Here are my thoughts and impressions of the 2013 Manta 71/113.
The shape and appearance of the board is exactly as I had envisioned it in my mind. The bottom shape is flatter than the smaller Mantas and the tail is wide (all to improve early planing and flat water speed). The wide tail is tempered a bit with two small cut-outs. I am ambivalent about cut-outs and my feeling is that you need either complicated, highly engineered shapes (Starboard Isonic, RRD X-Fire) or simple discreet shapes (Naish Grand Prix). Anything in between can have the effect of stalling your board in mid gybe. Tabou have elected to go for two small, simple cut-outs. Nice!
The graphics on the black carbon deck are really cool. The board feels a bit heavy in the hand but this is my normal gripe with Tabou. It is probably more about me and my fetish for lightness than the board being too heavy.
Andy took the board out first with his Severne Reflex 7.8m. He smoked in the strong wind and was impressed by the performance of the board. I took it next on a 7.0m slalom sail. The board pops onto the plane immediately and accelerates smoothly and quickly. It has an almost hovercraft like quality over the chop which inspires massive confidence allowing you to sail much faster than you would normally sail on a board of this size over rough water. The float through the gybes is phenomenal and you are carried all the way through and out the other side with no effort. Really impressive. I have always regarded the Starboard Isonic 107 as the gold standard when it comes to getting round gybes but this Manta is right up there. I would have preferred to test the board in slightly less wind with my 7.8m Ram but the fact that I could hold it totally overpowered on a 7.0 is a testament to its attributes
Hennie, our world class power sailor took the Manta after me and did some serious back to back testing using a Fanatic Falcon, 113 and his own JP Slalom V11, 112. He found the Tabou to be faster and more comfortable than either of these two boards on every tack. Bear in mind that Hennie is very big, very strong and very skilled and he thrives on being totally overpowered. A smaller, more normal sailor might have had different conclusions.
So where does this board fit into your quiver? It depends very much on your weight, your ability and the other boards you use. If you are a big power sailor, serious about racing and your big board is a 130l/85ish machine then this is the ideal mid board. It can perform with a 7m sail in overpowered conditions and will shine with your 7.8 and your 8.6. Andy and I used a 42cm fin on it but I'm sure it will take fins up to 44/45cm with ease. I have a floaty, 125l slalom board which takes my 7.8 and 9m sails easily so I would probably prefer the Manta 69/110 as my next board down. The 69 is slightly more nimble than the 71 and would be happier with a soft 6.4m sail in rough conditions. If you are a light or mid sized slalom sailor who is not interested in very big wide boards but need something that can take an 8.6m sail for lighter conditions then the 71 has to be on your short list.
All in all the Manta 71 is an extremely impressive board which seems to shine in all conditions. It is big enough to plane early but then does not punish you when conditions get hectic. It gybes beautifully and looks extremely cool. What more could we ask for?