Thursday, April 25, 2013

Canefire and Gregor fins - 2


I was fortunate to get a windy day on Tuesday and was able to sail both fins.

I bolted the Canefire under my Falcon 113, rigged the 7.8m Savage and set off in slightly less wind than I would have liked but still sailable.  The fin performed impeccably.  It steams upwind without a hint of spinout and blasts downwind with blistering speed.  All of this is achieved with no drama whatsoever.  This is one piece of equipment you do not need to worry about.  It does its job and simply takes care of business allowing you to concentrate on other things.  I was having so much fun that I had to force myself in to change to the Gregor.

The Gregor is an altogether different fin.  The design is for downwind blasting and I have to say that it performs well in this role.  The problem for me is that on an upwind tack I hit some chop and the fin simply let go.  I have seldom had such a complete spinout and even when I slowed right down was still unable to get it to grip again.  I could not recommend this fin to general blasting sailors.  Perhaps if you only sail downwind legs you may consider it but not for me.  Fran, the maker of these fins is keen for me to try two of his other models and Juan will send them in due course.  The Gregor story still has a way to go - watch this space.

To conclude, I have to say that the Canefire Carbon is the best slalom fin for my brand of sailing that I have ever sailed (I have yet to sail a VMax.  When I do I may change my mind about this).  I thought that the 40cm size of the Canefire may be a bit small for the 7.8m Savage but the fin handled every situation with contemptuous ease.  Given a choice I would have two of these fins for the 113 - a 40cm for the smaller sails (7.0 and down) and 44cm for lighter days with the big sail.  The reason I think one can go that big is because the chord length is less than the other fins I use with the board.  Also, Juan's 40cm fin was so easy and settled that I think you can push the size up a bit with no loss of control.  Being carbon, the fin is so narrow (like a knife blade) that the extra drag from 4 more cm should be negligible.

Those are my thoughts on the two fins.  Thank you Juan Alonso for sending me your fins to test - much appreciated and I will ensure that you get them back in good condition.

Thank you Vector for this classy blade - awesome job guys!

Talk to you soon


Monday, April 22, 2013

Vector Canefire Carbon and Gregor Carbon Fins - 1


Following my last post, Juan from Spain dropped me an e-mail suggesting that I try his Vector Canefire Carbon fin.  I had not included this fin in my list of advanced fins and Juan really rates it.  Of course I agreed to give his fin a go – what an opportunity!  About 10 minutes after my responding e-mail, Juan was back on e-mail saying that he had sent the fin off to me (Juan either lives right next to a DHL office or he drives a really fast car).  He also reported that he was including a Gregor fin in the package for me to try as well (more about Gregor later).  Both fins are 40cm/normal Tuttle so perfect for the Falcon 113.   

Anyway the fins arrived from Spain today.  They both look awesome and I will describe them in this post.  I was unable to sail either of them today because there was no wind so the second post dealing with this topic will cover the performance of both fins on the water.  I can only do this when we have wind.  I am holding thumbs for tomorrow but our season is really finished so I may have to wait a few more days.

Vector Canefire Carbon Fin

This is a serious machine.  It is feather light being carbon, and is extremely thin.  I visited Joos who has the G10 version of this exact fin so we were able to compare the two.  The G10 model is much thicker and heavier but the thinner carbon fin seems the stiffer of the two.  The colour of the fin is old school pastel blue and extremely cool.  It reminds me of the paint found on some old Chev Corvettes from the 50’s and 60’s.  

Vector’s standard G10 Canefire is the one most people buy but the shape is so good that they decided to do it in carbon as well.  Given the materials and craftsmanship involved, the carbon models are rare and expensive so I need to ensure that I look after it while it is in my care.  The shape of the fin suggests ample low end power to me but this will be confirmed on the water.  
Vector Canefire Carbon 40cm 

The Gregor 40cm Slalom Fin

The Gregor’s shape is completely different from the Canefire.  The bend and twist characteristics seem similar though.  The finish on this fin is a high gloss clear coat over carbon weave.  The clear coat is diamond hard and the whole thing seems bullet proof.  I don’t like a high gloss on a fin so I scored it with fine sand paper (I would have been much more aggressive if it were my own fin).  Juan can very easily buff this out if he wants the shine back but in my experience, a shiny fin is bad news.

