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AHD Thunderbolt 85

AHD Thunderbolt 85

First impressions – The AHD thunderbolt range has been in production for a couple of years now and remains unchanged for 2021. AHD have a long history with foiling having been making foils and foil specific boards since as far back as 2009.

The boards have simple blue graphics and feature an unusual deep concave towards the rear of the deck. While it looks a bit strange you soon get used to it and the deck offers a large amount of “working space”. The front straps can be placed further forward than on some other brands of foil boards. 

The outline of the board has quite parallel rails and a squarish nose. The moderate length of 226cm gives easy glide to get flying or for when slogging about waiting to fly.  Underneath the board are some simple cutouts and a bevel to the front half of the board.

The construction is a full carbon sandwich which makes the price of £1369 very attractive however the boards are a little bit heavier than some other full carbon boards. 

On the water – The thunderbolt is very stable when stationary and easy and relaxing if you find yourself floating around waiting for a gust to get you flying. The deck is comfortable and the unusual deck contours around the foil box gives you good feedback as to where your back foot is without you having to look down. The board is 145 ltrs and it will support nearly all riders and allows easy tacking. 

Getting flying – The board offers a stable platform from which to pump the sail and get up to take off speed. I think the Thunderbolt will suit just about any deep tuttle wind foil be it a high aspect sporty foil or a high lift low aspect foil.

In flight –  This is the Thunderbolts “strong point”, with the straps a bit further apart compared with some other boards and the front straps again further forward the Thunderbolt provides an incredibly stable platform and flies level with ease taking gusts and wind variations in its stride. Inevitable touch downs are shrugged off without issue. 

Sail range? The board will take a 8.5 but you have to be in the outboard straps to be comfortable with a sail that big on long reaches. 8.0 or 7.5 are noticeably more comfortable. The board will keep its composure with sails as small as 5.0. In fact it’s top end like quite a few other foil boards is dictated by whether you can carry the board to the water’s edge. While it might sound easy, these are big boards and if you let a strong wind hit it at the wrong angle it will see you banging your foil off the ground before you know it. 

Gybeing – With plenty of deck space you have plenty of “balance room” while changing feet. Should the worst happen and you over foil mid gybe and everything comes crashing down there is enough deck space to make the experience survivable. It is a big board so the gybes tendy to be steady as opposed to nimble. 

Overall –  A very easy board to get on with and with performance to satisfy freerace fans while having the manners to encourage people new to foiling.

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Neil Pryde V8 Flight review

Neil Pryde V8 flight sails

First Impressions

These are stunning looking sails and they are also light in weight. They rig with a lot of downhaul tension and the sails have a lot of skin tension. I need to say at this point that I used the sails on Maverx Elemento SDM masts. I have rigged many Neil Pryde sails over the years on these masts and the sails have always rigged well and worked well. 

There are rigging indicators on one of the upper panels and it advises you to down haul the sail until the looseness on the leech lies somewhere in between the two stickers. This area of the sail is dark blue and it is not that easy to judge whether you have enough downhaul or not. The leech does go soft but there is not a lot of twist in the leech and the head batten remains firm. I used the sails with varying downhaul settings and I used both the inboard and outboard clew eyelets. I probably used the inboard setting the most. 

On the water

I think the 8.0m may have got me flying in the lowest wind speeds I have ever taken off in. I am 95 kg and used the sails on a JP Hydrofoil Slalom with a AFS W105 foil with R1000 wings. I think (it is obviously a bit subjective) that I could get flying in around 6 kts of wind on flat water and once flying I could keep flying down to about 5 kts or even fractionaly less with a bit of help with pumping the sail at times.  Once up and flying the sails feel efficient and slippy through the air. The sails are not super deep and they do not pull like a tractor they therefore suit efficient high aspect foils best.  As the wind increases to the point where you want to exhaust some power the sails will do it but not in a relaxed fashion. I am not sure if this is due to the higher aspect ratio or the leech twist profile but probably a combination of the two. 

