Once upon a time, a wave sail had five battens and was fairly tall and narrow. If you wanted choice, you might have been able to pick between an onshore (power version) and a cross-shore (less power) version, but that was where it ended.
Then a sail company developed a rather unusual looking wave sail. It looked quite strange on the water because it had a compact profile and an exceptionally short luff. Around the same time that this sail evolved, there was a young Brazilian lad showing some promise in the waves who decided to adopt it as his own.
The two got along like a house on fire, and in no time at all that young lad lifted his first World Wave title and revolutionised the discipline of wavesailing with his radical new style.
Everyone took a great deal of interest in what boards he was riding, and the world went crazy for twin-fins, which have become rather popular – and rightly so.
But much less interest was taken in the radically different sail that he used – the Naish Boxer. Over the following years the Boxer continued to evolve, and its cult fanclub continued to grow.
Kauli Seadi (for it was he) eventually left Naish and changed to NeilPryde, who were fast to develop a 4-batten version of this niche sail for him, and threw their massive marketing power behind it. With all the excitement and hype, many wavesailors and – most importantly – other manufacturers started to take more notice and now, a few years on, we have a 4-batten compact wave sail on offer from nearly every main brand.
Now, this test isn’t about 4-batten sails (though we will be focusing on them later in the year). Instead we’re looking at (largely) 5-batten all-round wave sails from each brand – the sails with the widest range of use and potentially the biggest appeal.
What’s interesting about this genre is that – despite the sails being 5-batten, all-round designs – the influence of the compact wave sail is very much evident within this group. Almost every brand this year has whittled inches off their luff lengths and softened the feel of their sails. In fact, for the first time ever the Naish Boxer no longer wins the award for shortest luff length in test. Quite surprisingly the very ‘all-round’ and relatively mainstream NeilPryde Combat has now taken this title.
Whether the 4-batten compact wave sail is the way of the future or simply a radical concept that has helped steer the evolution of the ‘traditional’ wave sail remains to be seen. But what is clear is that with many brands heading in this direction at various paces, the diversity of sails within this group is massive. There really is a huge difference in feel and performance between the sails tested here – perhaps more so now than any year before.
HOW TO TEST A WAVE SAIL
The thing about testing wave sails is that each person likes something different! So how can you test sails and say which is the best? The simple answer is that you can’t – it’s almost entirely down to personal preference.
So what we aim to do with our testing is to describe as accurately as possible the characteristics of each sail so that you can make your own decision as to which one will best suit your requirements.
Generally speaking, the smaller a sail the smaller its useful wind range will be. And the smaller its wind range, the less chance you have of getting the right conditions to test in. This makes 4.7m sails arguably the hardest product to test over our 12-month testing schedule.
To ensure that we had the best chance of testing these ‘all-round’ wave sails through a decent range of conditions, we asked the manufacturers to supply us with both 4.7 and 4.2 versions of the sail. This not only provides a much broader testable wind range, but also gives an indication of any inconsistencies or changes that might be present through a range of sizes.
The sails within this test are generally billed as ‘allround’ wave sails. Later in the year we will be looking at the ‘power wave’ equivalents from each brand, and also taking a preview of the new 4-batten sails that are available.
CONSTRUCTION & DURABILITY
With the prices of most sails in this test somewhere between £350 and £550, you might be wondering why we haven’t scored build quality / durability in any way. The simple answer is that it’s very difficult. In the relatively short period that we have these sails it’s simply not possible to get an accurate measure of how they might hold up over time.
In future we hope to devise a method that will allow us to comment on the thickness of materials, reinforcements, stitching, etc, without having to take the sail to pieces. But for the time being we’ve decided that rather than make inaccurate judgements it’s best not to comment at all, so we’ve intentionally avoided this subject within the test.
Thanks largely to the lack of good UK conditions at the time of testing, this test was completed entirely in El Médano, Tenerife. Luckily Tenerife delivered fantastic conditions that allowed us to put these sails through their paces in everything from knee-high to logo-high waves. The wind conditions we tested in ranged from overpowered on 4.2s (basically 3.7 weather) right down to marginal planing 4.7 weather, so we got a great picture of how these sails perform right through their wind range.
When testing it’s important to eliminate as many variables as possible. For this test we chose to use identical Fanatic boards in a range of sizes and styles to get the best picture of how the sails perform.:
- We would like to thank Fanatic for lending us Quad 72 and 79s and Twin 86 boards to conduct the testing. The full tests on these boards will appear later in the year, but in the meantime you can check out the pictures of them within the pages of this test. fanatic.com
- Still on the subject of equipment, it’s extremely important to be able to quickly readjust each sail at the water’s edge, so that we can pinpoint its best setting(s). For this purpose nothing comes close to the North Power XT RDM extensions for ease of use and quick adjustment. Thanks to North Sails for their help in getting our Clone test team geared up with these.north-windsurf.com
- Finally, it’s the first time the Clones have left UK shores to conduct a wave test. With the UK wind drought in the first half of 2010 there really was no option, so it was with great relief that Tenerife delivered such great conditions during our time there. The pictures speak for themselves. The Clones would especially like to thank the OTC crew for all their help, assistance and patience during the test trip. It really was very much appreciated! otc-windsurf.com