Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Tabou 3S LTD

The racing guys came up from Cape town on Sunday and raced in the strongest, wildest wind and water conditions we've seen for some time.  Most of the locals were content to watch, preferring not to break limbs and equipment.  Andy joined in but took a 96l 3S LTD.  He changed only the fin on the board but retained the single strap at the back and inward front strap positions.  All in all the most unlikely race board ever seen but despite this he managed to hang with the field.  Unbelievable!  He also nailed every gybe in the wild water planing easily out of each.  This has been a real eye opener to everyone and attests to what a phenomenal board the 3S is.  Here is a board designed for waves, tricks and easy blasting hanging with the big guys on a slalom strip!  Speed, comfort, fun and fantastic gybing.  What more could any sailor ask for.  Obviously you would not choose this board for normal racing but when the conditions get hectic or you want maximum fun this board has to be on your short list.  Well done Tabou.  Class all the way.

  2012 Tabou 3S   

JP Super Lightwind

The centre has a JP Super Lightwind (165l/250cm long/95cm wide) on test and I had the opportunity to test it against Gareth on his formula board.  We rigged identical sails (Gaastra Swift 9m) and pulled each down the same amount and did some varied sailing.  In the light wind we sailed round the island in our lagoon and when the wind picked up we blasted back and forth on a 1.5km run across the wind.

We chose the island route first because it provides a wide range of wind and water conditions and requires you to sail across a wide variety of wind angles.  In the light wind the formula board planed earlier and also stayed on the plane better through the lulls.  Its 70 cm fin would have had a lot to do with this.  The formula board was much better downwind but strangely, the JP proved slightly better upwind in these light conditions.  Gareth's board is not that good upwind so beating it in this angle is not all that difficult.  Regardless, Gareth easily won the race proving that in the light, varied conditions the dedicated racing machine had the overall advantage.

As soon as we had completed the island leg, the wind picked up and we were fully powered for our drag racing.  Here the JP smoked the formula board on every run - no contest!

Here are my impressions of the good and the bad of this JP model:

The Good -

  • The fin they supply with the board is a pleasant surprise.  It is a carbon fin, thin and soft which results in really good control at speed.  As mentioned above it allows the board to motor upwind with little effort.
  • The deck of the board incorporates domed sections under each foot which give good support, comfort and confidence.  A nice touch.
  • The ride over rough water is comfortable and the nose never digs in regardless of the chop.
  • The bottom shape is a very slight V along the entire length of the board and this makes for a comfortable ride and really easy gybes.  Stand on the leeward rail and the board shoots round providing you have the speed.   

The Bad -

  • The board in the construction tested is far too heavy.  I'm not sure whether they plan to make this model in the light construction but if they do then it would be a big improvement.
  • The fin, although good, is really not powerful enough.  If you are in the market for this board you should consider getting a second fin with more power for the really light conditions.  When the wind picks up the standard fin is perfect.
  • Ease to plane is not quite up to that of the formula board we were using.

This Super Lightwind is the bigger model in the range.  I have the feeling that it may be aimed at the intermediate sailor.  I think that the smaller one (154l/90cm wide and 237cm long) would be more suited to the advanced sailor and I would be interested to do exactly the same test with this model (in the light construction).
Talk to you soon

Monday, November 21, 2011

Severne Gators

I promised to upload Alice Arutkin's gybe video but this is proving impossible.  For some reason it just refuses to upload.  Pity.

Anyway I can report on Gareth's new Gators which have been sailed quite a few times now.  First we needed to do some juggling with his existing masts and we have ended up with a reasonable mast for each sail.  The best solution would have been to buy Severne Redline (or Wave) RDM's for each sail but you also need to be practical.  Anyway, we have Fiberspar RDMs in the 5.3m and the 6.0m Gators and they both perform beautifully.  The quality of these new Gators is fantastic.  They feel really solid and well constructed (hight tech scrim in every panel) but when you pick them up they are feather light.  They retain this lightness in the hand on the water and tick all the boxes (fast, easy, light, fun).  The sails are simple to tune and providing you get the downhaul right for the conditions, are really easy to sail in overpowered conditions.  They are at home on both slalom and freeride boards and the wave guys tell me that they are perfectly at home on the swells.  All of these qualities make the Gator an essential consideration for anyone looking for a sail that can do it all.  The Gaastra Cross may be slightly faster but is probably not as versatile.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

