NEIL PRYDE HELLCAT 7.2M 2016 TEST REVIEW
The Hellcat has been in the Neil Pryde range as their no-cam performance freeride for many years now. Descending directly from the Evo 7 for the new season, it is said to have been made more slippery and powerful, using race sail shaping and twist characteristics. The most noticeable development at first glance is the Hellcat’s luff, being almost 10cm longer than the next tallest on test. Inspired by the brand’s race programme, the longer luff curve and higher aspect ratio are incorporated to ensure high skin tension and faster response for better acceleration and speed. When other brands are looking to go more and more compact, this is a unique direction for Pryde. Rigged on a FLX100 SDM mast, the sail does require a strong hand to pull the tension on, such is the loading required. With plenty of looseness in the upper panels the mid-leech remains relatively tight whilst the battens exhibit no rotation around the mast. Even on its minimum setting, the front of the bottom battens merely touch the mast. With the brand’s attention to detail (such as their Forceline laminates incorporated into their distinctive open integrated clew design), and striking colourways, the Hellcat is a very eye-catching and special looking sail.
“While Hellcat and Hornet are comparable in speed, the Hellcat will have a clear advantage in manoeuvres and when gybing. The 2016 Hellcat is now faster and more powerful, with a better wind range.”
Setting with plenty of shape low down in its profile, the Hellcat generates a massive amount of crisp bottom end power. It feels large, grunty and forceful in the hands at first, yet accelerates instantly and settles quickly into a locked in and comfortable position. The faster it goes, the lighter and more slippery it feels, accelerating through every gust as it translates extra power effortlessly into more speed. It is simply devastating for straight-line blasting; an incredible weapon with a limitless top end to partner any efficient hull. Its natural range on one setting is also impressive – feeling springy and reactive to pumping, and with a solid assured stability if the wind increases. In transition, the Hellcat’s height and size cannot be hidden, its increased swing weight making it slower to reposition and more forceful in the hands as it is reengaged. From the moment you initially start to rig it, the Hellcat is not a sail for the fainthearted, but it is as potent a racing machine as they come in no-cam form and will keep up with the most power hungry adrenaline junkie out there. This performance comes at a price, but the slippery gliding sensation of the Hellcat certainly had us captivated and craving more.
High-end price for high-end performance, the Hellcat is a no-compromise straight-line blaster and cuts through the air so beautifully that it almost feels like you’re cheating.
Other sails in this test: