Most brands now offer three styles of wave sail. Although each loft has slight variations on the theme, nowadays they tend to be pitched along the lines of ‘power wave’, ‘all-round’ and ‘4-batten’.
The term ‘power wave’ has been around for years, and to most people it tends to imply ‘a sail for heavier riders’. Examples of this style of sail would include the Gaastra Poison, NeilPryde Atlas and North Duke. ‘All-round’ sails are 5-batten models designed for use in all conditions, and include sails such as the Gaastra Manic, NeilPryde Combat and North Ice. The 4-batten sails are generally focused towards frontside riding, such as the Naish Boxer, Simmer Black Tip and NeilPryde Fly.
So, based on this thinking, you may as well stop reading if you weigh less than 85kg, as these power wave sails are not for you. But is this really the case? Are they really just for heavier riders? Let’s see what some of the brands have to say…
WHAT IS A POWER WAVE SAIL?
Take it away...
RRD: ‘Power wave’ is now the generic name applied to these sails, but in truth our sail is fairly all-round – it just offers a slightly more locked-in and drivey feel with a bit more pressure in the hands to suit riders who like that kind of feel. Many riders – light and heavy – like a bit of grunt in the hands for their moves and riding, but we made sure this wasn’t so much that it pulls you off your feet. You can also get away with using a slightly smaller sail, which is always nice for wavesailing.
GAASTRA: They’re not just for heavyweights; lighter riders can also enjoy the advantages of the extra power in onshore conditions with a lot of current, or as a bump-and-jump sail when there are no waves.
SIMMER: It’s not only for heavier riders. It’s for anyone that likes to have more horsepower to control. Our power wave sail is also more lockedin than our other sails, and this gives a feeling of stability that many people like.
NAISH: The original concept was to blend shaping that produced early planing and speed with an outline that was ideal for wavesailing. This is primarily an advantage for larger riders (who tend to suffer at the bottom of the wind range), and a boon in onshore conditions. But the sails quickly proved themselves to be ideal for ‘power surfers’ of all sizes – guys with an aggressive, two-handed approach to waveriding. Robby Naish is a perfect example of this style. So I’d recommend the Force for most heavy riders and any sailor that likes to feel solid pressure in both hands (as opposed to relying on the sail to go ‘neutral’) while they’re riding. The early planing and speed are also a huge advantage for sailors who predominantly ride in onshore conditions.
SEVERNE: We don’t actually call the Blade a ‘power wave’ sail – we call it a control-oriented wave sail, as opposed to our manoeuvre-oriented wave sail which is the S-1. So it’s definitely not just for heavy riders.
POINT-7: Power wave sails can be for anyone. Having extra power in the sail can have advantages for all sailors depending on the conditions they sail in, their style or how they express themselves when wavesailing. A lighter sailor can enjoy a power wave sail as they may find the drive and pressure points better suited to their sailing. Also, they can use a size smaller rather than using a less powerful sail in a bigger size.
There is a general theme running throughout these responses indicating that modern power wave sails are differentiated not by the weight of sailor they’re designed for, but actually by the style of rider they’re designed to suit. Generally they do have more power than other wave sails (which naturally suits heavier riders), but it’s the way in which this power is delivered that defines them. These sails tend to deliver power a little more towards the back hand and with a more stable, direct response. This therefore makes them suitable for all sizes of sailor looking for this kind of power delivery.
But what about this ‘back-hand power’? Backhand power generally gives a sail a more powerful feel (as you get to feel a reassuring pull that you can use like a throttle), but it also makes the sail feel a bit heavier in the hands and sometimes less manoeuvrable. So why do we really need back-hand pull in a power wave sail?
What the brands say…
SIMMER: The Iron has the longest boom settings of all our wave sails. To keep the centre of effort in the same place on all Simmer sails (percentagewise) will mean that it’s further back on the Iron than our other wave sails. If I use the Iron with my harness lines positioned further back then I find it very balanced with no back-hand pressure issues. The power could be further forward, but that reduces horsepower and defeats the purpose of a power wave sail in my opinion.
