Ok, ok, we know that 2010 equipment launches are just around the corner, so you may be wondering why we are only now releasing this test on 2009 power wave sails.
Well the honest answer is that we are late! This has been our first year of testing and our focus has been on providing accurate and detailed test reports. Next year we will make sure that the detail is maintained but will be providing them a lot sooner in the product year.
Anyway, enough excuses. We know plenty of you buy clearance or second hand so we are pretty sure that this test will still appeal.
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 5.3m sail test is aimed mostly at power wave sails as opposed to the ‘side-shore’ and ‘all-round’ wave sails we tested in our 4.7 test. In some instances we have chosen 2 different sail ranges from a brand if we considered their ranges to have wide enough interest.
We are aware that these Power Wave sails have quite a large range of use which includes lighter weight riders in onshore wave conditions, heavyweight riders in sideshore conditions, any weight of rider for freestyle and also in some cases high wind blasting on flat water. We have taken this into account when testing the sails and whilst the focus of this test is on wave use we have tried to give indication of how the sails might perform for freestyle and flat water use.
Unfortunately, the production cycle of Gun Sails is different from the other brands, so we were unable to get hold of 2009 models for the start deadline of this test. However, we are already receiving sails for our 2010 test and we have Gun Sails in there.
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.
As usual we have put in a lot of time on these sails to make sure we have the feel of them in a wide range of conditions. They have been tested in Tiree (Scotland), Brandon Bay (Ireland), Dublin (Ireland) and Rhosneigr (Wales), so have been put through their paces in a wide range of 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.
Because of the wide range of use that these sails are applicable for we used two styles of board for the testing. We chose two identical RRD Wave Cult 80's for wave testing and RRD Freewave 85’s for flatter water/more onshore conditions. Both boards were excellent and with RRDs in-built formula for ‘ease of use’ they were perfect for testing these sails.
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.