CHASING FREEDOM

Windsurf|Issue 395 - May 2020

CHASING FREEDOM
Whilst daily life is changing by the minute, the kit for the latest test managed to arrive in time for the test team to get out on the water before the lockdown. On the menu this month is no-cam freeride contenders … and here is the test team’s findings.
Tris Best, Maurin Rottenwalter, Joe North & Dan Hallam

FINDINGS

Whilst the ‘no-cam freerace’ sail category looks rather straightforward at first glance, the inter-pretation by each brand leads them down their own individual design pathways, resulting in some very different options on the market. It’s not a bad situation at all for you or I, the end consumer, but an important step is to unpick what’s available and make sure you get the sail (and performance) appropriate for your sailing ability and style. Freeride, performance freeride, freerace or no-cam slalom … call it what you will, the brief for all the sails is largely made up of the search for the same qualities: ease of use (both on land, whilst rigging, and on water), performance (straight-line and around corners) and range. The varying emphasis that each loft puts upon these qualities ultimately determines the sort of sail they end up with in their lineup. Some have focussed on ease of use, making their product super user-friendly, requiring minimal technical input in fine-tuning or on the water. Others have focussed on top end performance, designing their sail to feel fiercely competitive in a straight-line. Others have targeted the other end of the wind spectrum and charged their sail with the minerals to push bottom end grunt to get planing as early as possible. Finding a balance between all the qualities is a focus for some therefore, aiming to give their sail top honours in the ‘all-rounder’ category.

The point worth making is that all these sails work incredibly well, regardless of any particular leaning they may have. There simply are no duds here. The ability to vary luff curves, use new materials in critical panels or employ specific shaping techniques, to achieve the right feel and power delivery, has become a real art form. Spending time on the water with these sails has left us in no doubt that each brand is 100% focussed on this sector of the market. And rightly so, considering it is the largest.

Summary:

Duotone have introduced a new 3-in-1 concept in the E_Pace, with its reduced luff curve and wide tuning range, aimed at delivering performance in light wind freeride, high wind freerace and wind-foiling. And we have to say it works very well indeed. Just be prepared to spend time experimenting with its set to fully appreciate its capabilities. At the other end of the scale, the GA Sails Hybrid is a straightforward plug-and-play freeride engine, requiring minimal fuss or knowledge in tuning. Just rig in minutes and enjoy getting out on the water! And if the Hybrid should be deemed passive in nature, the Goya is the ‘Yang’ to GA Sails’ ‘Yin’.

The Mark Pro is active in encouraging rider involvement and provides a captivating ride that the more energetic sailor will thrive with. The Cheetah from Ezzy has been refined for 2020, using lighter more exacting materials to produce a similar change in its feel and response. It still provides a familiar constant drive and feedback, yet offers more precision in its delivery. Onto two sails that deserve high acclaim for their top end performances, we have the Speedster from Neil Pryde and the AC-X from Point-7. Both are electric and inspiring when fully powered, yet have subtly different methods in achieving their performance. The Speedster uses some careful engineering to cement the position of the sail’s centre of effort further back and around the rider, refining the entry of its leading edge and the rest of the sail’s twist pattern. It makes the sail such an efficient and seductive engine to use, making use of every iota of the wind’s energy. The AC-X on the other hand uses an understated but intelligent luff panel addition that serves to take control of the sail’s character the stronger the wind becomes. That leaves the three all-rounders in the group - the Loftsails Oxygen, Gunsails Rapid and RRD Fire. All three work well across impressive wind ranges, are compatible with varying board types and with different rider abilities / sailing styles. RRD has refocussed the Fire’s remit to commission its newfound versatility; the Rapid, like all Gunsails tested so far this season, represents excellent value for money; and the Oxygen has such poise and tactility across an extraordinary natural range that it can’t help but bring a smile to your face.

And ultimately, that ‘smile on your face’ is the core value or goal of this ‘freerace’ sail category. More than that, it’s the sole underlying attraction of our beloved sport. All these sails are designed primarily to get you out on the water … to experience the great outdoors and have an adventure. And I can tell you now, that liberating life-affirming sensation of blasting across the water is not going to be lost on any of us when we return to the water soon. Stay safe everyone.

THE LINEUP

• DUOTONE E_PACE 7.3

• EZZY CHEETAH 7.5

• GA SAILS HYBRID 7.2

• GOYA MARK PRO 7.2

• GUNSAILS RAPID 7.2

• LOFTSAILS OXYGEN 7.3

• NEIL PRYDE SPEEDSTER 7.2

• POINT-7 AC-X 7.5

• RRD FIRE 7.6

Duotone E_PACE 7.3

WEB WWW.DUOTONESPORTS.COM PRICE £589 HD £689

THE VERDICT

With its unique luff curve and tuning capacity, the E_Pace can dramatically change its character, fulfilling various roles. From light wind master, to high wind blaster or a wind-foiling secret weapon, the E_Pace excels, without falling into the ‘compromised’ trap of becoming a ‘Jack of all trades, but master of none’.