GOYA: A power wave sail should never feel back-handed. Although the power delivery is centred a little further aft on the Eclipse compared to the Guru, if you position your harness lines accordingly there should be no back-hand pressure. As a side note, centring the power a little further aft on the Eclipse creates a richer, wider reaching power source that keeps lifting throughout a wide range of sheeting angles.
SEVERNE: The back-handed feeling can give the impression of power. A sail doesn’t have to be back-handed to be powerful, and our design focus is on making the Blade pull forwards rather than sideways.
GAASTRA: Rather than ‘back-handed’ we’re talking about a more direct feeling. A little backhand helps to give a more positive feedback from the sail, which is helpful when you’re sailing back out from the inside where the wind is gustier and you need to cross the white water.
NORTH: This is really the core question when deciding about your new sail. Therefore you first have to decide on which board you’ll use your sail on – single-fin or multi-fin?
TUSHINGHAM: Power on the back hand needs to be carefully controlled otherwise it’s just drag. A little back-hand pressure gets the board planing earlier though.
POINT-7: Our Sado 2G isn’t back-handed. It has a forward drive. Sails can be powerful without any back-hand pressure. It’s a matter of how the profile and leech work in the sail. Not having back-hand pressure gives great advantages on the cutback, and especially when sailing with multi-fin boards.
It seems that the designers broadly agree that no sail should feel overly ‘back-handed’, yet bringing the power further back in the sail is a characteristic that in some ways defines most of these power wave sails. But how much scope for tuning do these sails actually have? Are they designed for just one set, or do we have the scope to adjust the power position and delivery through tuning? From our testing it seems that some sails are very tunable (scored as tuning flexibility) and work with a wide range of settings, while others work best with just one set. What’s perhaps just as interesting is how much wind range a sail can take under one setting (we call this ‘untuned range’). For example, in the UK, where conditions can often be gusty, we don’t want to keep coming ashore and retuning for every gust and lull. We want a sail that works across a wide untuned range. It’s quite interesting to see how the brands’ opinions on this subject differ…
What the brands say…
SIMMER: A sail has got to be tunable. One sail can’t do it all, it’s got to have a variety of settings to meet various conditions and rider styles.
GOYA: I recommend a single downhaul setting. This establishes the correct twist profile and control factor in the sail, which is always of prime importantance regardless of the wind strength. Then I recommend adjusting the outhaul setting to control the amount of power in the sail. With the sail fully downhauled and the outhaul neutral position, +1cm of outhaul will give a full and powerful profile and +3cm will give a finer, more neutral feeling profile.
MAUI SAILS: Our goal is to deliver a tunable sail for superior function and performance. Tunable sails deliver more range at higher levels of performance compared to ‘one set’ sails.
NORTH: We aim to have both: a wide ‘natural’ wind range plus a tunable wind range to squeeze even more out of our sails. We regard having a wide wind range as the most important performance criteria.
NAISH: A properly tuned sail rarely needs to be adjusted, but it is nice to be able to retune to extend the range of a given size. Naish sails have a pretty wide tuning range – the result of very balanced and evolved design parameters – and it definitely is an advantage.
GAASTRA: Sure, tunability is a plus. Not only for different conditions, but also depending on personal style and taste. Some prefer a bigger sail with a more tensioned trim, others a smaller one with less tension.
TUSHINGHAM: We’ve always tried to have a wide tuning range not just to allow sailors to adjust power to suit the conditions, but also to enable them to find the feel that suits their personal style.
SEVERNE: I think it’s important for this style of sail to have a wide range of performance on a single setting so that it’s as easy as possible for anyone to get maximum performance out of their sail. From our testing we’d say that while some of these sails are more tunable than others, the core characteristics of the sail don’t really change with tuning. For example, if the sail naturally seems to have the draft a little further back you can tune it a little either side, but you can’t make it a fronthanded sail just by tuning.
SIZE OF RELIEF
So, having established that these sails generally have the draft a little further back and have more power, you can see the real advantage in lighter, bigger sail weather. But it does beg the question of whether you really need a power wave sail in, say, 4.5m weather? Surely when it’s that windy, power isn’t really a problem?
