Sunday, March 22, 2015

Local Zulu Slalom Fins


A while ago I wrote about the new slalom fins being developed by Robbie Bense, one of the top local racers.  I have had a chance to ride two of these blades and would like to give you some feedback.

Robbie left a “soft” 40cm fin with Anthony and a “hard” 40cm fin with Andy for them to try.  They handed them straight over to me of course and I have been having a fair amount of fun riding them.
I put the soft blade into my Falcon 113l and the hard one into my Falcon 124l.  What differentiates these fins from slalom fins previously sailed, is their bend characteristics.  They are very stiff and resistant to twisting in the upper section but are quite bendy towards the tip

Two Beautiful Zulu Fins from Robbie.  Nice Work!

On the water the fin seems to lift the board over oncoming chop without ever getting into uncontrolled tail walking.  I can only attribute this effect to the flexible tip which seems to impart an organic feel to the ride – lifting the board at speed but cancelling excessive lift in the gusts.  It lives! (very  clever). 

I have finished testing the soft fin having sailed it completely overpowered for an entire afternoon.  Gareth was with me hanging onto a 6m sail and small free-race board/small fin.  I was on a 6.4m/ 113 with the 40cm soft fin and just flying.  No problems in conditions where I would usually change to the 3S with smaller sail and fin.  Upwind and downwind performance was simply excellent and no spin-outs.
The hard model is quite small for my big slalom board and in marginal conditions I feel under finned but as soon as the wind lifts, it flies.  Being that the fins are in different boards, it is difficult to compare them against each other fairly.  If pushed, I would say that the harder fin is a bit more business-like and immediate while the soft model may be a bit fuzzy but is supremely comfortable.  For most of us comfort = speed.  I would really like to try a soft 44cm fin in my big Falcon.

What I would say after testing these fins is to urge you to seek out a slalom fin with these characteristics (solid/unbending/no twisting in the upper part of the fin but with bendy tip). Ensure that the fin is from a designer who knows his stuff and ensure that it is in carbon. If the designer has managed to balance the various dynamic effects as successfully as Robbie has done, you are going to experience something special. The blade will create a new dimension which may get you onto the water on slalom stuff in far stronger conditions than you are accustomed to. Frighten your mates. Nice!

Good winds

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Review of the 2015 Tabou 3S, 106


As promised, here is the review of the 2015, 3S (106).

You may recall that I included this board in my ideal quiver.  It is the smallest board recommended for the 90-100 kg blaster.  Being a non-slalom shape, it needs to be a chameleon (able to rock with a slalom fin or play on swells with three straps and swept back fin).

My objective with the test was to ensure that this latest 106 is able to fill these requirements.  This size has undergone some pretty significant upgrades over previous models.  It now has fairly complex tail cut-outs and  Fabien has moved the outboard strap positions further out.  On paper, what we now have, is a machine which should be able to rival Patrik’s biggest FreeStyleWave design accross a range of conditions.

I took the board out with my Cross 6.4m sail and a 34cm slalom fin (elliptical for rough water).  I was pretty much overpowered for the entire session so – perfect conditions.  The water was rough and the wind blew hard – Nice!

The 2014 3S models all have one thing in common.  They are kind to the rider.  They are also compliant and will do anything you demand of them.  My impression with my 2014 116, is that the board treats me with care.  The 2015 model – not so much.   Sheet in, blast off and stuff happens!  The board is far edgier and performance orientated than the previous model.  I’m sure that I could tame it with a smaller, swept back fin but with this biggish slalom fin, the board rocks at speed.  It is still easy over the chop but slightly more concentration is called for.  The properly situated footstrap positions are perfect for control over the fin at speed and the board goes as fast as most of us would dare to go.  

I eventually became totally overpowered and had to come in.  This very rarely happens on the 2014 116 so the new shape is less of a plaything and more of a missile (unguided when the wind really gets up).  My feeling is that the board will be happiest with a Select Edge 33 for normal sailing and an Edge 29 or 31 (I would need to compare back-to back) for strong wind/ small sail conditions.  What I would do to complete that package is to add a 33 cm Select S1 Hi-Wind fin for faster blasting across smaller chop.  We have yet to see the new G10 fins from Select but they look really cool and are very likely to be awesome for controlled speed.

So the question is – does this board meet the requirements for a small, high performance machine when teamed with fast, soft sail and fast fin but also able to play in small waves and swell?  You bet!  It joins the Turbo and Reflex sails on the list of the top equipment tested this season.  Congratulations Fabien – a platinum grade product though perhaps not for the faint hearted. 

Good winds