The Matrix is a time tested sail. Once used by Super-X guru Matt Pritchard and now in its latest incarnation as the high performance no-cam freeride sail from Gaastra.
"No cams, no clothes, no problem. Riding the newly designed Matrix you will feel naked in the warm wind. With more power built in to this stable design, don’t be fooled into thinking this rig has cams. Early acceleration and incredible top end stability will impress all riders novice to advanced!" – Gaastra website
The Matrix has both the longest luff (495cm) and boom length (220cm) in test. When overlaid on the other sails it is apparent that the head is quite a bit narrower than most.
At 4.93kgs it is one of the lighter sails in the group. The 6 batten layout (as opposed to 7 on most of the other sails) goes some way to helping with this.
There is no stepped clew on the Gaastra and only one eyelet position is offered, whilst the foot sports an integrated pulley block. However, like the Tushingham, it isn’t recessed into the foot, which means you need to set your extension pretty accurately to avoid an unwanted gap.
When set, the Matrix rigs with slightly less shape than most of the other sails (particularly in the 2 battens above the boom) and also a tighter leech. The fact that the head of the sail is narrower probably contributes to the leech looking tighter than the other sails.
Whilst no visual trim system is offered, the Gaastra does allow reasonable flexibility in tuning. Be careful not to over-downhaul the sail as it loses a lot of power in doing so. We found the Matrix to work best with a fairly minimal amount of outhaul.
In the hands the Matrix feels quite a soft, springy sail and sets with a slightly tighter leech than the other sails. It’s very light in the hands and despite it's sizeable luff and boom lengths, it certainly felt one of the smaller/more manageable sails on the water.
In light winds the Matrix does feel a little ‘dead’ in the hands compared to the others. Less experienced sailors may prefer this ‘settled’ feel but more advanced sailors will probably crave for a little more feedback to get the most from the sail in lighter winds. It doesn’t quite have the grunt of some of the other sails, so whilst the bottom end is ok, it can’t quite match some of the other sails in this group for early planing/bottom end performance.
As the wind increases, the Gaastra becomes more at home. It's one of those sails that never gets unsettled in a blow. You sail around on it, waiting for bigger and bigger gusts to hit and then you realise that the people around you are sailing on 5.5s and you’re still pretty comfortable – it's that stable!
It actually takes a lot of wind for this sail to come truly alive. Again, less experienced riders will probably like the very soft, cosseted ride that the Matrix offers, but more advanced riders may find the sail a little lacking in the ‘excitement’ factor due to that slightly un-engaging ride.
Top speed is pretty good, thanks to the good stability of the Matrix in stronger winds. It can’t quite match the top speed of the fastest sails (Simmer, Goya and North) as it doesn’t have the same level of drive that they offer, but is not far off the pace, particularly upwind.
When it comes to the corners, the Matrix is great fun. In fact it is 2nd best in the whole group. It's extremely light in the hands, has very soft rotation and a good foot shape, which all contribute to a really nice manoeuvrable feel.
The Matrix is a top performer in stronger winds and manoeuvres. Whilst advanced sailors may find the Matrix lacks some excitement factor, less experienced riders will enjoy the easy going handling and settled ride that the sail offers.
PHOTOS BY: Simon Crowther