Monday, 11 July 2011

Mistral SL95 RD Review

This is a fast board that you need to tame. When I bought it I was just getting confident on sub 100l boards but had never sailed a dedicated slalom board so at first I found it difficult, probably due to the extra muscles it needed in my shins. It feels quite a bit less than 95l as well. My Fanatic Freewave 95 is uphaulable without sinking, it is a similar width with what appears to be similar volume distribution, but the Mistral sinks slightly when I uphaul. I would estimate it to be about 90l. The weight is like a feather at 4.5kgs, and as such I seem to have a habit of using a Jez's Knob with it even though I dont with any other board. Maybe this is because on my first outing I catapulted and wrecked a boom at 30knots (faster than I had ever gone before possibly).

It is 59cm wide which makes it a good medium wind slalom board (15-25knots). The Mistral website states 7m being the biggest sail it will carry but I now use it with a 7.6 Tushingham x15 which actually feels perfect for it. I have used sail sizes down to a 5.8 Tushingham x15 with a 7m x15 and a 6.3 Simmer SCR. Most often I use the 7m with it, but now I am confident with the board my 7.6 is getting used more and more.

At the end of 2010 I was struggling with the board due to the very outboard footstraps and the full carbon feel. It certainly rattled my bones until I got used to driving it harder. By the first few months of 2011 I was getting on with the board a lot better, and could have much longer sessions with it without getting as tired. Now I can happily be out on it for hours without tiring or feeling under volumed.

As I have progressed with the board my optimal fin choice has changed, I started with a 34cm Simmer slalom fin made from g10 that went perfectly with my 7m. More recently I have been using a Select Caspar speed 31cm made from carbon. This Select fin really suits the board, it rarely spins out and is only difficult upwind when overpowered through chop, which in fairness most fins are. With my 7.6 I have used the Simmer fin and a 37cm Select Elite Slam S11, which was a little large by the end of the session but felt good when the wind was right for it.

My top speeds so far with the board are low 33knots but I know it will do more, a lot more. It is fast in light winds as well, one session with 18knot ish winds I had a couple of 32knot runs which surprised one of the very skilled speedsailors at our local salty lake.

In the past couple of months this board has really improved my sailing, forcing me to sail with a good stance and commitment to my gybes. It is a fantastic looking bit of kit, and will get me a 28knot nautical mile by the end of the year (I hope). I started the year rarely getting off my Starboard Kode which is a very forgiving board, in my last session I actually changed to the Mistral as the Kode felt a little slow and boring in comparison, it did however mean that I lost out on a good hour speed which in turn meant I lost a £10 bet to my cause.

These boards can be found very reasonably priced as can a lot of specialist boards, it took a while to tame but now I really enjoy sailing it.

by 'The Bus'

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