Saturday, September 28, 2013

Hot Sails Maui - SpeedFreak

Some time ago Christiaan dropped in with a few Kona guys for some long distance, winter cruising.  When they finished sailing, Christiaan showed me his new Hot Sails Maui FireLight 6.0 wave sail.  This is one fine looking thing and virtually weightless (almost as light as the Avanti Viper).  Previously, I had always looked at Hot Sails Maui as a company with heavy products.  I based this on their GPS and SpeedDemon sails and also on their masts - all RDM and all really heavy.  All this heaviness turned me off a bit, so I paid little attention to the brand over the years.  After seeing the FireLight however, I have been having a re-look at them and I have to admit, they have some interesting stuff.

Firstly, the firm has added a lighter mast to their range.  Secondly, if you look beyond the serious speed stuff you find some intriguing sails - all of them incorporating light materials and interesting shapes.  The one which interests me for our conditions, is the Speedfreak.  This camless sail incorporates dacron in its construction but in a fast, high-tech shape.  What you get is a fast, stable sail which is also light and very soft.  I would really like to try one of these sails here just to see if it can hang anywhere near the big guys on their serious kit.  The results may prove interesting.

Even if this sail is not super fast, it could be something to consider for those of us with partners who need light wind sails which are soft and easy to handle.  I like the bat-wing shape and the fact that the concept is bound to work well with fast freeride boards like the Tabou Rocket, as well as on pure slalom shapes.

Talk to you soon


Friday, September 27, 2013

Industry News and Reader Feedback


The new Select VMax fins are out.  They claim to have improved performance over the 2012/2013 models through changes to the flex characteristics of the tip.  Unfortunately the VMaxes we have just received are the old models (still good fins I think).
Thanks to ABC News for the shot

At last the new RRD X-Fire has also broken cover.  As usual it looks fantastic.  When I look at this board and the new Starboard iSonics, I see a move towards narrow tails (incorporated with flares and cut-outs of course)

I hope that Tabou is not falling behind the curve on the slalom front.  The evolutionary approach to design is commendable as long as you keep winning races and I'm not seeing that at the highest level for Tabou.

I mentioned something a while ago about the new soft sail from Challenger.  An interesting development and the latest iterations are starting to look like nicely resolved products.

The performance of these sails is said to be great with a lot more power than traditional sails of the same size.  Riders mention the need to learn the new format and experiment with sailing style and settings to get the most out of the sail.  I'm not too keen on this - I always have the best results from equipment which just feels right from the first time I get onto it and then gets better and better with tiny adjustments and tweaks.  This product represents a new direction and approach however, so we should expect a number of teething problems I suppose.  They seem to have done pretty well so far.

You may not have heard about Elix boards.  They are made in France by people who know their craft:

This is their 130l slalom board.  Just look at the workmanship and the materials used.  Note the narrow tail as discussed above.  Great work guys - we are available to conduct extensive testing here during your winter.  Call me!

Eric Kaminga tells me that he has replaced all his 1012 Mantas with 2013 models.  He recons that there are significant differences between the underside shapes and profiles between the two ranges.  The 2013 models are flatter and probably faster but he thinks that they will be slightly harder over the chop.  I have to say that the rides I have had on the 2013 71 where extremely comfortable over chop.  Probably the most comfortable slalom shape I have sailed.  Best of both worlds?

A reader informs me that CST (the high tech firm making masts for Avanti) are set to enter the windsurfing market seriously with their own mast range.  This has to be something to look forward to.  He  also mentioned the fact that Severne has been having trouble with their Enigma mast breaking in the 2012 Reflex sails.  It appears that the huge luff pressure generated by the Reflexes places undue pressure on the mast leading to breakages.  As I said to him - when one bears in mind the issues we have been having with the NCX's, this news starts to ring an alarm bell or two.  Anyway if anyone can recover and get things right, Severne is that firm.  I have huge faith in the brand and look forward to more exciting things from them.

OK that's all for now.
Talk to you soon          

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

New Equipment and Material Notes


Summer came for 3 days last week and we did some sailing but winter has taken hold again and all is cold wet and gloomy.  I sailed for two of the days and my body is completely broken.  We are going to need to toughen up big time for the season.  Our new VMax fins have arrived.  I purchased a 39cm fin for my 113 Falcon and to be one of the controls against which to test some F4 fins (providing we are able to arrange something with the guys).

