Neil Pryde Sails interview : Designing and Testing the EVO7

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Sebastian Kornum has been testing sails for NeilPryde Head Designer, Robert Stroj, for three years. He is one of few riders that is actively participating in all disciplines of windsurfing at a high level. This year, the young Formula specialist was one of the driving forces on the EVO7 Formula Racing sails, and together with test partner, Arnon Dagan, he has spent hundreds of hours on the water sailing prototypes and fine tuning mast curves, battens and other details.

Following is an interesting interview with the young Dane about his testing experience.

Can you briefly describe the NeilPryde R&D process?

There is probably more work behind top performance sails than most people think. This is especially true for NeilPryde where it is an evolution that goes on all year round, unlike many other brands where it happens over a period of a few weeks. The NeilPryde Design Center is located on Maui and working on improvements all year round. Robert Stroj is collecting feedback from Team Pryde pro riders like Antoine Albeau, Arnon Dagan, Julien Quentel, Enrico Marotti, Matteus Isaac, and of course also from me, and based on that, he makes the first prototypes. From that stage, we make several ‘recuts’ before we have what we call our fundamental sizes.

The amount of work and investment is already now bigger than smaller brands could ever put into their development.
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With the fundamental prototypes in our hands, we start fine-tuning each size. This process takes several weeks because we need the right conditions, and still continue to make ‘recuts’ on daily base. We go through many combinations of mast curves and mast stiffness, and we spend day after day testing batten setups. The curve of each batten has more influence on a sail than most people would think, and so we spend a lot of time getting this feature right, down to incredibly low tolerances. Our goal is of course to make a race sail that is so perfect, that riders around the world can literally pick it up from a shop and win a race, without having to make any adjustments but their own personal trim.

What does a normal day of testing look like?

Maui is the ideal place, because we get all kinds of conditions within driving distance, and because the NP Design Center can literally make new prototypes and changes from day to day. On the Formula sizes we start early in the morning in order to get suitable conditions.
Neil Pryde ©

Two to three riders line up and test speed and angles both upwind and downwind. We often place one rider in a difficult position—for example, by covering his wind in order to simulate typical racing scenarios—as only a highly performing race sail can win that kind of battle. You know…there are no ideal conditions in a race.

In between the line-ups, we are back on the beach changing masts and other setups one by one, and then back on the water minutes later. This goes on for hours on any particular day before stronger wind typically set in, and we can go on with some other sail models or sizes. Some days we test formula sails in the morning, slalom at noon and wave in the afternoon. It is my job to report back to Robert at the end of each session, so he can consider possible changes for next day.

We use a variety of board brands and fins for the test work, because a good sail should—and will—work well with any combination. You can probably imagine the amount of gear we arrange for tests of racing sails alone. It’s quite a logistic challenge!

What if you didn’t have that amount of time and resource available?

I am glad we do, because it’s what makes the difference! Most sail brands have riders who are able to tell their sail designer what they need in order to make key sizes work well in some conditions, but if they don’t develop all year round like we do, and if they don’t have the kind of resources that we have, then it is extremely hard to make a full series of sails that work well in all kinds of conditions. It’s as simple as that.

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What are key highlights of the EVO7 sails?

Performance wise I can say very clearly that EVO7 is faster than ever, and covering an even wider range of winds and conditions than any other race sail. Downwind, the improvement on the Formula sizes is so big that there is literally no comparison. Racers sometimes ask me how much faster is the new sail and I usually don’t know what to answer. Here is my best shot for the EVO7: it works so well, that it sometimes made us laugh during tests. It’s probably 20% faster downwind than any other sail I have ever tried!

EVO7 has a smooth and flat entry in the front of the sail and feels extremely light in the hands. It breathes perfectly and has that nice softness that we are all looking for in order to convert wind power into speed, and in order to be able to pump and accelerate out of tacks and jibes.

Another remarkable feature—and a thing I can highly recommend all EVO7 owners spend time on—is the outhaul setting. With the outhaul, it’s easy to give EVO7 that extra amount of back-hand pressure and lift needed to get away from a bad start and out of wind holes, even with other racers covering your wind. Upwind, it is possible—in fact, it’s quite easy—to make the board fly and balance perfectly on the fin, and still squeeze the pointing angle when needed. Full release of the EVO7 outhaul after rounding the top mark makes the board point deeper, faster and it is more controlled than ever. Outhaul adjustment has of course always been important on a race sail, but with EVO7 we just get that much more tuning opportunity to work with.

What is NeilPryde Design Center’s secret weapon?

Hmmmm… We have a couple (laughing) but if you ask any of the team riders, we would all agree that chief designer, Robert Stroj, is our secret weapon. He is the king. He is just as motivated and eager as we are, has an open-minded personality, and with resources from NeilPryde, we simply have what it takes to make the world’s best sails.

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