First Impressions

Equipment test


Released: June 08
Sizes: 6.5, 7.5, 8.5
Price: £505, £515, £525
Tested: 7.5m (on X9 460 mast and X9 boom)

At last, a manufacturer has recognised that not everyone wants to sail on a 9m or 10m sail in lighter winds (or can afford the mast and boom to accompany it), so NeilPryde have designed a sail of a smaller size that aims to match the early planing characteristics of a bigger sail.

The V8 Helium is offered in three sizes, but it is intended that you choose only one size, based upon your body weight.  Sounds interesting!

Lets face it; no camber induced sail will ever be as easy to rig as a non-cambered sail, but if you have chosen to go cambered then they don’t come much easier than the V8 Helium

There are no nasty surprises here. The mast slides easily up the luff tube with the cams off. Apply minimal downhaul, moderate outhaul and then simply pop the cams onto the mast with the zips undone. Close the zips and trim the sail……ready to go.

If you are used to the trim of modern sails, get ready for something different. Very different! There is a lot of shape in the lower section of the sail, but most noticeably, the leech is significantly tighter than you will be accustomed to. The V8 Helium is not a particularly versatile sail when it comes to settings, but its not designed to be. The V8 Helium isn’t about tuning for different conditions, it’s about maximum power and that’s where it ends.

When we heard ‘early planing, maximum power, planes in 8 or 9 knots’ we thought yeah, yeah, yeah, another new sail that claims a lot and feels the same…

But how wrong we were. The V8 Helium really does seem to accomplish what it set out to achieve.

In light winds, it is an incredibly ‘grunty’ sail. Compared with a regular camber induced sail, it has a softer feel to it, but a more definite power delivery. Every gust of wind can be felt and you get the impression that the sail is doing its best to get you onto the plane at all times. The V8 Helium really does get you planing early and offers light wind performance that would match a sail 2m bigger.

Many tighter leached, super powerful sails can be counterproductive once up and going. That’s why you don’t set your regular sail with a tight leach for early planing. If you do, you may as well be towing a bucket, because your sail is never going to reach second gear. This is where the V8 Helium has got it right. Not only is it probably the gruntiest sail we have ever tried, but once going it accelerates smoothly and drives you forward rather than sideways.

With all this low-end power, the strong wind performance is obviously going to be unpleasant; or so we thought until we got the chance to try it.

Performance at the top end is sacrificed. There is no doubt about that. But its not bad at all. The V8 Helium is slightly more back handed than sails designed for ‘regular’ winds and arguably it has a slightly lower top speed, but do you know what? We’re not sure it actually matters.

Our 78kg Clone was able to use the 7.5 sail comfortably up to about 20-23 knots. Do you really need better top end performance than this? Wouldn’t windsurfing be more fun if you simply changed down at this point?

Well that’s up to you to decide………

We think NeilPryde are really onto something with this concept.  Why use a big sail in light winds if a smaller sail can match the performance?  A bigger sail means more weight, more cost and ultimately less ease.  Yes, you may be able to hang onto a ‘regular’ sail in more wind and perhaps go slightly quicker at the top end, but do you really need to, or want to for that matter?

The other great benefit of this sail is that it requires less technique to actually get planing with.  If you are still getting to grips with planing technique, are on the wrong side of average human body weight or simply can’t be bothered to pump, you will love this sail for its ease of planing.


The concept of a smaller sail for lighter winds and how successfully this sail accomplishes what it set out to deliver.
It sets on a 460 mast, so lower rig cost than buying a bigger sail.
Cam rotation is superb.
Ease of planing.

Combined with a mast and boom, its not a cheap package. But if you are considering buying a big rig for lighter winds, the fact you can use a shorter mast and boom, could make this an economical option.

For more info, product pictures and video,
visit NeilPryde here

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