Mar 19, 2013
Author: Derek Rijff / Photos by Clark Merritt
All the hype these days in wavesails seems to be revolving around the latest hardcore sails with four battens. They are helping pros push their sailing to new heights and get the most out of their quad-fin waveboards. But for most of us, sailing in less than ideal waves or, more likely, single-fin boards in bump-and-jump conditions, these sails may not help us out. Of course, that goes without mentioning anything about the difference in skill between a pro and the average sailor. For the majority of people, a little bit of power from the sail is needed not just to get planing easily but also to balance against when we’ve popped up from a waterstart, for support coming in and out of jibes, and certainly when we get into the waves for the first time and are doing our best to carve the perfect bottom turn. The perfect highwind sail is what has become known as a power wavesail.
As the name suggests, these sails have more power than the specialized wavesails designed purely for down-the-line waveriding. That’s not to say they are so much more powerful that you can rig a smaller size sail and still get planing; it’s that their power is more accessible. Most of the hardcore wavesails have a flat profile while they lay on the beach and take a decent amount of wind to expand them before they take shape and start generating power. A power wavesail will often have some seam-shaping sewn in so there is a noticeable draft to it while it sits on the beach, or at least have some elasticity to its feel and a longer boom. All of these design traits help to generate power quickly so that a rider immediately has something to balance against, as well as some power to make things happen when they’re planing.
The Aerotech Phantom 5.0 is a six-batten power wavesail. The extra batten makes it by far the most stable and locked-in feeling sail of the bunch, but that's not to say it’s just a bump-and-jump sail. A short boom and forward draft give it a light feel that makes it more maneuverable than one would expect. The Sailworks Revoluton 5.2 and Naish Force 5.3 also use a short boom length to increase maneuverability. Both of these sails balance best on single-fin boards that prefer the rail to carve turns, instead of a multitude of fins. The Force is a bit softer, giving you great control of its power at any moment. The Revo powers up more quickly, and its stiffness helps make it a great choice for powered-up bump-and-jump sailing, as well. The Goya Eclipse 5.3 is another sail that has some seam shape sewn in for low-end power, and like the Force, uses softness to keep the power in check and allow the sail to be turned on or off. The longer boom gives you an immediate sense of power from the sail, and it’s amazing how this power can be so well-controlled on the wave, where a slight oversheet gets it to de-power like a much flatter sail. The sail with the most noticeable seam shaping is the new four-batten Ezzy Panther Elite 5.3. Its power is constant yet never overbearing, and it lets you charge both waves and bump-and-jump conditions as hard as you can.
Moving on, the sails get a bit flatter in their on-the-beach look, but through other features they still find ways to get all the power you need into your hands. The Severne Gator 5.3 and MauiSails Global 5.0 don’t use any one power-gaining element to an extreme, but as a result end up simply being great all-around sails. They’re not the absolute lightest, most stable or quickest to power up or de-power, but they can enter the conversation for being near the top for all of these traits. The Global has a slightly more maneuverable feel, with its higher foot making it a better wavesail, while the stiffness of the Gator gives it a better top end for bump-and-jump (but we’re really splitting hairs here to make a distinction). We’d call the Hot Sails Maui FireLight 5.3 a great all-around sail, as well, except for the fact that its extreme lightweight stands out even more. The Firelight makes your board feel more lively and ready to get up onto a plane. Then, at speed it gives you the confidence to ride aggressively or try new moves, as keeping the rig upright doesn’t seem like nearly as much of a chore. The NeilPryde Combat 5.0 has a flatter profile then the other test sails, and provides all-around performance that’s hard to argue with. It takes more sail-handling experience to get the most out of it, and the payoff is a well-balanced sail with impeccable handling and efficiency. The four-batten North Idol 5.0 is so light, like the firelight, that it makes your board so much more efficient you’re likely to get planing earlier. It may have a less powerful feel than the other test sails, but it will perform whether you want to ride waves, bump-and-jump or freestyle conditions.
Links to Individual Test Write-ups (just CLICK and READ):