WITCHCRAFT SLAYER 5.0M 2019 TEST REVIEW
Witchcraft is a highly reputable wave-focussed brand based out in Fuerteventura. Founder and owner Bouke Becker has always had an interest in sail design and has more recently teamed up with John Blackwell of Sailrepair.co.uk to start producing sails. The Slayer is their 4-batten “Pure Wave” design, the other being the Karma – a 5-batten all-round power wave sail for onshore conditions. Both sails uphold the brand’s vision for producing windsurf equipment that can withstand the rigours of the harshest environments. The use of Dyneema fibre as a laminate in board production, for example, is something proudly pioneered by Bouke and has lead to the belief that their HD boards are indestructible. (It is claimed only one six-year-old board has snapped since its use!) Following this benchmark, Witchcraft sails use plenty of Kevlar x-ply for maximum strength, with double seams and extended overlapping panels in the most vulnerable areas of the sail. There’s the addition of their own specialist seam tape, a PVC window (Slayer only) and thicker, marginally heavier scrims so that longevity is assured. Graphics and purely aesthetic detailing are lost, in favour of more practical features. More panels are used in the sail, for instance, aligning the x-ply bias and seams into the force lines (similar to expensive membrane sails), to increase structural integrity … but also making the sail much more repairable. You really get a sense the Slayer is all about utilitarian function and durability, incorporating the latest definite performance refinements. The brand also has its own profile shaping philosophy described as ‘semi-rotational’, mixing batten rotation with seam shaping to achieve a balance of power, stability and neutral handling.
“The Slayer was born for wave sailing and riding. It is quite unique with a morphing seam shape through the range; with each size up, seam shape increases slightly to allow you to take a smaller ‘big’ size … Seam shape increases the wind range; it gives more low end power but also stabilizes the shape at the top end.”
Rigged on one of the brand’s Broomstick 90% masts and set for light airs, the Slayer requires minimal downhaul and only a little outhaul (in Bouke’s own words: “The sails like it to be rigged “bad”!”). The bottom two battens retain rotation around the mast, whilst the draft displays a deep profile placed high and forwards, the leech remaining relatively tight along its length. On the water this forced shape is soon increased further as the wind fills, allowing the excess luff sleeve and Dacron luff panel to deepen the draft’s camber. So much so in fact that the sail bags out to hit the other side of the boom, particularly if you have a narrow profiled boom. As a result the bottom end grunt generated by the Slayer is impressive – the delivery soft and manageable thanks to the luff panel, yet the sail feeling firm and punchy in the hands – the mast flexing and surging forwards with every well-timed pump. A masterful weapon for float and ride, it can get you out into the lineup quickly, before feeling compact and balanced in transition, with a dynamic measured response. It doesn’t go completely neutral as it’s eased out, yet the softness and balance of the power allows it to be used to good effect, driving positively through the turn. As the wind increases, the sail’s set can be revisited, an increase in tension pulling the battens away from the mast to reduce, even annul rotation, whilst the pre-shape in the seam remains present. With less depth or breathability, the nature of the sail’s feedback is altered, becoming more direct and crisp in response, although the profile remains reassuringly stable, the leech twisting off to circumvent erratic gusts. Interestingly, the reference setting for the outhaul is to use both clew eyelets, fixing the boom right in the middle. From there, you can adjust according to conditions or preference – a micro-refinement in an otherwise vast tuning range.
The Slayer has a massive tuning range, altering its delivery style dramatically along the way. Smooth dependable power combined with stunning stability and real handling ease, it puts functionality and durability at the fore rather than any superficial niceties.
Other sails in this test: