|Slalom is back!
Wind Magazine, France June 02.
The focus of the Starboard development in 2002 and for the 2003 collection has been on slalom boards, partly forgotten by all brands for the sake of freeride and the likes of Formula. For Svein Rasmussen, it is obvious that it is necessary to reinvent the concept of ultra-fast boards with big thrills, but without falling into the trap of being as technical as the normal slalom guns, far too demanding in terms of sailing level and weather conditions required.
The modern Freeride and Formula designs have shown that width is not the enemy of speed, and more importantly that there are still many shape-design parameters left to explore. One of these parameters, once again proposed by the immense Jim Drake, is that of the double concaves. Nothing new there you would say, but these are pushed to the extreme to obtain very lifting boards yet fast and controllable in chop and strong winds. After testing boards with double concaves and a central ski (stepped hull) to reduce the wetted surface area, Starboard have retained the idea of double concaves, more efficient and performing better in all conditions.
Double Concaves - tested andů
We have been able to try the last prototype of the coming Hypersonic (that's the name), included in the 2003 line up as a unprecedented program: that of an all-conditions slalom board, ultra versatile. The idea is to be able to sail reaching and downwind with sails from 5 to 10 square meters!
Let's say it now, the prototype that we had under our feet for our test (early April 2002) completely blew us away.
Less than 230cm long, about 75cm wide and with ENORMOUS concaves on the hull - a look of mini UFO halfway between a rocket and a depository (really!), but with screaming performances and feeling! Whether it is with a 5.8 well powered up, or with a 10.4 Race sail (indeed!), this board has shown extraordinary potential and character. In medium to strong winds, we absolutely do not feel like sailing a board of that width, the acceleration and speed are of very high levels, all of that associated with impeccable control, even in very large chop. The board is ultra-sane and always stable, we are really on a rail that is highly slippery and with optimal efficiency. No other 'classic' slalom boards can compete in terms of range. Whether the wind is steady or full of lulls, this Hypersonic is always going full-on. No need either to have the level of a World Champion to get planing. Of course, in the beginning, attention needs to be given to the length that is extremely reduced, on the front in particular, but we are so easy thanks to the good width under our feet that it's soon forgotten: the planing is so jaw-dropping compared to the narrow guns (even the lightwind slalom boards of around 60cm give an impression of skinniness and technicality!).
A surprising and remarkable fact: we can also put on a maxi-sail, without the board feeling uncontrollable or unusable. Instead, we now have a lightwind bomb that starts to plane incredibly quickly and that does not spin out regardless off the monster-like size of the sail. We have the impression that the fat concaves and the deep central edge gives grip to the board, without having to use too deep a fin.
And against all expectations, the jibes are both very fast and biting, without the board bouncing or losing trajectory!
With this kind of all-round board, one would say: let's get back into slalom, drag race between friends without worrying about what boards to take, since it replaces at least three 'classic' board sizes!
Another appreciative point is the way this board "eats the chop" with ease, due to this particular hull shape. A phenomenon that we had been able to verify by trying a Formula proto, also shaped with the famous concaves. It allowed sailing in chop to be far more easy and efficient, and with a remarkable comfort and softness: the board really goes upwind like on rails, keeping its angle regardless of water condition!
Will the future of slalom go by the muscled comeback of concaves? No one knows but Wind's Test crew bets on it!