The NeilPryde Hellcat was a new addition last year and fits into the Pryde range as their no-cam freerace design. The Hellcat has already built a solid reputation for performance and was chosen by us as official quiver sails for last year’s freeride 120 test.
"The HELLCAT's no-cam freerace design delivers a seductive combination of speed and acceleration combined in a lightweight, easy to rig package that planes effortlessly, handles smoothly and is the most manoeuvrable sail in the 2009 NeilPryde flatwater collection. So, whether you're blasting with your friends or fine tuning your slalom gybes, the HELLCAT is one hot ride." – Pryde website
There is no doubting that NeilPryde make great looking sails and the Hellcat is no exception. Sporting a radical clew shape (designed to improve twist, overpowered performance and handling), and a racy red colour scheme, the sail does look pretty funky.
Detailing is very good with a nice padded foot protector, decent tack pulley block, a choice of two clew eyes and NeilPrydes unique batten tensioning system. NeilPryde don't offer a visual trim system on the Hellcat.
The Hellcat has the smallest quoted sail size (7.2m) in this test and overlaying it with the other sails verifies this to be true. It has both the shortest luff length (476cm) and clew length (205cm) of all the sails in this group. At 4.86kgs it is the 3rd lightest sail.
The Hellcat does offer reasonable tuning versatility providing both decent light and strong wind trims. We did find that on the beach the battens had a habit of sitting towards the starboard side of the mast but once the sail filled with wind, this was no longer apparent. As the wind increases, it's important to increase the outhaul otherwise the sail can get a bit backhanded in the gusts.
The Hellcat stands out for feeling extremely light and responsive in your hands. Sure, it’s slightly smaller than the other sails but this trait can’t be put purely down to size.
The Hellcat is one of the most ‘active’ sails in the test. It offers plenty of feedback and gives an advanced sailor plenty to work with if they want to extract that extra bit of performance.
Less experienced riders won't find the Hellcat quite as settled as sails like the Simmer and Gaastra as it's a much more responsive sail.
In lighter winds the Hellcat doesn’t have the ‘grunt’ that some of the other sails offer but scores extremely well for bottom end due to its efficiency. Every gust feels like it gets transferred into forward motion. Heavier, less experienced riders may prefer the reassurance of some backhand pull but more advanced and lighter weight riders will love the efficiency and forward drive that the Hellcat offers in lighter airs.
It’s noticeable when comparing these sails that the Hellcat allows the board to ride lighter in the water than any of the other sails. Almost to the point where our Clones had to edge the mast track slightly forward to compensate. This is a great trait in lighter air and choppier conditions where the board can really free up and fly.
In stronger winds the Hellcat remains very stable but the extra responsiveness and ‘lighter board’ feeling mean that the rider has to work a bit harder to keep everything on track.
Manoeuvres are a real strong point for the Hellcat. The sail is so light, balanced and smooth in rotation that it’s great fun around the corners. The shorter boom length, combined with an excellent foot shape both contribute to make (with exception of the 5 batten Exo) the best manoeuvring sail in the group.
The Hellcat strikes a great balance between straight-line speed and cornering performance, making it a strong favourite amongst our test Clones. Although slightly biased towards more advanced sailors looking for responsive performance, the Hellcat still offers very rounded freeride capabilities that will appeal to all levels of rider.
PHOTOS BY: Simon Crowther