This post comprises some random commentary on equipment.

The new Fanatic Falcons have been spotted.  Not easy to find on the Internet, but they are out there.

The sizes are as follows:

80      56      235
90      58      235
100    63      235
110    69      235
120    74      230
130    81      230
140    85      230
150    90      230

All of these boards except the 80 incorporate cut-outs
I favor the 63, the 74 (good width!) and the 85 but as you will know by now, but I would personally swap the 63 for a Tabou 3S 96.

The boards look much the same as the 2013 models but they have a raised back pad in the middle to support the toes.  Nice idea.


Here is the new iSonic in the flesh

The left hand picture is of the 117 nicely decked out with Kovalski footstraps.  Very tasty!

The picture on the right is of the iSonic 90 and I include it because of the extreme thinness of the tail - virtually a needle.  This is going to be really easy through the chop but the upper wings still provide the width for lighter wind, getting started and to enable the board to accept longer fins.


I need to report some trouble we are experiencing with Severne NCX sails.  The stringers in these sails are breaking under downhaul tension causing immediate failure.  The stringer is the reinforced strip which runs from the pulley all the way up to the top of the sail.  My North Ram also failed on the stringer so it is not only Severne with this problem.  Anyway, if this strip breaks, you will see strange effects in the sail panels.  They will rip or the stitching will pull out.  If this happens to you, don't just replace the panels and expect the problem to go away.  The reason the panels tear is because the downhaul tension needs a place to go.  With the stringer broken, it goes immediately through the panels which cannot withstand the strain.  It pains me to report this because I have such a high regard for Severne sails.  These guys get things right as a rule but they need to correct this problem on the NCX.  I still rate it as an awesome sail (if the stringer decides to hold).


I have had some inquiries from readers seeking clarification about grades of carbon fiber.  You will see on North's website that their Platinum Aero masts are made from T 800 carbon fiber.  Avanti's top masts are also made from this.  The Starboard iSonics now incorporate T 700 fiber in their decks and undersides.
The T in these descriptions does not refer to some scientific measure - it stands for Toray (probably the top carbon fiber producer on the planet).  The T numbers are Toray's own internal grading designations.  T 800 is stronger and lighter than T 700.  Both these grades are exceptionally high for the requirements of our sport.  Toray's top fiber is designated T1000G.  This is their lightest strongest material and if you plan to make a vehicle to send into space, this is the stuff you will use to build it.  My hope is that someone will use T1000G for our stuff (boards, masts, booms) some day.  Not cheap I suppose, but overkill appeals to me.

Talk to you soon

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Some Random Musings and Equipment Feedback

I will just lump these things together because each is too small on its own to warrant a separate post.

In June, I received an e-mail from Jose Luis Soria Ibanez (Spaniards have great names) in Madrid.  He is a 66kg guy who was looking to upgrade from a 1999 F2 Ride - 115l.  He had tried a modern design (JP Supersport) and had a nightmare of a sail.  What to do?
Well we whittled the options down to a Tabou Speedster 65 and a Starboard Futura 101.  My choice for Jose was the 101.  He battled for weeks to get hold of a carbon 101 facing all sorts of alternative suggestions from dealers but held firm and finally secured first prize.  I like this board for a light sailor looking for a very small board quiver.  It is lightning fast but has three footstrap rows so you can de-tune if required. It also has a huge range of sail and fin sizes.  The upshot of all this struggling is that Jose is absolutely stoked with his board.  He tells me that it excels at everything and that the gybing is almost too easy.  I have advised that he upgrade his big sail (North Natural 7.5) to an X Type to really milk the board's capabilities.

Juan Alonzo purchased a Tabou 96l and a range of Gaastra Crosses and is completely stoked.  I gather that his sailing mates are now re-considering their board choices.  Juan also purchased an RRD Firewing 7.0 sail. Regular readers will recall my commentary on this sail during the Defi.  I was astonished that a board brand sail could hold its own against all the hot slalom stuff out there.  Anyway - Juan read the article and purchased one.  I did some digging and found that the Firewing was designed by Dan Kaseler, so I was able to give Juan some tuning tips.  He recons that the sail properly rigged, is fast, feather light in the hands and so easy to sail.  The performance was so good that it inspired him to buy an RRD X-Fire 105 to go with the sail.  Some of you may recall that Juan is the man with the Vector Canefire carbon fins.  A great example of a sailor getting things right!

