On the topic of slightly off center equipment, the first fin to discuss is from Smart Fins. These guys have developed a foil which is capable of changing shape to optimize performance on both tacks. They claim that the improvement in efficiency from this allows for a smaller fin to be used.
Interesting stuff and the concept makes sense to me. The fixed shape of conventional fins must result in quite significant loss of efficiency when the blade is moving through the water which is why the very fastest fins on the speed strip are asymmetrical and work (properly) in one direction only.
The second fin is the Delta Wing model from Maui Ultra Fins.
I mentioned in a previous post about Rick Hanke's background in the aerospace industry and this fin speaks to that grounding. I don't think that it is faster than conventional fins but it will certainly offer benefits for sailors who sail in weedy or shallow waters. The normal fin is in G10 but I understand that you can have a Delta Wing in carbon if you are prepared to spend more money.
F4 has enhanced their fin range and freshened their website. All good stuff - check them out.
Now some commentary regarding the purchase of high end fins -
Anyone who is really serious about fins will know that when buying a high end fin, one needs to consider and specify some key variables. The first of these is rake - more rake for an easier ride and more upright for more power. The second variable is stiffness - softer for more control and stiffer for power. The third variable revolves around cutting the fin down. Significant improvements are achieved from making a fin longer than the size you need and cutting it down to your length. Once again you have a choice. You can have it cut down from the top or from the bottom. I assume that a fin cut from the bottom will be stiffer while one cut from the top will be softer.
The question I have as a recreational sailor (who still wants the best) is how am I ever going to know what combination of the above variables is going to be right for me? Do I need a fin with a 6 degree rake or will a 4 degree rake be better. Will an Xsoft be better than an XXsoft? Would I even be able to tell the difference? Is company A's Xsoft the same as company B's Xsoft. When I change my board next year, will the new hull shape still work with the fins I have chosen for my current board? A nightmare of confusion and uncertainty.
The question then, is whether it is feasible for anyone who is not a serious racer to enter this maze. When would a run of the mill windsurfer ever have the opportunity to test a sufficient number of fins to be able to make the right choice? Predictably my answer is that for most of us, these choices are best left to the experts. What we need is a supplier who will supply an optimized fin. When you buy a Vector Canefire Carbon fin or a Deboichet SL4, you get what you get and hope that the fin works. In my experience this level of fin works perfectly for the normal fast sailor. If you are a serious racer on the other hand, you need to spend the time testing and comparing until you find the perfect fins for your sailing in all wind strengths and water conditions. You have to engage with all these variables because even a small advantage from the fin can make the difference between winning and losing races.
If we are able to get some F4 fins to test, I will hopefully be able to get some experience with the above variables and give you some feedback from actual sailing sessions. Andy and I will also pick the brains of the F4 guys to get some meaningful commentary onto the blog.
OK that's all for now. Ellie and I are going away for a break so the blog will be still for a while but I will talk to you when we get back. Gemma Wise, a British journalist is part of as group who are creating an extreme sports/travel website, has asked me to write some windsurfing articles for them. I'm not sure whether to write about windsurfing for the non-windsurfer or to write for the seasoned windsurfer. I will give this some thought while we are away and will keep you all posted once their site is up.