BEST Windsurfing Sails for the UK in 2020 (January Update)
By Ollie Acton
Buying a windsurfing sail is an extremely exciting prospect and with so many different design options on the market you can be sure there is one out there that is perfect for you.
With huge advances in technology, materials and design there really aren’t any bad windsurfing sails on the market anymore. This review firstly discusses the process involved when choosing the most suitable sail for you, then looks at a range of sails available for all different types of windsurfer.
Without even going into what brand, size and colour there are many design differences you will come across when purchasing your windsurfing sail. The first step in choosing the most suitable sail will be understanding key terms for windsurf sail design.
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Neil Pryde Ryde
The Ryde comes in two constructions, HD or standard. The HD option features ‘WebArmour’ which is Neil Pryde’s high tear resistant material which is interlaced throughout the sail. A very good choice if you are still learning or prone to the occasional catapult! The twin seam stitching within critical areas of the sail ensures high stress and impact areas are protected, meaning this sail should definitely last a good few seasons.
The performance and unbelievable balance of the sail comes from the Rydes dynamic compact clew. This design features helps the leech twist in a very controlled and progressive nature, thus enhancing gust control and further improving balance and stability.
The overall design of the Ryde offers fantastic power and you can really feel like the sail will push you to go a fast as you dare, which is down to the incredible balance and control the sail provides.
My only negative of the sail is the price. Of course you will be getting one of the best and strongest sails on the market, but is Neil Pryde being a little unrealistic with its pricing? Only time will tell, however you are certainly getting highly thought-through, well-designed windsurfing sail.
Prolimit Power Beginner/Kiddy
As I’ve already alluded to, this sail comes complete in one bag. This really is the massive selling point of the sail because it can be so hard for beginner to rig up by themselves, having everything in one bag makes it so much easier and simpler.
The sail itself is very well designed, with a 3 batten layout and monofilm throughout, this sail feels very light in the hands and is extremely easy to uphaul. The sails clear monofilm design means beginners can easily look through the sail and figure out what is going on around them.
This sail is perfect for either a beginner or kid. Prolimit themselves suggest this sail is for beginner/intermediate sailors, however i’d be a bit sceptical of the sails ability to cope with stronger winds for the adventurous intermediate.
North Sail Idol
Freestyle is all about control and is where the Idol excels. The stabilised top construction reduces fluttering of the leech, meaning the sail will feel balanced going backwards or upside down!
The power and feel of the sail is all in the front, which creates more pop and lift, a trait freestyle riders of all abilities will fall in love with. The Idols lift and ability to spin will ensure learning your first vulcan will be made as easy as possible, whereas the extreme rider will benefit from the speed and control the sail gives you. A personal bug bear of mine is that although freestyle sails are about balance, they can loose their shape in gusty or strong conditions and especially being a large sailor this aspect is ever more evident in many freestyle sails. This is not the case for the Idol, as it keeps its shape a lot better than most freestyle sails, meaning it can also accommodate for the larger rider.
North Sails have designed what they call a ‘unique straight foot geometry’ for the Idol. The straight cut from the base to the clew means the sail is very easy duck, making it perfect for a whole raft of manoeuvres, from duck-gybes to the latest in freestyle moves. Though it has to be said, this isn’t really a unique feature from other freestyle sails on the market. Nonetheless it is an important feature and one that makes this sail so accommodating for a range of abilities.
A pure freestyle sail will have its limitations and will not feel comfortable freeriding, neither will it have the durability as a hardcore wave sail. The 2014 Idol had a pretty good construction with a decent amount of reinforcement. However, recent incarnations of the Idol have seen North Sails go for the ‘Super Light’ feature and they have reduced the amount of X- Ply, making the sail far less impact resistant.
Neil Pryde Fusion
The Fusion rigs on a RDM and there is plenty of scope for tuning, giving the sail a big wind range. One key feature I really like about the Fusion is the entire range can rig on one mast, meaning buying a brand new setup will cost far less than other brands where you’d have to buy 2 or even 3 masts for the quiver.
This 5 batten sail does have a fair few characteristics of a wave sail, and although Neil Pryde say this sail can do it all, I feel the shape and overall design lends itself more to the freeride market rather than the more manoeuvre oriented freestyle or wave sailing market. On the water, the sail feels stable and produces plenty of power, perfect
On the water, the sail feels stable and produces plenty of power, perfect of blasting fun! The sail gets up and going relatively quickly but what really stands out is its ability to cope and stay controlled in a huge range of winds.