What the brands say…
RRD: It’s more a question of feel. As said, the Super Style offers a more locked-in feel, driving the board better and generally moving around the break faster.
SIMMER: Power wave sails offer stability and control, and the possibility of using a sail size smaller.
NAISH: First off, I’d say that the power wave sail is the all-round sail – it has the widest range, and the low end is a big part of defining a sail’s versatility. Beyond that there are many good reasons to use smaller sizes. A lighter rider who surfs with a power style will need smaller sizes in given conditions, and a heavier rider will still need the low end in stronger winds to get through the lulls. Additionally, it’s nice to keep the ‘feel’ of the sails consistent throughout your quiver.
GAASTRA: Even in strong winds the conditions are gusty, so heavier riders will take advantage of the added power of this sail. The extra stability is also a plus for jumping.
SEVERNE: The Blade is our all-round wave sail. It’s designed for control, not power.
MAUI SAILS: The goal is delivering clear performance advantages in each sail range. The smaller sizes in the Global range are purpose-built to deliver all-round performance with an emphasis on power required for multi angle wavesailing.
GOYA: It’s the power delivery. The Eclipse delivers power very quickly when you sheet in after transitions, jumps and manoeuvres. There’s almost no delay – you sheet in and the sail just goes. Again, it comes back to a question of preference. If you like the feel of this style of sail, then they’re quite applicable even for well powered up, small sail conditions. They may even offer the opportunity of using a smaller sized sail, thanks to that extra power. However, once using sizes below 5.0m, lighter riders in waves may find that they’re better off opting for sails with the pull position further forward to give them more control. If you’re planning to use the sail for high wind bump-and-jump or flat water use, then the more locked-in feel, firmer profile and generally higher stability of these power waves tend to make them the most applicable option. While there’s no doubting that they’re generally designed for wave use, it seems that the characteristics that make them good for this purpose also lend themselves well to flat-water use in high winds.
NAISH: The wide range and excellent allround performance characteristics make them ideal for both, and in our internal testing we’re always looking for that magic combination of characteristics that delivers both specific wave performance and an all-around great sail.
GAASTRA: These sails are designed for wave use, but they’re also great in flat water for strong wind bump-and-jump. They’re light, stable and controllable.
RRD: The power wave sail is actually great for almost everyone. We tested these sails a lot with our freestyle-wave boards and found that the low end power helps get the bigger boards up and going quicker, and is also better at driving the board in classic bump-and-jump conditions too.
SEVERNE: The Blade has been designed specifically for waves, but the control and stability make it well suited to any high-wind use.
So there you have it. It almost goes without saying that these power wave sails are the obvious choice for heavier riders, but it seems that there’s a lot more to them than that. They’re generally designed to be the most powerful and stable of the wave sails, but it’s that ‘feeling’ of power which makes them applicable to all sizes of sailor – and particularly onshore conditions. For purist wavesailors it’s a matter of personal preference whether you’d rather feel locked-in power or a lighter, more manoeuvrable feeling sail. For others who intend to use their sail for high wind bump-and-jump and even flat water, the characteristics of these power wave sails make them the most applicable of all the styles of wave sail.
We know, we know – this is probably the boring bit for you, but for us it’s massively important. We took nearly 50 rigs (including this test) with us to the Canary Islands in July, which as you can imagine is a logistical nightmare.
When you test sails you need to leave them rigged every night. If you don’t, too much time is wasted rigging and derigging them all each day. This means that when we plan a test trip, not only do we need somewhere with suitable conditions, but we need to be based out of a centre generous (or perhaps stupid?!?) enough to let us clutter their premises through the busiest period of their year with 50 rigs (plus of course all the boards). OTC Tenerife have hosted us for the past two years running, and I’d like to extend a massive thanks for all their help. Many of the sails tested here are now in stock at their centre, so if you wish to try any of them first-hand, get in touch via otc-windsurf.com
We’d also like to thank RRD for supplying boards for this test to ensure that we could match the sails with suitable boards. They were kind enough to supply us with duplicate Quad Cult 92s, Wave Twin 82s and Freestyle-Wave 85s so we could test the sails with a range of different styles of board. More at robertoriccidesigns.com