Gybing – the sails rotate easily enough with the battens going round in an undramatic fashion. The cams did stick a bit giving a slight S shape to the mast sleeve and requiring a second pump of the sail to correct. I won’t be over critical of this as maybe the NP mast is a mm narrower and that would be all it would take to maybe fix the problem. Of note is the fact that many other sail brands use cam systems where you can fine tune the cam pressure by using a series of cam spacers but with NP this is not an option.

Comparative sail size? NP claim the sail can be used about a meter smaller than their other sails. But is this a general term or aimed towards foiling as you could say that for any sail used on a foil rather than a fin. While the 8m did get me flying very early so yes maybe they will fly you at the same time as another cammed sails 0.5m bigger. In other words the 8.0 = a 8.5 from another range but I would not say the 7.0 = a 7.5 from other brands/ranges. 

Conclusion

I would sum up the V8 Flights as being very efficient within their wind range. While you can hang onto the sails in a strong blow they do become increasingly uncomfortable once outside their wind range. They would be a great sail on Maui or the Caribbean where the wind can be super consistent but I feel they don’t best suit a squally Scottish winter. 

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AFS 2021 Windfoils

AFS Wind Foils

I have been using AFS wind foils for some years now so I thought I would give you my impressions of the latest 2021 versions. 

I used to use a W105 foil with the R1000 wings and that has been replaced like for like. The R1000 wing has been renamed R810 as the wings are now named by their surface area rather than their wingspan. The new wings will fit on older fuselages but the 2020 wings will not not on the wider 2021 fuselages (apart from on the w85 which is unchanged). The new flange at the top of the mast is now built in and much stronger. The graphics are built in which again is an improvement.

So would I notice any difference with the new foils claiming to be stiffer? Yes, there is a difference but you won’t start flying and say “wow this feels a lot stiffer” what I found is that with the older foils there must have been some increased flex that gave you a sense of height ie you were aware when flying at near full height but at first on the new foils I often found myself flying at full mast height without realising it. The flight feels the same whether you are 10cm or 100 cm above the water. The new fuselages are a few cm longer and if you thought the old foils gave a very level flight the new ones do even more so. 

I don’t race so I can’t comment on comparative upwind ability etc but will say I can point as high as I wish. 

I had the old W95 which was used mainly in stronger winds on narrower boards with a f800 wing. This has been replaced by the new W95 with either the R810 or R660 wings. The F800 (now renamed the F1080) is not available  for the W95 or W105 so I was at a bit of a loss with what to replace it with. I was slightly nervous that the R610 would be tiny and would be a very on/off type foil making life hard work in the gusty winds I often go out in but it is working well. I use the R810 with sails down to 5.3 and winds up to maybe a 25 kt gust. And then the R610 for the 5.3 and below and if the wind is over 20 kts. Even with its small surface area the R610 keeps going through lulls and round gybes etc (i am 95kg). 

The new foils come with shims. They have a shim for the front wing in case you find your board flies very nose up or down and then a second shim for the rear wing for you to increase or decrease lift. I am pleased to say I have not used the shims and the foils retain that “plug and play” nature of the older AFS foils, no need to go messing about with settings. 

I have used the R810 race wings for a couple of years now, despite their name they are very easy to use. They feel slippy and efficient through the water. To get flying they accelerate easily and don’t need much in the way of pumping downwards. You are best to concentrate on building speed through pumping the sail. When it is windy there is no need to pump at all and you can use the nearest bit of chop as a take off ramp. When the wind drops very light you can keep flying by pumping the sail, small high frequency pumps working the best. The only down side I can think of for using the race wings for learning is that they are very fine tipped so you don’t want to run it aground or kick it. The wings are very tough but with such a good product it deserves to be looked after.

I should point out that while the wings have a “race” label you don’t have to sail them from a outboard stance, the wings are very well mannered and can be sailed in a relaxed upright style with your back foot on top of the front foil bolt, in fact that is how I use them most of the time.

So in conclusion I am very happy with the new foils. I thought I would have to move my footstrap positions to maintain balance but the new foils have worked fine with the straps in the same positions I used for the earlier AFS foils.

R660, R810 and F800 wings
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2021 Severne Alien 115

First impressions – A nice looking board, although that is always personal taste. A very limited paint finish should be easy to match in any repairs that might be required along the line. The board is quite light. The footstraps attach to the board with allen screws using the same tool you use for tightening the severne sail battens. 

