XO is a new sail brand designed by ex-World Champion and Exocet main man, Patrice Belbeoch. Offering a range of 5 sails, the EOL features as their no-cam all-purpose freeride sail to suit a tighter budget. It stands alone in this test as the only 5-batten contender.
"No cams, and developed for all purpose sailing the EOL is the perfect sail for recreational windsurfers looking for a performing sail with an attractive price tag. Featuring the SDL the EOL is the best compromise for schools and first time speed and free ride adventures. A compromised concept with an uncompromised finish." – XO website
The XO has been designed with budget in mind and in some areas this is apparent. The most obvious example of this is the lack of reinforcement up the leech, which gives the sail a very light feel when rigged.
The clew shape of the XO is very unique. In an age where most brands are favouring a stepped clew, to reduce the boom length and keep the draft locked forward, Patrice has chosen to position the 'step' above the clew, therefore having no effect on boom length. Instead, the step coincides with the end of the ‘strip draft locker’ (SDL). The SDL features on all the sails in the XO range and is designed to prevent the draft from moving backwards in gusts.
The Luff length is fairly moderate (within this group) at 487cm whilst the boom length is second longest at 218cm. As expected with its 5-batten layout and lighter construction, the XO is the lightest sail in the group at 4.75kgs.
XO didn’t have their masts ready in time for this test, so it's important to note that the EOL was tested on a high performance NeilPryde X9 460 100% carbon mast, as Patrice chose this as the best alternative.
Setting the sail is fairly easy – it's not massively critical to set and worked well through a range of different settings. For power in lighter winds, set the sail with fairly minimal outhaul for best performance. In overpowered conditions make sure you have applied plenty of outhaul to minimise the backhand pressure.
In light and comfortably powered conditions the XO was a very good performer. Not only did it perform well, but it also had a lot of character that made it really enjoyable to use. A couple of sails in this group are very ‘dead’ in the hands. Whilst this can be an asset for less experienced riders who want a very settled ride, more ambitious and advanced riders will enjoy the extra feel you get from the XO.
The XO strikes a nice balance between being light in the hands and providing enough pull to feel reassuring in lighter winds. The sail pumps well onto the plane and also has reasonable grunt for those who want the sail to do the work for them.
In comfortable planing conditions the XO has very good speed and can hold its own with almost anything in this group (despite the 5 batten layout). Where things start to come unstuck for the XO is when the wind increases.
For a 5 batten sail, it was admittedly more stable than our Clones were expecting (perhaps due to the SDL strips), but as the wind increased, so too did the power on the backhand. When overpowered, it was the only sail in this group that felt like it could really backwind on you. Our advanced Clones could keep the sail locked in and it was just about ok (albeit a bit of a fight), but less experienced riders who can't keep the sail locked in, are likely to struggle once the wind gets strong.
In manoeuvres, the 5-batten layout, lightweight feel and soft rotation made it the single, best performing sail of this group.
The XO EOL lacks some build quality and higher wind performance but counteracts this with good pricing, light handling and great performance in moderate and lighter winds. More than we were expecting for a 5 batten sail. It’s a shame we didn’t get a chance to try the EOL with its recommended XO mast.
PHOTOS BY: Simon Crowther