The 2013 Mantas have arrived (including the much anticipated 116/71). Among the local guys - Andy has purchased one and Andre as well. I had the opportunity to ride Andre's 116 and can give some brief feedback.
The board is really smart on the beach - immaculately finished and beautifully detailed in its livery of black, green, cyan and white. The carbon weave is visible through the clear coat of the deck - very cool! The 116 is light in the hand - just slightly heavier than my Falcon 113. This may mean that it is a bit stronger and durable than the Fanatic (?).
On the water the immediate impression is just how early and easily the board planes. I was out on my Falcon and 7.0 when Andre kindly offered me a ride. I clipped the 7.0m onto the 116 so that I could get an immediate feeling for the differences between my Falcon and this machine. My Falcon is no match at early planing. You can pump the 116 onto the plane with the front foot in the strap and it just floats up and away. The board flies over the chop when up to speed and is every bit as good as the Manta 113 proto I reviewed in a previous post. My Falcon is good over the chop - this Manta is great.
The gybing performance is slightly different to that of the Manta 113 prototype and also different from the Manta 110/69. In my opinion the new board may be slightly more difficult for the average sailor to gybe than either of these other two boards. The new board needs absolute commitment of the inside rail and good entry speed to get around smoothly (no problem for the top racing guys of course). The older boards seem to me to have magic built into them when it comes to gybing. They carry you through the move, holding you all the way. I think that Fabien has sacrificed a bit of gybing magic for early planing. Having said this the Manta is no worse than my Falcon in the gybes. Speed and commitment guys!
Andy rode his new 116 with the local speed demons and was untouchable. He tells me that his first run on the board saw him slightly in the lead. On his second run he widened the gap and by the third he was totally out of reach. Bear in mind the guys he sails with are some seriously fast sailors but no one stood a chance regardless of the equipment they were on.
My first ride on the 116 was quite short and the board was slightly over finned for me so I hope to have a few more rides with a different fin to gain a better impression of it. Regardless of these things, I believe that this board has to be on a par with anything else of comparable size on the market today. Awesome job Fabien and the Tabou team.