There are a good range of positions for the straps making the board easy to balance with most foils. The mast track is the conventional distance from the foil.

On the water – when I first tried the board the wind was cross off and there was zero wind at the slipway. The board felt quite a bit smaller than 115 ltrs. The board is stable as long as it has the slightest of forward motion.  At 200 x 70 cm it is rated up to about a 7.0 sail which is about right, best with 6.5 and down. 

Getting flying – a combination of the boards “corky” or buoyant nature along with its light weight and many footstrap options make the board fly easily and early. 

In flight – it is comfortable and easy to control. With the 70cm width the board feels more foil freeride than foil freerace. The majority of touches go unnoticed but at only 200cm you do have to watch the nose if you plant it into the face of a bit of chop. If you can hang on the thickness in the nose will soon pop it back out again.

Gybeing – despite not being a big board you can positions the footstraps to give yourself a decent amount of deck space for gybing and the lightweight helps the board keep its height around the turns. 

Overall –  A nice board, easy to use without any vices. If you are over 85kg you might be better off with the bigger 125 ltr version. It will suit a wide range of foils and undoubtably will balance nicely with severnes own redwing foil.

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Goya Airbolt

2021 Goya Airbolt 120

First impressions – Nice looking board with a limited paint finish. I expected it to have the option for a single back strap but it just has options for double back straps both inboard or outboard. The board is quite a unique shape giving the bottom of the hull a very 3D shape with stepped ridges running most of the length of the board. 

Most dedicated foil boards have wide buoyant tails to help support the rider when he/she moves back to weight the foil and get flying. Instead of this usual arrangement goya have moved the foil position further forward. So when you look at the deck of the board it looks almost like a traditional pintail shape with the straps forward and the tail not overly wide. But when you look at it from the side you realise that the rear stap still lines up with the front of the foil mast. 

The mast track is quite far back so not far in front of the front straps and there looks to be plenty of open deck up front.

On the water -The 120 was easy to uphaul. With the rearward mast track you can put your front foot in front of the mast base and uphaul in a traditional manner despite the boards relatively short length. Oncy the sail is up the board feel buoyant and has a slightly corky feel dut to all the volume packed into a compact shape.

The board is rated to take up to a 8.0m sail and I have no doubt it can take it. I tried the board with a 7.5 and it was certainly doable but the board came more aline and pleasant with a 6.5 or smaller. The fact that the mast track is close to the front straps means you are standing close to the rig which I don’t feel is ideal with bigger sails.  

Getting flying – this is where things got interesting. I am used to more traditional or racey foil boards and I tend to pump up onto the foil to get flying that bit earlier. When I tried this on the Goya the board would rock from side to side disturbing the water flow. I think this is caused by the bottom not being flat so you don’t have a stable platform from which to pump both sail and board. I found it better to actually let the board accelerate in its own right and get flying that way. Someone new to foiling would most likely find this technique easier but for me I think the end result was that I required about 1kt more wind to get flying than on similar sized dedicated foil boards. There is not much room to get your rear foot between the straps so you are best getting into the back strap early. 

In flight – With a sail 6.0 or smaller the position is very comfortable in the straps, one of the most comfortable foil boards I have used. With the bigger sails that the board is rated to take I felt a bit close to the rig. Nothing wrong with that except when the wind picks up a bit you can’t distance yourself from the power so easily so you have to change down that bit earlier. Height control is easy. The board shrugs off the majority of touch downs. It is not the longest of boards at just 205 long so it is possible to catch the nose if it comes down into some chop. On flat water the board can look after itself. 

Gybeing – The board carves round nicely. I feel the double foil tracks + the deep tuttle box adds a bit of weight in the tail and in lighter winds I was aware of the weight dragging the board down a bit once you are without any rig power and just gliding round. But overall the board feels nimble and maneuverable.

Overall – Despite the unusual bottom shape and maybe extreme looks the board is actually fairly easy to use and will feel more familiar than the big wide tailed boards to anyone new to wind foiling. The board probably suits lower aspect foils and smaller sail best.