“No other sail covers such an extremely wide range from wave to flat-water freestyle as perfectly as the Duke… The optimised 2011 model more than ever is like a chameleon that adapts to its environment almost automatically. To enable this broad range of use, the whole team was involved to guarantee that the Duke will meet all requirements in all conditions.”– north-windsurf.com
on the beach
The Duke is a great looking product with a pretty funky design and all the attention to detail that we have come to expect from North. The North visual trim system (VTS) is the best in the business and works a treat, and the recommended harness line position (printed on the sail) also works well.
The Duke sports the longest boom (178cm) and by far the longest luff length of the sails in this group. It sets on the recommended RDM mast (and also SDM if you need it) with a fairly flat batten profile, but a decent amount of fullness set forward in the sail. Sail weight is the heaviest in the group (4.24kg), although North’s unique 5-year warranty probably goes some way to explaining this.
There is reasonable tuning versatility, allowing the sail to be set with less downhaul and more outhaul for a gruntier feel or more downhaul and less outhaul for a lighter feel. There is also a dual option clew height, which offers further flexibility in tuning. We preferred to set the sail nearer to maximum downhaul, using the lower clew eyelet (to release the back hand pressure at the top end) and moderate outhaul.
on the water
The Duke has a unique feel within this group, combining quite a forward positioned power point with a soft and light feeling in the hands. The sail has quite a lot of spring to it, and as such power delivery is amongst the softest, making it quite a forgiving sail to use.
It certainly has plenty of raw power, and within its comfortable wind range remains pretty light in the hands. At the top end the leech holds on to quite a bit of power, meaning that it gets a bit ‘pully’ on the back hand. That’s not to say it’s a backhanded sail though. Generally, the power is actually more forward positioned than the others within this group, it’s just at the top end that you start to feel that pull on the back hand and the sail starts to feel a bit less light and manoeuvrable.
This pull, combined with the longest boom in test, makes the Duke feel a little more ‘freeride’ than ‘power wave’ and definitely encourages the rider to sit and drive against the power rather than remain upright and ready to react.
In comfortable conditions the Duke was nice for riding, pulling from quite a long way forward, but also driving the board nicely through the turns, with quite a soft, progressive feel. At the top end the back hand pressure made it less easy to depower in the bottom turn, and our lighter Clones (below 85kg) much preferred the Ice in these conditions.
If you’re looking for a freestyle or high wind freeride sail that has good power with great handling, the Duke fits the bill nicely. If you weigh less than 85kg and are looking for a wave sail, you may be better looking at the Ego or Ice.