OVERVIEW

The E_Pace comes into the Duotone lineup for 2020, taking over from the E_Type. Its architecture has been refined to present what the brand are calling a ‘3 in 1 design’ - an increased tuning range for bottom-end freeride grunt, top-end freerace efficiency and also a set specifically designed for foiling use. Described as an ‘athletic freeride sail’, it is said to be easy to rig and set, providing the impetus to get planing without pumping; light handling in transition, yet with the speed of a no-cam freerace at its top end. At the heart of this versatility is the sail’s luff curve, which has been reduced further still from its predecessor, the mast becoming nigh on straight in the top third. It has quite noticeably the least amount of luff curve of all the sails on test here, indicative of the brand pushing the envelope of development in the freeride sector. The idea is to significantly change the looseness and twist present in the sail as downhaul is applied. On minimal set, the leech remains tight along most of its length, whilst reducing any pre-tension in the mast. Plus, the addition of the lower clew eyelet, specifically for foiling, forces the sail even more upright for work in the lightest airs. Downhaul the sail to its maximum setting and the leech falls away right down to batten five, just above the boom. Whatever the set though, there is relatively little shape to the E_Pace’s profile at rest, the four lower battens retaining an extraordinary amount of rotation around the mast, even on its maximum setting. Well detailed and finished, the E_Pace features many of the brand’s established concepts, such as the hollowed lower leech, iRocket 2.0 (factory pre-tensioned and calibrated battens), and their patent-pending VTS 2.0 - a patch that can be used to mark an individual’s personal settings, so that they no longer need to judge the set by looking at the top panel markings. Available as standard in two colourways, it is also produced in a monofilm-free HD model, priced with an extra £100.00 markup.

BRAND CLAIM

“There is no no-cam sail out there covering a larger trim - and wind range than the E_Pace!”

PERFORMANCE

Set for light marginal winds, with little looseness along its trailing edge, the E_Pace delivers an incredible amount of grunt and response. It feels light and easy at rest, almost disguising its size, but as soon as pressure builds, the pull and feedback is remarkable. Dare to pump and it’s as if every square centimetre of the sail’s cloth is engaged and being used; and with its built-in softness, the sail helps to connect the rider with the mast’s direct reflex and punch. The centre of effort is high and forward, making the delivery clear and obvious and yet there’s an ease and progressive practicality to it, so that it doesn’t pull the rider to their toes. It found real favour in the OTC centre when used by larger riders on wider more stubborn boards, where the low-end torque enabled them to make the most of marginal conditions. And as the sail is eased out, its light handling returns, making it a fantastic tutor for the more nervous passenger round the corners. An increase in wind strength can be met with extra tension, fully utilising the E_Pace’s twist potential, which goes all the way down to the clew. Locking stability and structure in place, the E_Pace willingly adapts to a high-end freerace role, the energy still coming from a relatively high position in the draft, helping to generate lift and flight on the fin. It’s not the most natural freerace engine, and in flat water drag races was left behind when compared to some in this group. But take the fight into turbulent seas and the built in softness of the E_Pace’s delivery began to claw back ground, the sail moving around the rider and enabling them to maintain their committed stance. We also had the opportunity to use the E_Pace for foiling and have to say its tuning range makes it a marvel to use in this fast-evolving discipline, its diverse set making it a first-rate one-sail solution for variable conditions and roles.

VITAL STATS

Size: 7.3 Luff: 472 cm Boom: 205 cm Battens: 6 Ideal Mast: Duotone 460 cm SDM Available Sizes: 5.4,5.8,6.2,6.6,7.3,7.8,8.2.

EZZY SAILS CHEETAH 7.5

WEB WWW.EZZY.COM PRICE £740

THE VERDICT

Delivering smooth constant dependable power over a staggering wind range, the new Cheetah has a newfound crispness to its delivery, with a quality in craftsmanship and detailing that makes it so distinctly Ezzy

OVERVIEW

The Cheetah remains in the Ezzy lineup for 2020 as their “fast, easy, no-cam freeride sail”. It has had a little facelift, shedding around 230 grams, largely thanks to the introduction of a new wide-spaced x-ply scrim in the main window. Otherwise the design has evolved from its predecessor, holding onto many of David Ezzy’s signature features, whilst pushing ease of use and performance. Concepts such as the ‘endo-batten’ design (now commonplace and referred to by many as ‘integrated battens’) has been present in Ezzy’s sail for years, ensuring the sail’s profile symmetry between tacks. Material quality is scrutinised by Ezzy more than most, the quality and craftsmanship of the sail clear to see up close. Each sail is individually rigged, calibrated and signed-off before leaving the brand’s exclusive Sri Lankan factory, (adding a neat little colour-coordinated sail keyring around the tack strap with the QC label). Compatible with both SDM and RDM, the sail has markings in its upper panel for guidance when using alternative mast brands, or the calibrated markings provided in the tack work superbly with the Ezzy 460 cm RDM. With plenty of tuning range on both outhaul and downhaul, the Cheetah displays Ezzy’s signature panel pre-shaping, with incredible depth up most of its leading edge, the battens either side of the boom retaining the lightest contact with the mast.

BRAND CLAIM

The Cheetah sets the standard for camless freeride sails. Shape is sewn into the panels to create the Cheetah’s deep, wing-like profile and stable, lockedin power.” David Ezzy.

PERFORMANCE

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Issue 395 - May 2020