing and taping the mast together so that it doesn’t pull apart whilst tensioning the downhaul. The battens are intuitive to assemble and engage, thanks to the new batten tensioners, whilst the folding and rolling process becomes easier with practice. Once set according to the trim-guide in the upper panel, the Compact Fire displays a moderate amount of luff curve, retaining good rotation in the bottom two battens, the leech falling away significantly in the top two panels. With a focus on optimising the sail’s strength to weight ratio, monofilm is used in all bar the foot and clew panels, where polyester x-ply is adopted. And with RRD’s 25-year celebratory colour scheme, the obligatory Dacron stripe through the middle of the sail doesn’t look unsightly, intersected by two load bearing tendons radiating from the clew to control the stretch experienced in the main panel.
“Our top performance freeride sail, available as a Compact Series sail. All the winning performance of the original Fire, but can be folded into a backpack with 2 other sails, to make a dream portable quiver. The future of performance portability.”
Set for light winds using the upper eyelet of the sail’s ‘Power-Clew’ system, the Compact Fire is easy and balanced at rest, the extra reinforcements required in the component parts making no tangible difference to the physical weight of the sail on the water. The one difference we did notice was the mast’s response to assertive pumping. Being a 370 cm (albeit with a 60 cm extension), it did feel softer than others on test, providing less bottom end punch or spring when trying to force the issue. That said, the Fire’s passive planing threshold is still respectable, pulling positively as the wind increases and pressure builds. The centre of effort is located low and forwards in the draft, channelling power efficiently to the board and almost bypassing the rider as it remains light and focussed in the hands. To this end, this is where we feel the Fire’s true pedigree begins to shine through, the performance heritage of its namesake rising to the surface. Once properly powered, the Fire is a match for most here in a straight-line. Its acceleration during gusts is palpable, feeling lighter and even more positive as it pins the board to the water. Locked in and charging, it is an easy sail to get on with, requiring little rider input yet bringing a smile to their face. The extra tuning range available through downhaul and the lower inset eyelet enhances the Fire’s range further, whilst in transition its low down drive position makes it smooth in rotation and easy to manage throughout.
Luff: 435 cm
Boom: 183 or 188
Ideal Mast: RRD Compact Freeride Rig (370 cm + 60 cm)
Available Sizes: 5.0, 5.7, 6.3, 6.8
Price: £718 FREERIDE RIG PACK £871
Other sails in this test:
THE LINE UP