Saturday, March 10, 2012

Tabou Speedster 65/100

As mentioned previously, the Tabou team is here with a selection of their 2013 equipment for testing and photo shoots.  One of the ranges they brought is the new Speedster range.  The Speedster is the new name for the current Manta Free Race and I was given the opportunity to test the 65/100.  The boards will come in two constructions - Standard and Limited.  This particular board was in the standard construction - very heavy for me but really cool looking with the new graphics.  The fin was the T-Lab 38cm fin which comes with the board.

I borrowed a Remedy 6.4m sail from my friend Tim and took to the water.  The board shot onto the plane immediately and accelerated smoothly to a really good speed.  Once under way it seems to shrink and my impression is that it rides like a much smaller board (it is 65cm wide after all but feels more like a 61cm board).  The front and back straps are quite far apart signalling that this is a serious speed machine and the raised foot pads give nice support under the toes - (not quite as good as the JP system but good enough).  The deck has a great selection of fin screw holes so you will be able to get comfortable.  As with most Tabou boards, the chop is dealt with easily and hitting it at speed gives absolutely no concerns.  Keep the hammer down!  Gybing is really easy providing you enter at speed and commit properly.  The board seems to have better directional stability than the equivalent Rocket but this is to be expected given the slalom orientation of the design.

The wind and water states for the first few runs were perfect for easy, comfort zone cruising.  Going as fast as the equipment could go with no worries about the chop.  The stock fin behaved well and the characteristics of the Remedy with its its direct and instant acceleration seem to suit the board perfectly.  The wind then picked up substantially and the state went from comfort zone to red zone - the way we tend to sail here.  This was a much better test for the board and I started blasting.  The board handled the new conditions with ease but the fin  let the side down.  Every time I hit a patch of chop and the board lightened, the fin would spin out and when this fin spins out it does not recover until you slow down completely.  I spent much of the next few runs going sideways which was exhausting and no fun at all in the white knuckle conditions.

The board then, gets a big thumbs up from me.  If you are in the market for one, please factor in a proper fin.  This is a high performance machine and it deserves a high tech foil.  I would think that something like a 37cm (39cm?) Select S12, a 36cm Deboichet SL4 or similar.  If you have access to a selection of fin brands and can try before you buy then you should do so.  Try different lengths in your favourite brands and you may end up with more than one fin for different conditions and sail sizes.  My personal preference for the board would be to get the Limited edition but if a bit of extra weight does not worry you then save some money and go for the standard construction.  The extra weight didn't seem to bother the board I rode at all.  

Talk to you soon        

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Tabou Manta 71

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?