Summer has arrived and it’s the perfect time to consider one of these 7.5m performance no-cam freeride sails.
Sure, you may go slightly faster on a cambered sail, but you wont have the same ease of rigging, ease of manoeuvring and general playful feel that these sails offer.
For most sailors under 85kg’s, these sails are as big as you need to go. They are also small enough to fit 460cm masts and at the same time, light enough to throw around and practice the odd helicopter tack and 360.
But these aren’t just regular 7.5 sails, they are performance freeride 7.5’s and with most of them sporting 7 battens, will offer enough speed and stability to out-pace all but the most dedicated race gear.
They have great wind range and great all-round appeal and if you want to windsurf twice as much this summer, the simple answer is to buy one of these!
How do you Test a Sail?
In many ways, sails are harder to test than boards. Not least because every rider has their own personal preference for how they like a sail to feel. Some like the reassurance of a grunty, powerful sail, whilst others like the ease of a light, responsive one.
Therefore, rather than set out to say which sail is ‘the best’, the aim of our testing is to describe the differences between the sails and the characteristics of each, so that you can choose the one most suitable for you.
To make this selection as straight forward as possible, we have a great new interactive tool, introduced last month on our 4.7 wave test and now refined slightly for this test. It allows you to answer a series of questions about what you are looking for in a sail and we will recommend the most suitable matches for you from this test group.
It works a treat, so give it a try here.
The Test Group
The outline for this test was ‘Performance no-cam freeride sails’. Most brands have a selection of no-cam 7.5 sails, ranging from 5-batten to 7-batten versions. This test was intended to focus on the more performance orientated 7 batten options.
Several brands don’t however have a 7-batten option, so this group includes a 5-batten sail from new brand XO, and 6 batten options from GUN Sails and Gaastra.
Who Wants a Performance Freeride Sail
Performance no-cam freeride sails are mostly targeted at confident riders who are looking for maximum speed from a no-cam sail. If you are looking for a sail to learn to carve gybe on, then most of these brands offer a different range (usually 5-battened), which will probably be more suitable.
It’s not that these sails are necessarily hard to use and realistically, you can learn to carve gybe on any of them, it’s simply that most of them are focused slightly more towards straight-line performance.
In practice however, there is actually a good mix within this group. Some sails are extremely light and manoeuvrable and would suit a novice carve gyber perfectly, whilst others are very performance orientated and would strike fear into many cambered alternatives.
Usually when we test sails, we ask the brands to send the ‘recommended mast’. This is usually pretty straightforward and we end up with a fairly even playing field of carbon content (or at least so the stickers would lead us to believe)!
This test was not quite so straight forward as many brands recommend a range of masts for this model of sail which stretch from the £225 price mark right up to £600.
It’s inevitable that a better mast is going to equal better performance. It will make the rig feel lighter, the sail more responsive, and you are likely to get more range out of the sail.
We have included on each detailed report, what mast was supplied with each sail. Its worth taking note of this because whilst some brands opted to supply their 100% mast, others chose to lesser carbon contents as they thought it more fairly reflected what people would realistically be using with these sails.
The test criteria can be split into two sections:
(1) General Feel
This ranks and describes the general feel of the sail. There are no real rights or wrongs, it's more about personal preference.
Range: Soft <--------> Sharp
Explanation: Describes how responsive and immediate the power delivery is. SOFT = + Forgiving feel - Can lack responsiveness and feel. SHARP = + Lots of feel and feedback - Less forgiving, particularly of riders with lower ability.
Range: Light <--------> Grunty
Explanation: Describes whether the sail feels light in the hands or grunty and 'powerful'. LIGHT = + Light manoeuvrable feeling sail - Requires sensitive technique in lighter winds. GRUNTY = + Easy reassuring power - Can be harder work in stronger winds and wave riding.
Range: Passive <----------> Active
Explanation: Describes how much rider input the sail requires. A passive sail tends to require minimal rider input, but can feel a little unresponsive and ‘boring’ to more advanced riders. An active rating indicates the sail will be quite responsive in the hands and require more rider input to keep trimmed correctly.
These are the more direct, performance comparisons within the test:
Top speed - How quick the sail is when well powered up in a straight line.
Handling in Manoeuvres – Sails that perform well in this category are generally light in the hands, have fairly high cut foot shapes, with shorter boom lengths and softer rotation.
Top end/ Bottom end – How well the sail performs at the top end and bottom end of the wind spectrum compared to the other sails within the group.
Tuning Flexibility – How tuneable the sail is to cope with different conditions and provide different feel characteristics.
Untuned range – How well the sail copes with varying conditions under one setting. This is useful for example when the wind is gusting and lulling and you don’t want to keep having to re-tune your sail to suit.
To test these sails we chose two identical 130 litre JP X-Cite Ride boards. They are superb all-round boards that very easy to sail, allowing all attention to be focused on the sails! 130 litre is a perfect match for these 7.5m sails, for most weights and abilities of rider.