I'm not keen on the shape of the thing but you don't win Defi races on bad equipment.  If your winning sail can also impress the recreational sailor then it is worthy of our consideration.

Speaking of strange equipment here is a slalom board:

I assume that the wings aid early planing and also provide a compliant ride when things get rough.  I note that they may be raised or lowered slightly to suit the rider.

Is this a serious piece of kit?  I'm not sure but look at the rig in the bottom picture:

Serious Sail             -    Check
Properly Rigged      -    Check
Serious Boom         -    Check
Adjustable Outhaul  -    Check
Proper Pulleys
and Neat Ropes      -   Check

A sailor this well sorted doesn't plug his rig into a pig so I assume that the design works.  It is the brainchild of Mark Nelson - a designer in Hawaii who has designed boards for some of the best sailors on the planet so he knows a few things.  Send us one to test Mark!  
  Talk to you soon        

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

2014 Gaastra Phantom

Kevin Do has sent me some pictures of the new Gaastras so I will briefly discuss the new Phantom.  Thanks Kevin.

The photos speak for themselves.  A great lineup.

The Phantom, as you can see, is now a two cam sail (the description in the panel above is a typo - look at the sail description at the top).  Gareth and I often reminisce about the old Gaastra GTX in the days before they made the GTX racy.  This sail used to have 2 cams, it was fast and easy and perfect for the fast and furious sailing we do here.  It was not a race sail but it offered everything we wanted.  Well now the old GTX has re-appeared in Phantom guise.  The difference is that it now incorporates all of the modern technology and Peter's innovation.  Awesome!  I really look forward to trying one of these - it could be just what the doctor ordered.

Talk to you soon    

Sail Discussion - Vandal Addict/Sailworks Hucker

I promised to discuss these two sails a while ago but I had decided to do this only after discussing the new Gaastra Phantom.  Kevin Do kindly offered to send me some pictures from the 2014 Gaastra catalog but has not managed to do so yet so I will proceed with this discussion.  I will also try to get some pictures of the Phantom on my own so look out for this post.  The new Phantom promises to be something special for the likes of Gareth and me - fast recreational sailors looking for a light, easy sail, capable of rocket ship performance but not necessarily a pure race design.

Here we go with the Addict/Hucker discussion.  I will use two Vandals to illustrate some points.


Above are the two performance sails from Vandal.  Each is a camless, 6 batten sail but they perform in very different ways.

The Stitch on the left has a nicely spaced batten configuration with the second batten passing through the boom.  This gives an easy handling sail, delivering smooth power to a high top speed.  This is my type of sail - easy but fast.

The Addict on the right you will note, has only one batten below the boom.  All the rest are tightly spaced above.  This gives the sail a nice full belly which delivers huge power and instant acceleration.  It also ensures that the top of the sail is tightly controlled and stable.  In the right hands this sail is capable of stunning performance but the sailor needs high levels of strength and skill to master the beast.  It is very easy to be overpowered by this sail and to feel uncomfortable at speed.

Now let us look at the Hucker.

Here you see the same configuration - one batten below the boom and all the others bringing order to the top.  The beauty of sails with this configuration is that they are made to be controllable for those able to master them.  Not everyone can do this properly but if you learn to do it, you have an awesome weapon which can hold its own against anything.  

This is Dale Cook flying his Hucker in the Gorge.  Imagine the explosive acceleration required to propel him to these heights.  Imagine also, the control required from the sail to enable one to maintain one's trim while flying in heavy air.   

 Dale Cook is able to take a break from these jumps, sail round the corner to what they call a speed strip (but is actually just a flattish piece of river interspersed with river traffic and reed beds) and hit speeds of over 40knots in his baggies, his waist harness and this equipment!  Absolute magic and a testament to what this type of sail is capable of.

Please have a look at the video section on the Sailworks site.  Dale's Hucker speed run (as well as some great jumps and other footage) can be found there.

That's all for now
Talk to you soon