The problem with testing 4.7m sails, is that you need 4.7m weather. Now that might seem obvious, but when testing boards, you can use them through a much bigger wind range with a variety of sails.
So this year we decided to increase our chances of getting this sail test done by asking for 4.2 & 4.7 sizes of each sail. Thank goodness we did because September absolutely howled and we spent more time on the 4.2’s than we did on the 4.7’s!
Getting the chance to try two sizes from a range has given us a much better overall impression of the range and eliminates some of the idiosyncrasies that might exist between sizes.
This test includes twelve of the main wave sails on the market. These sails are targeted at all-round wave sailing. Our 5.3m test will focus instead on the power wave sails from each brand.
Its fair to say that there isn’t a single bad sail in this test. There are however not two sails the same and from one extreme to the other, there are some massive differences in how the sails feel and work on the water. You should therefore use this test to help you identify which sail is going to match your style and sailing conditions the best.
Enjoy the test!
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.
We have been refining it over the past 12 months and 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.
We have already tested the 2009 models of Tushinghams Rock (check out last years 4.7 and 5.3 test) and they aren’t updating the Rock until around Jan this year so it seemed pointless to test it again. We hope to bring you a ‘first impressions‘ as soon as we can get our hands on one.
CONSTRUCTION & DURABILITY
With most sail prices somewhere between £400 and £550 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.
Luckily for us, the UK delivered amazing conditions through the end of August and into September. Most of the testing has been conducted at Rhosneigr in everything from 4.2 side shore with logo high waves right through to underpowered bang onshore 4.7 and knee high waves - more typical UK conditions!
We also had a few days at a secret down-the-line spot in mid-Wales to get a feel for how the sails worked in proper wave riding conditions.
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.
Starboard have lead the way with getting Quad fins into production this year. After our initial impressions on the 81 litre version revealed the great potential they had for all-round wave sailing, we decided on a Quiver of 76 litre Quad convertible boards for this test. Our clones used both quad and single fin set-ups to put these 12 sails through their paces.
This year North have supplied us with a quiver of Power XT RDM extensions to conduct the wave sail testing with. The ease of tuning at the waters edge made these absolutely invaluable in experimenting with each sails range of settings.