Gregor fins are Spanish and reasonably new on the block.  I understand that they are gaining some recognition among the PWA guys.   Juan tells me that some of them use Gregors for training.  This is obviously to spare their expensive fins which are kept purely to race with.  The fact that Gregors are used in this way indicates that while they may not be on a par with the top fins, they are good enough to train at the highest level.  We shall see...   

Gregor Slalom Carbon 40cm

Talk to you soon

Monday, April 15, 2013

Some Notes on Fins 2


As promised, this post covers some high-end fins which are made from G-10 laminate.  As I mentioned in the previous post, we tend to look down on G-10 fins here but I'm not sure that this is justified.  The fins to be mentioned come from C3, Black Project, Tectonics and Maui Ultra Fins.  Each of these producers have, or have had, top slalom contenders using their fins, winning against others using carbon fins so there is no doubt that G-10 fins are capable of the highest levels of performance.

G-10 is a glass epoxy laminate used by the electronics industry which consumes acres of the stuff in sheet form.  Windsurfing fin makers discovered the material and were attracted to it because of its strength, stiffness, uniformity and machinability.  G-10 lends itself to CNC milling which means that any number of fins can be milled, each one an exact replica of every other.  My question is why do we not substitute carbon fiber for the glass fiber in G-10 to get a superior fin making product (C-10 maybe?).  I am convinced that most things in life can be improved with carbon fiber.

C3 Fins
The first maker of great G-10 fins is C3.  This is Boogie's own company and they have been making top end fins for many years.  As mentioned before, Boogie is one of the best fin designers in our sport so his products have to be taken seriously.  The fin of interest to us is his Sting 2.  This fin is used by some of the top slalom racers on the circuit (Ben vd Steen, Pierre Mortefon and Antoine Questel).  The performance of these guys is testament to the quality of the fin.  A Sting 2 will cost you around $300.

C3 Sting 2

Black Project
The next fin comes from Black Project.  These fins are gaining the attention of slalom racers everywhere and appear to be something special.  Black Project's designer, Tom Hammerton, a sail designer and trained aerodynamics guy is responsible for the brand's success.  The model of interest to us for general blasting is his Type R race/slalom fin.  A mean piece of equipment which will cost you around $250.  Remember, an elliptical fin is easy over rough water and good for high speed control.  

Black Project Type R

Tectonics is virtually as old as our sport so I'm sure everyone knows about the company.
The Tectonics Talon has always appealed to me.  It just looks right and I recall Finian using these fins to devastating effect in the day.  Their new fin is the T-43 which they claim is a giant killer.  It is shaped very much like the Talon but I assume with slightly tweaked architecture.   The Tectonics fins sell for around $215.
Tectonics Talon

 Maui Ultra Fins  
This enterprise interests me because the designer has drawn on his knowledge of hydro dynamics to come up with an approach which is at odds with most other fin designers.  Maui Ultra fins are designed by Rick Hanke, a scientist who spent many years working in the field of Flight Dynamics at the German Aero Space Centre.  Most of the fin designers in our sport use the data and findings from an initial NASA study on wings and wing shapes done in the 1980's.  Rick maintains that because this early study was done on foils moving through air, the results cannot be applied to a foil moving through water.  This is due to the fact that water has a lower Reynolds number (measure of viscosity) and this affects the laminar and turbulent flows around a foil moving through the medium.  These concepts and principles are all above my pay grade I'm afraid but I'm happy that someone is using them to make good fins for us.

One of the things unique to MU fins is that they are built to have have as little flex as possible.  Rick maintains that flex is necessary in a poorly designed fin, to avoid spin-out but says that a flexing fin is a compromised fin.  He achieves all the necessary attributes in his fins through effective design and retains all of these attributes in motion, by keeping the fin true.  I note that Kurosh Kiani has joined the MUF team and will be using the fins in the PWA.  He will also be helping to refine and develop the slalom fin line so watch their site for developments.
The MUF Slalom Pro will set you back around $185.
Slalom Pro korr frei k
MUF Slalom Pro

The selections in this and the previous post contain all the fins I planned to discuss.  These are not the only great fins out there and I almost certainly have left some good ones out (Hurricane, Boss, Pfaffi etc) but between the ones covered, you should be able to get to a workable short list if you are shopping for a fin.  My big regret is that I don't have a sample of each of these fins to test back-to back.  I would then be in a position to give some really meaningful feedback.  Fancy theory is all well and good but only if it translates into excellence on the water.  This can only be discovered by sailing the fin in a range of conditions.

