NEIL PRYDE COMBAT 5.3M 2017 TEST REVIEW
The Combat sits in the Neil Pryde range as their four-batten ‘all-round wave’ sail – the go-to option for versatility and performance. For the new season, the outline of the sail has been made more low aspect, with a reduced luff (in both length and curvature) and marginally increased boom length. It is available in Heavy Duty (HD) construction in a green-yellow colour way, or in red-orange standard construction as tested here. Rigged on a FLX100 RDM mast, it has an impressive tuning range, with shape remaining present in the draft as the leech opens progressively under increased downhaul tension. There is also a real quality to the Combat’s materials and structure, without the slightest crease or wrinkle present throughout its panels. Neat little attentions to detail, such as an integrated downhaul rope clip in the tack pulley all add to this high-tech impression.
“The 2017 Combat has a more compact outline with a shorter luff and a reduction in the overall luff curve. The luff curve was reduced in order to improve sail twist making it much easier to handle in gusts and when turning on top of the wave. Since there is less luff curve in the sail (resulting in reduced body tension) we increased seam shaping in the bottom two battens in order to retain early planing performance the Combat is known for.”
Set with minimal tension, the Combat retains plenty of rotation in its two bottom battens, its already reasonable draft filling further still as the wind fills. Feeling very positive and balanced, it generates a good deal of bottom end grunt, the centre of effort focussed around the rider, providing feedback through both hands and making the power very useable. It accelerates quickly to an impressive top speed, providing crisp feedback for instant, snappy manoeuvres. In comfortably powered winds, the Combat can be retuned with more tension to open the leech and increase skin tension, locking the centre of effort forward. It is a tried and tested concept … and the Combat is one of the best examples of it working effectively in a modern sail. The most apt word to describe the Combat’s nature is ‘efficient’. It translates power into acceleration and when its optimum speed is reached, it efficiently exhausts excess power, enabling the rider to maintain their preferred stance effortlessly. It has a slippery feel in the hands, more akin to a performance freerace sail, accelerating in gusts and gliding through lulls, which, in a typically gusty environment, almost feels like you’re cheating. As the conditions turn on, the Combat can be tensioned further and responds best to a committed style of riding (rather than standing upright in a more hesitant posture), pinning the board down and making the most of its decisive drive. Its power remains assertive and useable, the twist in its upper panels helping the sail to release and be repositioned during the critical moments in a wave ride.
Offering all the minerals and tuneable range to make the most of any coastal environment, the Combat provides the speed, efficiency and positive feedback to compliment riders with expressive sailing styles.
Other sails in this test: