NORTH SAILS S_TYPE SL 7.8M 2017 TEST REVIEW
The S_Type SL has been completely reworked for 2017, aiming to build upon its growing legacy as a realistic alternative for all but the most demanding slalom sailors. Retaining the ‘switch-cam’ configuration of its predecessor, (allowing it to be used as a twin cam by extracting the bottom inducer), the SL is also said to retain the brand’s No Compromise Design concept, whereby a reduced luff curve and clever use of materials energizes the sail with more life and acceleration, without compromising stability. The sail also benefits from North’s ‘Luff Lift Panel’ theory – the name given to the premise of increasing the sail’s profile higher up the luff to generate more power and drive. Used here on a Platinum 460cm SDM mast, the SL is easy to rig, the HyperCams effortlessly pushing onto the mast, before the required downhaul tension can be applied. The visual trimming guides are excellent as usual – the sail exhibiting a lot of twist in its panels to compliment the depth of the draft in the foot and leading edge. With its tapered ‘Aero Sleeve’ luff design and myriad of other features, the SL carries the North Sails badge with pride, with the option to extend the warranty up to an impressive five years.
“Comfort combined with the most successful race slalom sails in our history. Therefore Kai Hopf has paired the balanced handling and comfort of the S_TYPE with the brute power of the WARP. This means: outstanding power on all courses, which thanks to the integration of the new NO.COMPROMISE.DESIGN is effortless to achieve.”
There is no mistaking the S_Type is a transformed creature for 2017. Short at just 474cm, it is also incredibly wide, with easily the longest boom in the group, accentuated yet more so with a reduced inset clew position. This somewhat stubby outline, combined with the extended shaping in its profile, translates to a very interesting performance on the water. Firstly it has plenty of bottom end potential. The pull is grunty and obvious through the backhand, yet the power delivery quite soft, providing extra reaction time and enabling the rider to redirect it smoothly into the board. It has a unique stance – the feedback through the backhand complimented by the drive higher up the luff of the sail, making it super useful for pumping, yet once going its wide geometry means it is easy to lock in, focused around the rider. When the wind increased, we did find we needed to come back and play around with the SL’s settings to really appreciate its range. It required a lot of downhaul tension, which in itself generates more luff curve in the sail than nearly every other sail in the group, with the exception of the GA Phantom. A very different style of set to its predecessor, it also seems to fly in the face of the ‘No Compromise’ concept North say the S_Type conforms to? Exhibiting plenty of luff curve and twist when tuned for high wind, that is certainly not to say it isn’t very capable! The profile is locked well forward in the draft and keeps the sail driving and board pinned down. Feeling its size and boom length in transition, the North yet again takes top honours for camber rotation – such a smooth movement that requires no forcing or input from the rider.
Offering masses of tuneable range, the S-Type has changed markedly for the new season, becoming more obvious in its power delivery, it is incredibly versatile in character when tuned for different conditions.
Other sails in this test: