The Clones and I took nine all-round freeride sails to Prasonisi (Greece), spent two weeks burning around on them, then came back to the UK and spent another couple of days on the water. And after all that time, we were able to reach one very definite conclusion...
Quite unbelievably, we could not establish one single useful performance difference between any of them! At least not when it came to the main criteria of speed, ease of planing and top end control, that is. There are of course tiny differences, but it really is fair to say that 2cm extra downhaul could turn the slowest sail here into the fastest sail here, or the first sail to plane into the last to get going.
It’s the first time that this has happened to us in a test, wherein all the products in the group are just too close to call a difference between them. While the temptation is there to start ‘looking for differences’ to make the test more interesting to read, it’s simply not the way that we do our testing, and therefore we have made the slightly controversial decision not to score any of these sails for their performance. It is after all a freeride test, so why complicate matters unnecessarily?
Where the sails do differ greatly, however, is in the way that they feel in the hands and their bias between straight line blasting performance and manoeuvrability. Hence that, ultimately, is the focus of this test.
So, if you really are in the market for one of these sails then you can have faith in the fact that there are a lot of good products out there at the moment. This test should help you to establish which one is most likely to suit your sailing style, personal preferences and wallet size. If on the other hand you were just looking for an entertaining read of controversial results and comments, then you’re just going to have to wait for the next test I’m afraid!
WHAT IS A NO-CAM ALL-ROUND FREERIDE SAIL?
‘Freeriding’ is perhaps the most generalised term in windsurfing’s lexicon. It refers to the most common and easily accessible style of windsurfing and involves, in the most simplistic terms, windsurfing with a focus on fun in whatever conditions are available. This may range from a beginner making their first planing run right through to riding near race-worthy equipment at full speed across rough water.
Now, if we step right back to basics and look at the term again, the word ‘free’ in the dictionary implies an unbounded and unlimited experience, while the word ‘riding’ speaks for itself.
You might wonder where I’m going with this (and trust me, so did I for a while!). But what I’m getting at here is that to truly satisfy the term ‘freeride’, surely the most worthy equipment should offer as close to an unbounded and unlimited performance as it’s possible to achieve.
And so to the point. In my opinion a true freeride sail, by definition, should be a jack of all trades. It should be a sail that can blast at full speed, get planing as early as possible, have great stability at the top end, yet be light and manoeuvrable enough in the hands to crank into gybes and transitions. A sail that will truly appeal to both improvers and advanced windsurfers alike.
But does such a sail really exist? Well, by now I’m pretty sure that you know what’s coming next…
The simple and very encouraging answer is ‘yes’, and I can honestly say that they are grouped here within this test.
WHY BUY ONE?
There are countless reasons why you might consider one of these 7.0m freeride sails, so we decided to narrow it down to our top seven!
Escape from the ‘techno garbage’. In the fine words of Mr Naish himself, at times there is just too much techno garbage in this sport. If your passion is freeriding, why not keep it simple? Do you really need cams, or more battens? Do you, really?
Ease of rigging. For a big sail it doesn’t get much easier than this to rig.
Massive wind range. These sails get going just as quick as – and in some cases quicker than – their cambered equivalents, giving great early planing. At the top end our Clones were able to hold onto them on flat water when most recreational sailors were on 4.5m sails. Who needs more stability?
Good speed. On a decent board there aren’t many people going to be overtaking you if your technique is up to scratch.
Manoeuvrability. Light in the hands and as easy as any sail of this size will get to gybe. Not radical enough? Our Clones also pulled the odd spock and forward on them.
Price. These sails all manage to squeeze onto a 460cm mast, and being most brands’ ‘simplistic sail’ with only six battens, they’re pretty competitively priced in general.
Fun. The phrase ‘just rig it and sail it’ has never been more apt.
IT'S HOW YOU RIG IT...
I’ve touched on this already, but it’s time to highlight the point again in big, bold letters! THE PERFORMANCE DIFFERENCES OF THESE SAILS ARE DRASTICALLY AFFECTED BY THE WAY YOU TUNE THE SAIL. Get them all set correctly and there’s nothing to choose between them. Get any of them wrong and the sail will instantly drop out of the league altogether.
Four of the sails feature a ‘visual trim system’ (North, Gun, Ezzy and Goya), which works perfectly and takes all of the guesswork out of rigging. The other sails come supplied with rigging guides that we really do urge you to read.
Just 2cm of outhaul or downhaul can transform your sail. Get it wrong and you may be the only one not planing, or the slowest on the water. Get it right and you may even save yourself the diet and technique clinic!
In true Oscar style the Clones would like to thank their family and friends, supporters, cast, crew, and most importantly:
- The Christof Kirschner Pro Center Prasonisi (prasonisi.com) and Sportif Travel (sportif.travel) for all their help organising the trip and accommodating the Clones and their ‘diva’ requirements.
- Starboard for providing a pair of identical Carve 121s, ensuring that the sails could be tested on identical boards. These boards really are fantastic – just check out the 120L freeride board test also within this issue!
- North Sails for providing us with 10 Power XT extensions. An absolute must for testing – if you haven’t tried one, you should!