NEIL PRYDE SPEEDSTER 7.2M 2019 TEST REVIEW
The Speedster took over from the Hellcat last year as Neil Pryde’s no-cam freerace offering. Benefitting directly from the brand’s prestigious RS:Racing development program, it utilises various features to provide performance, acceleration and range over and above that of a conventional freeride sail. With all but the bottom batten being tubular, the intention is to lock the drive forward in the sail, adopting the luff curve, compact outline and high skin tension of their dedicated race sails. This is then married with more depth to the profile low down and a wider luff sleeve higher up, both details designed to increase range and comfort in the delivery. Available either in pink/black or turquoise/white colourways, the Speedster sits firmly in Neil Pryde’s Core Series, meaning that it exudes all their very finest materials and fabricating processes, such as a custom laminated clew with internally laminated Kevlar strips, that provide enough strength whilst reducing weight. And like its race-specific stablemate, the Speedster has two stepped clew eyelets, giving a quick method to instantly change the feel and nature of the delivery.
“High aspect ratio combined with 7 batten layout offers light handling, plenty of power and stability. As close as you can get to a race sail without the complications of cams.”
Rigged on a TPX100 SDM mast, the Speedster was straightforward to set using the trimming spots printed in the upper panel. Setting with a moderate amount of luff curve at minimum set, the leech falls away significantly to batten 5, whilst the lower three battens retain the slightest contact with the mast. Despite being one of the tallest sails in the test group, its short boom length makes it feel relatively small in nature. Using the top eyelet, it generates a reasonable amount of bottom end power, capable of punching a stubborn widestyle board onto the plane. But once the board is released, the magic with the Speedster really begins to happen. It has quite a direct feel and accelerates almost instantly to an impressive speed. You really get a sense that the Speedster relishes power and is itself hunting for more gusts to push the board on to greater velocities. Tune the sail with more downhaul and compliment it with the lower clew eyelet and the Speedster is a drag racing missile, becoming lighter and lighter in the hands as it charges relentlessly through gusts. The centre of effort simply remains rock-steady and locked in place, lowdown and centred around the rider – its precise handling and balance allowing the pilot to concentrate on the detail and trim to pick the best path. Tuned for winds on the limit of its wind range, the Speedster seems to be more critical of technique and loses its impetus when heading upwind through prolonged lulls. But my goodness, does it make up for any disappointment when redirected for a master-blast off the wind, where it is capable of leaving fully tuned race sails in its wake. There is more tuning versatility and range in the Speedster than we remember of its predecessor, and with time spent understanding its optimum set, it will undoubtedly provide premium performance to justify its price tag.
Whilst upholding Neil Pryde’s reputation for producing performance no-cam freerace sails, the Speedster goes one step further, becoming more versatile and user-friendly, without sacrificing an iota of performance.
Other sails in this test: