I'll use this post to provide information on a few boards and sails which may be of interest to us and also to share some of the feedback I've had from readers.
The new Mantas are in the final stages of being nailed down and here is the up to date picture as far as I can establish. You will note that the 85 has been dropped. I have had queries about which model is best - 84 or 85. I think that the 2013 line-up indicates that the 84 is the shape they are pinning their hopes on so if you want my advice between the two sizes - I would go for the 84. Also note that they are marking the 61, 71, and 84 as new shapes. My feeling is that they have used the same geometry as the 71 for each of these new shapes so each of these 3 boards needs to be taken really seriously.
This is the new Thunder, a model they bill as an early planing freeride board in 110/70, 120/75, 130/80 litres/cm wide. I'm not all that interested in these boards but if you have a partner who is learning, then one of these could be something to buy. Way better than any training board since you can use it yourself in light wind/ocean swells.
The Rocket continues to evolve and improve. What more can one say. The interesting thing for us is the fact that the 105 is now 63 cm wide (as opposed to 62cm). This effectively moves it apart a bit from the 95 which is still 58cm wide. Nice!
Gaastra's new Vapor looks amazing once again. Note that they have dropped the enclosed clew for a more normal inset position. I think that this is a good thing. I am not a great fan of either the enclosed clew or the huge overhanging batten above the boom. This overhang doesn't look too obtrusive - we'll have to wait until we have one on the beach and I'll give my verdict. They have dropped the enclosed clew for all of their performance sails (Vapor, Phantom and Savage) and we await their appearance here for testing and comparison.
Starboard has taken the concept of its 117wide iSonic and tweaked it, reducing the volume by 7 liters. They now have an iSonic of 110 liters in volume but 75cm wide - so an extremely flat, light board. Interesting and something I would really like to test. I have a good feeling about this board for light to moderate winds where I'm betting it is a rocket ship.
Thank you to those of you who have given feedback on equipment bought. I am surprised at how many of you have bought Manta 71's. I'm not surprised to learn that you are enjoying them and setting personal best speeds for this size of board. Great stuff. What is coming through from the guys who have given feedback is that once you ride a 71, your intention to also buy a 79 Manta changes immediately and you start looking at an 84 or 85. I have made my recommendation between these two boards in the text above.
Eric Kamminga reminded me of the floatability of the 71. It's nose has that extra volume which gives so much confidence. I don't think I commented on this specific attribute when I reviewed the board but as soon as I read his comment I knew exactly what he was talking about. Eric was sailing with a power sailor who easily maintained a 79kph average on the 71 in (from what I gather) quite unremarkable winds. Other comments regarding the 71 include the comfort afforded by the straps (how they are positioned and how they feel). This is quite an important thing and one which we don't really pay enough attention to. Remember comfort = speed!
Talk to you soon