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Old Yesterday, 09:35 AM   #1
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Default IS90 - first impressions

This weekend, I had a chance to use my new Is90 in sustained winds of 35kts+ gusting to 45kts. I was using a 2014 North WARP 5.2, and tried 3 fins: Vector Rockit carbon 32cm, Select Caspar Speed 29cm and Drake R2R 32cm DW slalom. Water conditions initially were pretty flat, as the wind changed direction became choppy with short 30 to 45cm chop

The Is90 is like no board I have ever sailed, the impression it gives is that there is no top speed…. Unfortunately there is also no way to stop it accelerating either, which makes it extremely scary and creates control issues. Most of the time, this unlimited speed is great, however in very high winds or choppy water the lack of adjustability is an issue. The second feature is the directional stability – I have rarely sailed a board less responsive to foot pressure (Think Fanatic Jag or f2 Sputnik 270) – the tiny wetted area and narrow tail are to blame, so it is important to select a fin with lots of rake to give back a little more control – however, that locked in feeling is awesome once you get used to it. This is a board for experts who sail at 100% all of the time, it is an absolute no compromise racing machine which requires a lot of time to tune and to learn how to sail well.

From my original outing on this board, I knew that it was really fin sensitive. Sailing in pretty extreme conditions, the need to have the correct fin became even more apparent. I started on the Vector 32cm – this is an old favourite and suited the Is87 perfectly, however, on the Is90 it was pretty much unsailable! My first 2 runs, on a beam reach on flat water both resulted in embarrassing catapults, I was well powered up, but certainly not overpowered. The issue seems to be the speed of the board and narrow tail, which makes it difficult to control the fin, this causes tail walking, and also makes the board turn downwind and accelerate even more; I found it really hard to bring the board back upwind. Sheeting out results in even more tail walking and causes the nose to lift always resulting in a catapult.

Next out I tried the Caspar Speed 29cm, this is a very upright rigid fin with a very narrow cord. This was certainly a massive improvement on the Vector, and I didn’t feel that the board was trying to kill me. The tail walking issue went away and you could push the board to very high speeds, unfortunately the wind had shifted and there was no flat water, so I didn’t manage to set a representative speed, but a vmax of 33kts seemed good in the conditions. The problem with this fin was the lack of upwind performance, and spin out on a beam reach, also gybing was unpleasant, as the board would spin out trying to enter the gybe.

Next I borrowed a Drake R2R DW slalom 32cm. This fin was significantly more raked back than the Vector (the tip of the fin around 4cm further back when laid side by side) it is also thinner in the top 30% of the fin and has a narrower cord at the base. This was the best of the 3 fins, although I felt that it was still a touch big in the choppy conditions – I would love to have tried a 30cm as well. The Drake didn’t cause much problem with tail walking, and caused no problem in the gybes, but I did find that it was really working my ankles to keep the board under control, I feel that a smaller fin may also help to make the board more maneuverable and select a more adjustable line in the chop

An interesting comparison between my old Is87 and new Is90. The old Isonic 87 was a wonderful board when conditions got tricky; it seemed to float above the chop and was so adjustable that you could steer your way through. The 87 was also a board that you could manage your speed if required. The downside was that it was not particularly quick, it was also difficult to carry speed through the gybe unless well powered up. The Is90 is undoubtedly the quicker board, in the right hands much faster, able to carry a bigger sail, better speed through the gybe, however this comes at the expense of sailability
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