Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Best Upwind Slalom Board (??)


Just a quick post.

Juan from Spain e-mailed me with a question that I have absolutely no idea how to answer.  He recons that modern slalom boards are now so specialized for downwind sailing that this has compromised their upwind ability.

Juan asked me to recommend a slalom board with good upwind performance.  I have to say I am unable to answer this question.  I know that pure slalom fins are fantastic downwind tools but struggle upwind.  This makes them not so suitable for most of us.  We don't engage in official slalom racing and most of our blasting comprises a long, tight upwind leg followed by a flat-out downwind blast. Most of us then, require a fin which will power us upwind at speed and not lose composure on the downwind run.

I had never considered that modern, pure slalom boards may also have developed a weakness where upwind blasting is concerned.  This may be absolutely true but I don't have the knowledge or understanding of board shaping to be able to comment.

What I recommended to Juan was that he consider a slightly bigger slalom board than the models he was considering.  He was thinking about a 107 iSonic/105 X-Fire/Falcon 110 etc - all around 70cm wide.
My experience of the 2014 Mantas suggests to me that the boards have become a lot easier to ride in overpowered conditions.  This means that a bigger 2014 slalom board will be as easy to sail as your old smaller model.  A bigger board will allow you to use a longer fin and this will be better upwind (assuming you have the right fin of course).  You can always screw a smaller fin into this slightly bigger board for overpowered sailing.

My recommendation to Juan then, was to look at the iSonic 110 instead of the 107.  I also pointed out that Fanatic's 120l Falcon is 74cm wide - a worthy contender.  As a wild card I included AHD's SL-2 122l.  The AHD is probably not as highly specialized as the others and so may be a little better upwind. Who knows?

To change the subject I thought I would include this picture of Antoine gybing.  Note how far he bends his legs.  This is something which very few of us do correctly.  I always think that I am bending my legs properly but if there are photos of the session, I notice that they were almost straight in the gybe. Well, here is the main guy getting right down.  Low center of gravity = great stability.  Thanks for the master-class champ!



  1. I also feel that modern slalom boards have difficulties going upwind. I personally like using downwind oriented slalom fins so going upwind can be a pain. An adjustable outhaul can help a bit with that if you are well powered up.


    1. I believe this is highly fin dependant. I sailed the Isonic 127 a lot. After changing the fin I experienced better speed, less spin out, earlier planing and amazing upwind performance.
      I now sail the Isonic 110 with the same type of fin Same good experience, but I struggle a bit to achieve the same upwind performance. This might come down to my lack of experience with this board.
      I see from board test Isonic 107, 110 and 117 all received 10 out of 10 on upwind reaching.

    2. Lars,

      I agree, the fin can be the big factor. I also saw that review on the new 107. When they say upwind reaching, do they mine like upwind passing in slalom or literally <80 degrees off the wind? Also at my weight (62kg), I mainly use the smaller boards (86,94,97) so I never really tried the bigger isonics. Do you think the smaller ones are just as good upwind as the bigger ones?


    3. Hi Kevin,
      I do not know what the reference is for getting 10/10 on upwind performance in the magazine test.
      I have not tried the smaller Isonics so I have really no idea how the smaller Isonics perform compared to the larger ones.
      Never really estimated the angle, but I would guess 45-50 degrees off the wind on the 127 still maintaining acceptable speed.

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  3. I agree that some boards are better at going upwind especially those with sharper rails but it is possible to make any board go well upwind just by playing with fin sizes, rakes and stiffness. If you have ever tried sailing well powered up to overpowered on a big fin you will find that all the board wants to do is go upwind, so it is all about sail size and fin tuning, don't just settle for using the standard fin, get yourself a good range of fins. I recently purchased a free slalom fin for my freeride board that was only 2cm longer and it has increased my useable sail range by 1.5m not just because it was 2cm longer but a couple of degrees more upright so it it subtle changes that you need to make.

  4. Hi All
    I agree about the importance of the fin choice. Martin is so right to caution against merely accepting the board's standard fin. 90% of the time you will gain astonishing improvements in board performance by choosing a really good blade. You have spent all that money getting the best - don't sabotage it with a poor fin.

    I happen to know that Lars has excellent fins. Kevin, being a speed freak, leans towards downwind designs. This is absolutely correct if you are not constantly racing your mates to an upwind mark before you turn back for home.