LOFTSAILS SWITCHBLADE 7.8M 2017 TEST REVIEW
The Switchblade is classed as Loftsails “3-cam performance freerace sail”, and has again come under the watchful scrutiny of brand founder, chief designer and proprietor Monty Spindler. The intention was to give the sail a “softer, easier … feel for 2017, with added low-end drive and extra trim-reactivity” in addition to more speed. Aspects that remain the same for the new season are the Switchblade’s use of the brand’s metallic cam interfaces (MCIs), designed to eliminate any deterioration in sail construction or performance. The Tekcam2 remains, as does the use of tubed battens and both RDM and SDM camber inducers are supplied. The batten pockets themselves are now layered up in x-ply and alternated either side of the sail to reduce any bias or asymmetric nature in performance. The medium depth luff sleeve is made of the brand’s favoured ‘IYU250’ material, said to be “super durable” and plays home to a neoprene zippered entry at the boom, designed to mitigate water entry and therefore faster rig recovery. And it is clear that construction attention certainly doesn’t stop there, the materials used throughout the sail’s panels being considered for best practice. Whilst all the sails in the range are compatible with both RDM and SDM masts, it’s in this 7.8m size that the brand’s preference changes from RDM to SDM. As such, the sail is tested here on a 460 Team Edition SDM mast, and was easy to rig thanks to the large zippered pockets in the luff sleeve.
“The Switchblade is the choice for those who want cam-driven performance combined with the easy handling that a moderate mast pocket provides. The Loftsails Switchblade is progressive slalom performance made accessible.”
Set for light winds, the Switchblade feels big and powerful in the hands – a true gas-guzzling rocket-ship to make the most of any wind that is available. With plenty of pressure and feedback through both hands, it feels solid and positive, rocking back into a locked-in and purposeful stance. It is certainly fast, particularly off the wind, charging through lulls as its steadfast forward-focussed draft keeps pulling, whilst physically accelerating in the hands during gusts. All that said, it has to be noted that the Switchblade does undoubtedly have a slightly more supple elastic nature than we recall of its predecessor.
There is less luff curve, allowing the sail to breathe a little more and allowing it to move around the rider as you travel over heavy seas in real world conditions. In transition it does feel its size whilst being manoeuvred and re-positioned, yet the cams rotate smoothly, the deep profile providing the power to punch out of the turn and back onto the plane. In strong winds the Switchblade needs to be adjusted with more tension on both the downhaul and outhaul. There is probably more play here than on any other sail in the group and it changes the very character of the sail. With more twist through its trailing edge and a shallower profile, it retains its composure, still feeling large in the hands but locked in and well mannered to boot.
With masses of tuning range, the Switchblade retains its versatile character, from a snorting-bull with masses of bottom end, to a slippery contender with rock-steady stability and a penchant for going fast.
Other sails in this test: