Getting the action photographs for this test has been a painful business - literally! We started this test in September. Whilst in Tiree during October, we managed to photograph most of our tests for the year, however we didn’t get conditions for the 4.7m photo shoot.
So we waited and we waited and all we got was wind and rain. By December the test was completed, but still no photographs. On Dec 12th, we arrived on Rhosneigr beach to be met by 4.0m weather and 4-degree air temperature! It was clearly too windy and too cold, but we needed the photographs, so the Clones and I rigged up and got on with it. 15 minutes into the photographs, I landed a back loop badly and broke my left ankle. That was the end of the photo shoot and the end of my sailing for 3 months.
Thanks to one of the worst winters ever for UK windsurfing, it has taken an incredible 3 full months since then to finally get the action pictures sorted for this test.
It is therefore with some relief (and huge thanks to photographer Simon Crowther and the test Clones for their perseverance) that exactly 3 months to the day, we finally manage to launch this test, accompanied by my first day back on the water after the injury. What a winter!
How do you Test a Sail?
The thing about testing wave sails is that each person likes something different! So how can you test sails and say which is the best? The simple answer is that you can’t really– it’s mostly down to personal preference.
With this in mind, we have focused this test into describing the characteristics of each sail, allowing you to make the best choice based on your own preferences.
To make the choice easier for you, we have developed a very cool interactive ‘selection tool’ that will allow you to describe the characteristics that you like in a sail and then be presented with the closest matches from within the test.
It really does work well, so give it a try here.
The Test Group
This 4.7m sail test is aimed mostly at ‘side-shore’ and ‘all-round’ wave sails. In some instances we have chosen 2 different sail ranges from a brand if we considered their ranges to have wide enough interest.
Our 5.3m test, to follow in a few weeks time, focuses mostly on the ‘Power wave’ sails within each brands range.
Unfortunately, we were unable to get hold of 2009 models from GUN SAILS and GOYA for the start deadline of this test.
Construction & Durability
With most sail prices somewhere between £400 and £500 in this test, you might be wondering why we haven’t scored build quality/ durability in any way. The simple answer is that it's very difficult. In the relatively short period that we have these sails, it’s not possible to get an accurate measure of how a sail might hold up over time.
In future we plan to comment on the thickness of materials, reinforcements, stitching etc etc, but for now we decided it's best not to comment at all rather than make inaccurate judgements. So we have intentionally avoided this subject within the test.
These sails have had a lot of use by our Clones in a wide range of conditions. They were tested in cross-on port tack conditions of Rhosneigr (North Wales), cross-off conditions at a little spot near Barmouth (North Wales) and cross-off conditions in Brandon Bay, Ireland. We would like to thank Jamie Knox for his hospitality and for tolerating our domestically challenged Clones whilst they stayed with him in Brandon Bay.
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: Flexible <-------> Firm
Explanation: Describes whether the sail feels soft and flexible in your hands or firmer and more stiffly foiled. FLEXIBLE = + lots of feedback and feel - might not hold shape so well in gusts and stronger winds FIRM = + Good for stronger winds, power and control as the rig holds shape well - Can lack feel and sometimes more difficult to de-power.
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: Back <----------> Front
Explanation: Describes whether the sail feels more front hand or back hand pulling. BACK = + Usually preferred by heavier/stronger riders - Can be hard work in strong winds and down the line wave riding. FRONT = + Great for high wind control and down the line wave riding - Can make the sail appear powerless in lighter winds.
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 tunable 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.
We decided that it was important to test these sails with both single and twin fin wave boards as the difference in riding style and power delivery can bear some factor on performance. We chose to use the super versatile GOYA ONE 77 (which didn’t quite make it in time for our 75 litre wave test) as our single fin and the hugely popular Quatro 75 Twin Fin.
All brands are asked to supply their own masts and extensions for the test, whilst we use our own boom/s to ensure consistency of feel etc.