Good winds

Monday, April 8, 2013

Some Notes on Fins 1


I promised last time to give some feedback on Andy's experience with the Select VMax fin and also to discuss fins in general.  I sometimes take flak from locals for my obsession with fins but I have always believed that the windsurfing fin is one of the most under rated but important pieces of equipment we use.

Andy has been blasting around on his new Manta 116, smoking all of us.  He initially rigged the board with his 39cm Select S11 fin and this is the combination which has been causing us all the unhappiness.  He uses this fin regardless of the sail (Severne Overdrive 7.5 or Vandal Addict 6.5) and just keeps going faster and faster.  When I asked him about getting a VMax he said that he was pretty happy with his set-up and would need to be totally impressed if he was going to be persuaded to use something else.  I concluded that he was not going to be in the market for the new VMax.  I have ordered a VMax 39cm for my Falcon 113 because I have a feeling that it may be something special but I have never ridden one.

Well, the other day Hennie gave Andy a VMax 41cm to try in his board and the resulting sail is what prompted the phone call.  As I said in the last post, he only phones me from work when he is really excited about something and this session was such an event.  He is a man who has had a revelation.  He tells me he ordered two VMaxes (39cm and 41cm) when he came off the water.  I wasn't there but the guys who were sailing with Andy say his performance went from really great with the S11 into a totally different realm with the VMax.  My belief is that a great fin will probably not turn a bad board into a good one but the right fin will turn a great board like the Manta 116 into something really special and I think we are going to witness this when the new fins arrive.

In the wake of the above commentary, let us take a peek into the world of exotic windsurfing fins:

Top fins can be divided into two classes -

1. Moulded carbon fins (which I will cover in this post)and
2. G10, CNC milled fins (which I will talk about in the next post)

In this place we have always looked down on G10 fins for high end performance but this is a slightly grey area which I will discuss in the next post.

Starting with the carbon fins, the top of the pile has to be the Kashy slalom fin.  Dave Kashy is something of a legend in high tech windsurfing circles and accepted as someone who is able to infuse a fin with magic.  Each Kashy fin is hand finished by Dave himself so they are expensive and may take anything up to 3 years to be delivered.  If you need a Kashy formula fin rushed through in 3 months you will be asked to pay $1800 for the privelage.  By comparison his slalom fins seem cheap at $800 a piece.  If I won the lottery I would give Dave a shout but I will probably never even see a Kashy slalom fin.

The next carbon fin to mention is the Ifju Reaction.  This is a carbon fin from one Peter Ifju, a keen windsurfer who is also a professor of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering at the University of Florida.  He has used his understanding of fluid dynamics to develop and manufacture this potent fin.  He says that he took some of Dave Kashy's ideas and added some of his own.  By all accounts a sweet piece of kit.  He sells them for $500 each and as in the case of the Kashy fins, you can specify stiffness and rake for the fins you order.

This enterprise was started by a team of fanatical windsurfers in the San Francisco Bay area to develop and make available high end racing fins for a reasonable price in a reasonable time frame.  By all accounts they have succeeded in this mission.  Everyone who rides F4 fins seems to be immediately converted.  Always a true indication of class.

The team employed the services of Boogie (one of the leading fin designers on the planet) to help with the architecture of the fins and have come up with a simple but stunning range.  What an intelligent approach to getting  your product to the top of the pile!
F4 produces two slalom fins - the D2 for general slalom blasting and the F3 for lighter winds, upwind blasting and downwind control - (D2 for your Manta 116/71 and F3 for your Manta 135/85 for example)

This is a picture of Henrik Carstens fin quiver. Henrik is a Danish sailor who clearly knows what he wants and more importantly, knows what he is doing. All F4 D2’s – Awesome!  I know that envy is a bad thing but the universe will forgive us in this case.  I’m surprised to see that the 2 big fins are on shallow Tuttle boxes but man what a quiver!
The price of F4 fins starts at $375 and they will send your purchase directly to you wherever you live.  They use Paypal so transactions are easy.  These are nice guys who are helpful and have their act together. 

