NEILPRYDE HELLCAT 7.2M 2015 TEST REVIEW
Available in only one colour-way similar to that of the brand’s Racing Program models, there is no secret to the heritage of the Hellcat. Tested with the brand’s top of the range FX100 SDM mast, it is a classy looking bit of kit, without the slightest hint of a wrinkle or imperfection in the panels. It rigs with a moderate luff curve and progressive twist in the leech, but the most noticeable aspect of the Hellcat’s set is its clearly defined profile. There is a lot of shape in the draft from batten four down, and it’s locked in place with the use of tubular battens in all but the bottom pocket. And despite this deep profile, there is only the slightest rotation in the bottom three battens around the mast. Then there’s the ‘integrated compact clew’ said to optimise the sail’s foot outline and improve manoeuvrability. Just be aware the two clew eyelets are close together and a large boom tailpiece bends the integrated ‘Forceline’ strengthening rib out of shape whilst using the bottom eyelet.
“It’s fast, powerful and delivers an exhilarating combination of speed and acceleration. Slippery and rapid when powered up on a reach, Hellcat’s shaping and twist characteristics are derived from the EVO race sail ensuring pace and pedigree of this high-performance freeride machine.”
On the water the Hellcat delivers a level of performance that can’t help but inspire you to chase your peers or push your ability to the next level. It has a fantastic range on one set, yet retains some tuning capacity when the conditions become challenging. Downhaul the sail so that the leech is loose across three-quarters of the panel between battens two and three, and you can fine-tune the power delivery for the most part on the outhaul. And on this downhaul setting the Hellcat is simply electric. Crisp and precise in the hands, it punches the board onto the plane with every pump, then accelerates with haste to an impressive top speed. The centre of effort is high and back, focussed around the rider and providing constant instantaneous feedback through the backhand. The sail’s stability is excellent, but more than this, its efficiency and quality really becomes apparent as you enter a lull. When every other no-cam sail seems to lose drive and impetus, the Hellcat somehow seems to keep pulling! It feels almost unnatural … but you keep leaning out and maintaining board trim and the sail does the rest, pulling you through the lull to the next gust. In severe winds, some extra tension does help ensure the sail’s stability, although it still pulls from a high position further back in the sail, so requires increasingly more rider input to dominate and retain composure.
A crisp, sharp and precise powerhouse with a supernatural ability to drive through lulls. Partner it with an efficient freerace, even slalom hull and the Hellcat is unstoppable, though performance like this comes at a price.
Other sails in this test: