LOFTSAILS SWITCHBLADE HD 7.8M TEST REVIEW
The SwitchBlade remains in LoftSails range for 2018 as their 3-cam performance freerace offering. It also retains the same dimensions as the 2017 version tested last year, yet has undergone some subtle panel refinements and material tweaks, most noticeably now available in a blue HD construction or orange standard layout. Whilst also compatible with RDMs (cams supplied as standard), it is tested here on a Team Edition SDM, and was easy to rig, the tapered luff sleeve providing plenty of room to sheath the mast, whilst the Tekcam 2s are easy to fit and remain in place throughout the process. Loftsails are keen to point out their metallic cam interfaces (MCIs) that are used to reduce wear at the contact point of the cam on the internal batten end – one of a number of features that are testament to the careful consideration in the sail’s make-up. The Dacron head panel (for ease of rolling), zippered neoprene boom cut-out closure (to reduce water ingress), alternating x-ply batten packets and large Velcro opening on the moulded tack fairing all show real thought and quality. One of the tallest sails in the group at 492cm, it has plenty of depth to its profile yet it seems to be placed low and further back in the draft than most, tapering smoothly to a shallower profile further up. Last year we summed the SwitchBlade up by remarking on its range and versatility for varying conditions, so time to see how it fairs against the new season’s crop.
“For 2018 Loftsails introduces two Switchblades: SWITCHBLADE HD: ultimate longevity and reduced weight – full xply: 5-mil biaxial luff and foot panels, 4-mil biax window panels, and 3.5-mil biax body panels. SWITCHBLADE: 5-mil biaxial luff and foot panels, 5-mil mono window and 4-mil bi-ply body panels. The Switchblade 2018 is tuned race elasticity that one can feel.”
Rigged for marginal winds, the SwitchBlade generates plenty of useable feedback through both hands, feeling large and powerful and responding well to pumping. The best word we found to describe it is ‘solid’ – it is a super dependable wall of energy, the large foot area enabling it to settle beautifully into a locked, authoritative stance. It can certainly partner the most stubborn wide-bodied hull and make the most of their bottom end potential. In manoeuvres the SwitchBlade does feel its size and requires technique and input from the rider to re-position before the cams fully rotate with a snap to re-charge the sail’s batteries in an instant. The true charm and selling point of the Switchblade however is in its tuning range, which in turn brings about a transformation to its character. As the wind increases the SwitchBlade is recalibrated with more downhaul, making its profile shallower and shifting the draft further back, the leech falling away significantly more. It is now in race mode and thrives on being fixed into a slalom or freerace hull, accelerating to impressive speeds, particularly off the wind. Slippery and efficient through the wind, it feels no less dependable than earlier in its light wind guise, as it pins the board down and translates every gust into balanced acceleration through both hands. The difference achieved through tuning the SwitchBlade is staggering and never ceases to amaze us each year.
A sail of two stories – the SwitchBlade can be your dependable light-wind powerhouse or re-tensioned and transformed into a slick top-end performer. At over £800 it is a lot of money, but with two distinct characters, it’s as if you get two sails in one!
Other sails in this test:
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