Z Fins
Z Fins is a concern based in Estonia and their fins are becoming a favorite on the PWA pro circuit.
Z-Slalom fins

These fins can be purchased from the factory or from a supplier such as Dave Gollick at
Prices are around $450 per fin.

Deboichet make the fins which gave most of us our first look at a true high end fin.  I have ridden their SL2, and also their SL4 model and these were, in my opinion both great fins.  They produce many slalom fin models but for my money these two between them, should give any of us all the fin we could want.  I think that lead times on these products could be a problem.  Depending on where you buy them they cost around the $380 mark.  

SL 2

Sonntag is a European fin producer responsible for some really high end products.  Their SL-P model is the one which is of interest to the general blaster.  The cost of these fins is around $220 giving you a lot of fin for your money.

Sonntag SL-P

In my opinion Select has never been an upmarket producer but Andy's experience with, and comments on the VMax, together with those of Hennie and Robby Benze (two world class power racers), lead me to believe that Select may have joined the top producers with this fin.

Select VMax
The quality of the VMax seems impeccable and the price is not too bad for those of us living at the tip of Africa with pretend currency.  Anthony, our local supplier, is able to get these fins for us for around $220 and this price is about the same as you can find in Europe and the States.  We will soon be in a position to give you some personal feedback on these fins so watch this space.

OK that is all for now.  In the next post I will discuss some G10 fins which also provide great performance.

Good winds

Friday, April 5, 2013

The North Shox System


Juan Alonso from Spain has requested some commentary on the North Shox system which I use with my Cross 6.4m.  I will give you some of the background to me acquiring this system to give you some context.

I needed two new extensions and my mast feet were in need of replacing so I decided on a solution which would replace my worn stuff but would also give me the chance to experience something new.  I had read about North's Shox system and have always been interested in it.  I visited the North guys in Cape Town (Ocean Spirit) and asked for the following:

          2 Uni.XT extensions - 1 sdm and 1 rdm.

          3 I.bases

          3 Boje Joints

This combination gives me all the new bits I need for my replacement program.  What it also lets me do is to try the Shox system.  The guys at Ocean Spirit gave me the Shox upgrade kit to try on apro.  This allowed me to remove the standard base plate from the rdm extension and replace it with the Shox conversion kit (the red thing shown below).  If I didn't like the Shox system I could then return the kit, replace the original plate and continue as normal.  If I liked the system I would just pay for the kit and continue with it (still with the original plate stored away which can be replaced at any time in the future).  The I.tendon (the silver thing next to the red kit) has the same connecting flange as the Boje joints so I am able to move the 6.4 Cross between boards as the wind changes.

Sorry for the lengthy story but it helps to give some context.

The Shox system is interesting to sail with.  It definitely has the effect of smoothing out rough chop.  This keeps you comfortable and allows you to keep the board trimmed even over the wildest water.  As I have said before - comfort = speed.  I gave Joos (our Doctor) a ride on the system and he immediately ordered one for himself.  Joos has been nursing a damaged knee and a sore back for some time and is one sailor who feels every piece of chop.  His reaction after trying the system just once is testament to how effective it is.

Having said this I would not use the system over flat water since it has the effect of isolating you from your equipment.  The really good sailors need to be in constant touch with their equipment to make the minute adjustments required to optimize their speed and this system imparts a slightly vague quality to the rig.  I am happy to have the system on the 6.4 since I use this completely overpowered more than any of my other sails.  I therefore recommend the Shox system as something to have in your equipment bag, to be employed when you need some comfort on the water.  Maybe not when you are racing and need to win.

That's all for now.  I want to write a piece about fins in the next post.  Andy phoned me from work recently to discuss his sail on a Vmax fin.  Whenever he phones me to like this I know he has been seriously impressed by something and I listen carefully.  Well I will talk about this and expand a bit on fins in general in the next post.

Talk to you soon