Martin Cross responded to my ramblings about a new class of big fast boards and his comments made me realize that I need to explain some of the reasons for my position on this concept.
The first thing Martin said was how good the Starboard UltraSonic is and I have to say that of the current crop of big freerace boards, this has to be the pick of all of them. I will therefore include the US on the list. In my dreams, the other three shapers will build the boards I suggested and I would then be fascinated to see a comprehensive back-to-back test of all four boards.
The other thing Martin queried is my requirement that the big board should be able to perform with a flat 7.8m sail. Here I need to explain:
The biggest sail many local sailors own is a 7.5m, cammed model of some description. Some guys have pure race sails, some have softer free-race options. I personally own race sails in sizes up to 9.8m but my equivalent in the 7.5 area is a camless, 7.8m/7 batten sail. This sail is also the biggest on offer by our local rental shop so we see them on the water constantly (especially at this time of year when our wind has lost its teeth and is interspersed with evil lulls).
The board customarily used with the 7.5 sail, in our light winds, would be a slalom model of around 80 cm wide and around 130l in volume. On so many days we have good wind in places but with light patches. On these days the guys will take their 80cm/7.5m board/sail combos out and usually battle to get going. The gusts are fine but in the lulls they fall off the plane and wobble for much of each run. In these conditions I rig my 7.8 on the 90cm board and simply fly. The board width keeps me going through the lulls and the strap distance from the centre line provides massive leverage over both sail and fin for effortless control in the gusts. The result is the ability to sail as long as I like, in total comfort and high speeds over flat water. With this set-up I am able to smoke sailors on formula boards with 9m race sails - as long as we don’t go deep downwind or very tight upwind. On those tacks I am not so clever (in fact - note to self - don't do that again!).
A nice aspect of the 90cm/7.8m combo is that if the wind picks up, you move straight down to your 75cm or 71cm slalom board without the need to change the sail. If the wind drops, rig the old 9.8m race sail, screw the big fin onto the wide board and continue sailing.
The secret of this enhanced performance in squirrelly conditions is to come down on the fin size. My board was designed to be sailed with 11 and 12m sails and 70cm fin but I discovered that it is 100% happy with a smaller fin and smaller sail. As I say, the leverage provided, makes this type of sailing something really special and based on these experiences I wrote the previous post. We need a special class of modern board to capitalize on the type of conditions described above.
Starboard created the US for exactly the type of sailing I describe and I’m sure that it is one fantastic product. My wish list comprised three other boards from three other designers who I think, could each make a huge contribution to this class of sailing.
A possible quiver with one of these boards at the top, could look something like this:
90 cm Super-Board
75 cm Slalom (Fanatic Falcon or Patrik F-Race)
64.5cm fast B&J (Patrik F-Cross)
60.5 cm fast B&J (Patrik F-Cross) or smaller wave board depending on your sailing preferences.
I am a huge fan of rigging the B&J boards with slalom fins for phenomenal speed over choppy water with light sails.
The above quiver may be something to consider
All the best