NORTH SAILS HERO 5.3M 2017 TEST REVIEW
The Hero is North’s 4-batten wave sail, championed by Victor Fernandez and targeted for use in any real world wave environment. New developments for 2017 include a subtly scooped leech outline between clew and main batten (called Hollow.Lower.Leech) complimented with an additional mini-batten above the boom to mitigate any flutter. This is all made possible by the sail’s use of the ‘Free Boomzone Concept’ where the distance between the battens either side of the boom is enlarged, said to improve the sail’s on-off nature and response in marginal conditions. This is countered with the inclusion of ‘load strips’ radiating from the clew (as seen in several other sails here), designed to increase stability as the wind builds. Under closer inspection, the Hero bears all the hallmarks that you’d expect from the North loft, with quality features such as the iBumper tack fairing and incorporated head cap with polyester webbing. The brand is so confident of their workmanship that they’re happy to provide up to 5 years warranty on the sail – can’t say fairer than that. If the budget is tight though, you can opt for the Hero M.E. – a price-pointed version with exactly the same panel layout, yet with a standard tack fairing and reduced x-ply content to keep costs down.
“It combines best low-end power of the 2016 Hero with the control and stability of the successful 2015 model. The top of the sail works very effectively to support the power, therefore you can safely choose a sail size smaller than with many other wave sails. This applies to almost any rider, regardless of their weight.”
Setting on a 400cm RDM, the Hero 5.3m was straightforward to downhaul, the softer mast and reduced luff curve enabling the tension to be applied very easily. Using North’s long established VTS marker in the top panel, the sail takes minutes to rig correctly and with minimal fuss – a character trait that it seems to carry out onto the water as well! Balanced and easy at idle, as the wind fills the Hero seems to expand freely like a large set of lungs, generating an abundance of useable bottom end power. It is also easily one of the most pumpable sails in the group, maximising the chances of getting going in the slightest gust. The power comes from low down yet quite far back in the draft, providing feedback through both the rider’s hands. It was a lot of fun to use in and around a break in marginal to powered conditions, providing balanced power to drive the board through a bottom turn, before releasing and becoming more neutral as it was eased out. And whilst it is visually quite a wide, boxy sail, with lots of sail area above the boom and in the mid-leech, the Hero’s handling remains stable and focussed, even as the wind increases. The sail’s power delivery is smooth and forgiving, its effort centred around the rider, whilst the leech twists evenly to vent excess power. Proving that looks can be deceiving, the Hero has a breath-taking wind range on just one downhaul setting, fine-tuning its set on the outhaul to tweak the extent of the power accordingly.
The Hero 5.3m provides hassle free performance over an impressive wind range, offering masses of punchy useable bottom end power, matched with a top-end capacity that both surprised and inspired.
Other sails in this test: