Tuesday, 11 October 2011

Exocet SL Sport Boards, XO Silver line sails and Black Project fins. Review stage 2, powered up 'speedsurfing'


This next part of the review process is about getting to know the kit in a variety of conditions. This article discusses the first outing in constant Force 4 gusting to Force 5 winds, good both in terms of direction and strength. For a first 'full-on' session I was pleased with the outcome, both myself and Portland Pirates team mate, workhorse and dedicated all round windsurfer Pete Young had good speeds from the boards considering they are big pieces of kit.


The first day out I was with a team mate, Pete Young at Portland Harbour, results for the day can be found here on GPS-Speedsurfing.com. We shared the kit, he used the Exocet SL Sport 78, paired with a 7.8m Simmer SCR race sail and the BlackProject fins Type R 42.5cm fin. I used the Exocet SL Sport 66, with the  XO 7.8m Silver line sail  and the BlackProject fins Type R 37.5cm fin.


Across the wind, lining up for a gybe the board follows every instruction
This was the first time out in good winds, with wind speeds approximately 15-18knots near the shore where we sail. The wind was WSW with neap low tide, so the water was reasonably flat with a little chop further out. These are nice conditions, not ideal for speed but good for distance and gybing. I say not ideal for speed, but Pete came in with a 2second peak of 33.67knots, and a 500m run of 30.65knots. This is truly a good speed for a mere mortal considering the size of the board and fin. He will not comment on this yet as he must get to know the kit fully, changing one key part at a time, I could call him the technical advisor for these reviews.

I jumped in head first as usual and went out with the full new set up. At first I felt like the centre of effort was moving around a lot in the sail so I added a touch more downhaul (I set it as discussed in the previous articles, at what I expect will be medium, about 1cm gap between the pulleys). This really settled the sail and it felt much better.

As the session progressed I really enjoyed the gybing ability of the board, it made me feel better at gybing with many full planing gybes, all quite a wide arc though. What is interesting when I look at my GPS tracks is the Alpha results are a lot more consistent. For those who don't know, and Alpha is a 500m run with a gybe half way, you must return within 50m of the start. This is why I know about the arc part of the gybe. My sessions this year have seen my Alpha speed personal best go from 17knots to nearly 21knots. Most sessions I would get one or two really good (for me) gybes in that were 18 or 19knots. In this session I am referencing today I did 7 Alphas over 18 knots with 4 over 19. This shows my consistency is improving, and in my experience that is down to the board and fin. I do not find the sail a big influence on my Alpha result but find that the board and fin are crucial. The board tracks really well through the gybe and the fin holds the desired course without losing grip at all. Both the board and fin are not too sensitive to foot pressure which allows the intermediate a lot of forgiveness while learning to gybe properly, while the advanced sailor can be sure of a fast entry and exit from the gybe, with the board staying flat throughout.

Around the gybe it is easy to keep sheeted in and keep the nose down
On downwind runs I could feel the combination light up, the board stayed flat, true and firm underfoot. The BlackProject fin held well on all points of sailing. Upwind over chop it is a dream fin, there is an ever so slight warning it occasionally gives to stop putting so much pressure on it, almost like a little tap on your rear foot. I tried to spin it out on one occasion when this happened and it just turned me further upwind into a stall. Downwind (110-120deg) over flat water and chop it is comfortable, on the occasion a gust hits where usually I would feel over-finned as the tail jumps out of the water with the lift I still had the confidence required to keep sheeted in for a faster top speed.

The board/sail combination is very easy to keep raked back to go slightly into the wind
It took me months of speedsurfing to get my Starboard Kode112l (68cm) over 30knots, in all fairness it is a freestyle wave board. It has a very similar shape to the Exocet SL Sport 66 but the Exocet has the much sharper rails that you would expect from a slalom/freerace board. This is where I found a niggle that is still happening occasionally 4 sessions later. The 'shoulders' of the board, about 20-40cm in front of the mast track sometimes catch, and it can be quite scary if you are hammering at close to 30knots over 1-2foot chop. This is a problem I have not found with the Kode, probably due to much softer rails. It is also a problem I do not have with my smaller slalom boards, perhaps due to thinner profiles and being easier to tame at those speeds. Where I say they catch, it is a really strange sensation I find hard to describe, it sends a sort of wobble through the point of sailing, I have tried getting it on video but it never happens when the camera is recording. It is not like they dig in, they just redirect you slightly. Currently I am trying different fin combinations with the 7.8 silver sail and will report back in a future article if I have found a solution.

To conclude I took the Exocet SL Sport 66cm to over 30knots on this first true outing, which I felt to be quite an achievement for myself with such a big sail, medium board and medium fin combination. The sail settled down a lot with the extra downhaul, adjustable outhaul complimented it and added to the top end of the sail. Too much negative outhaul does not benefit this sail though like it does with full race sails, I think it may be something to do with the different shape above the clew. It does not need too much negative outhaul to have a deep profile either. It rotates well with the matching mast (I will do a full article on the rotation of the sail with a range of 3 different mast curve, stiff top, constant curve, flex top, from different manufacturers. I think this sort of thing will help everyone choose the correct sails for their masts). Again I really enjoyed using the BlackProject fin, it is a design that you can be very confident with, I have never taken a fin bigger than 35cm above 30knots before either so that is another good bit of evidence in my book to get one when I have the pennies. 

In more recent sessions that will be discussed in a future article I have beaten my nautical mile PB 3 times over 3 consecutive days. For a few months I have been trying to crack my average NM of 24.9knots. By the end of this past week it is now 25.9knots......so 26 is now the goal. However Speed Week at Portland Harbour is starting soon. It will be interesting to see if this kit will help me win the novice category, I have never entered an event competition before and feel (probably naively) confident seeing as I have been on the harbour 75times and windsurfed over 1200nautical miles so far this year practising for this main event.

Written by 'The Bus'
Good speed and winds

2 comments:

  1. Good review. I look forward to some more updates,especially on the Black Project Fins as I have been using them for some time and found them really forgiving. I sailed for almost every day in July in Maui and really only remember spinning out once. Plus a got over 30 knots on a Starboard Futura with a 40cm Type R

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  2. Thank you Andrew, I am in the process of ordering a few myself now. I have found them really good and want to get a few for a bit more consistency in my quiver - rather than the mismatch I have of fins.

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