Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Black and fast

This is my first season riding Exocet boards (thanks for getting me on the program, Pepi!), and since I've actually had a chance to ride them a for a bit now, here's my take on how they're working so far, and what I'm expecting from them this season.

My slalom board for this year will be the Warp 67, which is a known entity (the shape's carried over from last year) and proven fast. I got to ride one last summer and instantly liked it - very rangy, fast, point-and-shoot, and just the perfect size for a one-board slalom quiver. More of an unknown, however, was the Warp Formula - if you've been following the chatter on the web, there's been lots of speculation about this one. Some of that was fueled by the unconventional look (to save weight, and probably also to distinguish it from the competition, the board's bottom is not painted, resulting in that sexy black carbon look - very distinctive, for sure). I've had the chance to take mine to the Bay Area and test it a bit, mostly in stronger conditions. Here's my take so far:

  • It's very light - all that gram-shaving is paying off, and it's not just a matter of looks. This thing is engineered beginning to end to save weight, from the straps (every bit the equal of Starboards race straps) to the non-finished bottom and the thin shape. To ensure it doesn't blow up on a hot beach, it comes with a canvas bag - which I'll surely use at the Event Site.
  • It's responsive and stiff - I was a bit sketched out about the low weight. At this point, I'm convinced that it's not achieved by skimping on materials. There must be a major amount of carbon in this board, as even with its rather thin shape and in big nasty water off Crissy Field and Treasure Island, it feels every bit as stiff as the best custom boards I've ridden. That came as a huge relief to me to see that Exocet had followed through on that promise.
  • It handles big winds and nasty water really well - this being one of the new breed of Formula boards with super-wide tails (83cm one foot off), I was a bit concerned whether this shape would work well overpowered and in choppy water. Sailing it at Crissy Field and in the central SF Bay off Treasure Island on strong ebb currents allayed whatever misgivings I had - this thing is a pleasure to run off the breeze even in nasty voodoo chop, since it's so responsive. You can always find a smooth line and follow it with rather tiny steering inputs - very user friendly.
So how does it perform? As far as I can tell, it's competitive, but that's based on rather scant evidence so far. Lining up with the Berkeley racers (always a good benchmark, as those guys are really well tuned even this early in the season), I found that I had good angle and speed going upwind in the lower part of the bay - this covered the range of 9.9 being reasonably to fully powered, with waterstate anywhere from reasonably smooth to pretty choppy. Only when we got up to Treasure Island (and I had a hard time hanging on to my big sail while they were all able to take advantage of the better pointing from their 9.0's) did I have to foot off a bit. But even then, the extra speed I gained offset the loss of angle (not at all to be taken for granted in those gnarly conditions), and that was my first session of actually lining up with anyone.

At the Friday night race at Crissy, the board had really good speed upwind (my angle suffered from being oversailed) and was fast and deep off the breeze.

So at this point, I'm pretty stoked on the board. It seems like it's a really good fit with my Finworks fins, and it appears pretty tuneable. It definitely performs well in powered and over-powered 9.9, and the Europeans on the forums are raving about how it does in light air (something that I'm definitely willing to believe - you can just tell by feel that using a more powerful fin and bigger sail will be a good combo with this platform).

What I've found comfortable so far (but haven't been able to really test out as to whether it's truly the fastest way to go):
  • Base at about 135cm from tail (+/- 1, based on waterstate)
  • Straps 2nd hole from the back (for both fore and aft straps)
  • Boom about eye height (I'm 6'1"/185cm and 205#/93kg)

1 comment:

Bruce Peterson said...

we'll see soon enough if black is fast