The problem with a sail that tries to it all is that most of the time they never really do anything particularly well. Although, I think a crossover sail is great to have in your quiver, especially when you are a late intermediate progressing at a quick rate.
As this sail can do it all you can go practice in some small waves, try a freestyle trick or blast around comfortably on one sail. It’s normally only after some time windsurfing and a lot of practice that you shall decide, ‘I quite like wave sailing’ or ‘freestyle is for me’. It is at this point you will progress on the dedicated equipment for your style of windsurfing.
Naish Force Four
The main key feature of the Naish Force Four is, of course, the 4 batten layout. Not too long ago four batten sails were seen to be a bit edgy and contemporary, now this has reduced to four battens.
Naturally with only three battens you would expect this sail to feel very light in the hands, which it certainly does. Much of time a ‘light’ feeling sail has been compromised with a weaker construction, however this sails features all of Naish’s bullet proof materials and can most definitely take a pounding. This three batten layout has therefore produced a sail that is very lightweight, yet very responsive and can produce a great deal of power.
The cross-batten in the Force Four is the driving factor for stability and the power within the sail. The cross batten, as the name suggests crosses from below the boom at the mast, to just above the boom near the clew. This extra long batten is really how the Force Four is able to maintain its shape when wave riding.
Alongside the cross batten, the single dacron luff means the sail is very efficient and fills with wind very easily then returns to neutral for ultimate control. This creates a sails with very low end power and is perfect for wave sailing tricks where you don’t want any power in the sail.
Overall this sail is not for the beginner, intermediate or even for many advanced riders. Anyone looking to blast around on their freeride board or looking for a sail typical of south coast bump and jump conditions will not have any fun on this sail. Nonetheless, take the sail in down the line conditions and you will see why Robbie Naish loves this sail so much!
Point 7 AC-K
The AC-K has 7 battens and 3 cams, meaning it is a lot easier to rig that a fully-cammed race sail. Similar to North Sails, Point-7 gives the user a visual rigging guide on the sail, this makes sure the rider has rigged the sail properly and will therefore get maximum performance and have maximum fun on the water. Though during rigging I found downhauling the sail required a fair bit of strength which doesn’t really equate to the ‘ease of use’ that I anticipated the sail to be.
It should be noted that although the AC-K is marketed a ‘Freerace’ sail, with its 3 cams and overall design it is definitely verging on more the race sail than the freeride. This makes it extremely exciting to use and would most certainly mean you would be one of the quickest on any day. The sail delivers a huge amount of bottom end power which feels almost limitless. At the same time this power will get you up and planing in even the most marginal of conditions, which lends itself perfectly to those summer sea breeze days we get here in the UK.
The bottom end power is contrasted pretty nicely by a smaller head, giving the sail balance and control when the wind picks up. This in turn creates a feeling of stability and assurance that you will never loose control, ideal for gusty or choppy conditions.
Overall the AC-K is perfect for the weekend speed addict or national racer who is looking for a good looking, exciting sail with lots of power.
All purpose sail for the recreational windsurfer. Perfect for blasting around, having fun and easy to use.
Designed for tricks and spins. Freestyle sails are light in the hands but can feel twitchy.
Designed to be used in rough conditions and always feature strong materials. Used by many as a high wind freeride option.
Generally larger in design and only to be used by the advanced windsurfer. Extremely fast but the camber inducers (cams) feel heavy.
There are many other sails that fall between categories, for example ‘Freerace’ which is a freeride sail with features of a race sail.
Now we have defined the key terms in sail design, the next step is to know what sail and brand will be best for you.
Sure, you can buy a sail, but go into any good windsurf shops and the first questions you’ll be asked are:
How big would you like the sail to be?
A key question that will determine whether you are looking for a big or small sail.
The bigger sails will generally be designed for blasting or racing, whereas smaller sails tend to be designed for freestyle or wave sailing.
What will the sail be used for?
Do you want a sail for cruising around in sea breezes, or will the sail be used for sailing in waves.
In the question they will also ask your ability.
Do you have a mast already to be used with the sail?
This is a key question that can be overlooked. The way the mast bends varies greatly and sail manufacturers will design their sails based on their own mast bend.
A sail that does not work with the mast will feel horrible, no matter how you good you are at rigging.
Only after these questions have been asked the shop assistant know roughly which sail will be best for you.
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