2012 RRD Slalom Boards

The new RRD X-Fire has broken cover and here it is.  They have developed the TT tail which they claim is a breakthrough in windsurfing.  They claim that it reduces drag and improves early planing in the bigger sizes.  This may be a genuine breakthrough but I've seen so many of these over the years in our sport that I will reserve judgement until the test comments and racing results start coming through.  So often we see something heralded as a breakthrough one year only to be quietly dropped the following year (with no explanation from the board maker).  I assume that the TT tail is that area marked in red on the underside of the bigger boards.

What I do agree with is the way they use a different design regime for the bigger boards.  I have always believed that boards of  over 115l need to have a completely different bottom shape to the smaller models.  If you are using a big slalom board, the wind is going to be lighter and the water state is going to be flatter.  In these conditions early planing is the prime consideration (flatter underside, wide tail etc).  As the wind and water become more hectic, control at speed becomes the prime consideration and your shape needs to adjust accordingly (more aggressive concaves, narrow tails etc).  Some designers seem to simply upscale their successful small sizes believing that this will result in effective big sizes.  My belief is that big and small slalom boards are totally different animals.

Anyway RRD seems to know how to build good slalom boards so if you happen to live and sail close to an RRD retailer who allows "try before buy" you should give one of these machines a spin if you are looking for an exciting ride.

Next time I will re-post an earlier piece on gybing where I gave some critique on Alice Arutkin's gybe video.  Some of you have approached me to do this so I will try to get the video and commentary on the same page to make it easier to follow.

Talk to you soon

Select Fins

Hi all
You will have gathered from previous posts that we have been doing quite a bit of sailing on the 2011 Select S10 and S11 fins and I would like to give some feedback on the characteristics of each of these models.  These impressions have been gained from personal experience, observations on the water and on the comments of my sailing companions regarding their experiences.

The S11 in all sizes 39cm and down is an awesome fin.  It is really fast and easy to control.  It is totally happy on slalom boards for overpowered blasting and on fast freeride boards such as the Tabou Rocket.  If you are looking for a cost effective, straight fin in this size range I cannot imagine anything on the market right now which will be better.  Comparing the new S11 to the old SL7, the SL7 may be very slightly better for early planing and upwind performance but has nowhere near the controllability of the S11s which makes the S11 way better for overpowered sailing over any water state.

The S11 in sizes 41cm and above is not such an allround star.  These sizes are extremely controllable and have blinding speed downwind but if the current is against you (same direction as the wind) and you need to push upwind, they can lose out to harder fins like the old RS7.  This is no real problem for the recreational sailor but for the competitive guy who needs every advantage, this loss of angle over the course of a race can mean the difference between winning and losing.  You don't need to be losing speed climbing upwind if you can avoid it. The old RS7 in the bigger sizes was good at going upwind but tended to become unmanageable when overpowered.  The new S10s would be my choice for the bigger sizes (certainly up to 51cm).  They seem as controllable as the S11s, plane easily and almost match the S11s for downwind speed but their advantage comes from their upwind ability.  They are almost on a par with the old RS7s upwind.

Surprisingly, some of the bigger guys are getting good results from the SRX Freerace fins in big sizes on their big slalom boards.  These guys are quite brutal with the back foot and sometimes battle with spin-out but they say that the SRX,s hold beautifully and give great control when things get "interesting".  I've not sailed one of these fins so I can't comment.

We haven't had much experience with the S10 in the smaller sizes (basically because we have been so happy with the S11s).  If I get to sail one or two smaller S10s I'll give you some feedback.

I can't stress how good the smaller S11s are.  They can do everything and seem to work on every type of board.  Their controllability also means that you can fit a slightly bigger fin than you are used to.  If you want to turbo charge your board and are looking for a straight fin of 39cm or less then you must test one of these.
Talk to you soon