Well, my lovely wife and I were at the board test in Hatteras, and sailed many of the large boards - and most of them deserve very high marks in for "ease of use". A look at the test sheets that we filled out points to an explanation:
Well, there was no "ease of use" category. There was a "Freestyle" category that did not apply to any of the boards in the test, but in the orientation meeting, we were told to instead use it to rate the boards for "fun". It appears that the "waves" scores were interpreted as "ease of use", but the testers were not aware of this! (Well, at least neither my wife nor I were, and we paid close attention at the orientation meeting). This would explain why the Angulo Kihei 155 got a a high score in the "ease of use" category - this board sailed like a much smaller board, and made it really easy to play with the chop and wind waves.
Unfortunately, this "ease of use" = "waves" score mixup does not appear to the the only problem with the writeup. Looking at the "spider web" graphs, it would seem that the F2 Xantos 140 was the worst board in the test; both the Exocet Twixx 145 and the Naish Nitrix have higher scores in all categories. This absolutely cannot be correct. One of the two higher-scoring board was universally disliked; at the discussion session at the end of the board test, lots of windsurfers offered negative feedback on the board, and we were told the same thing had happened during the first week. The other of these two "high scoring" boards had split opinions among the testers: some liked it, others disliked it a lot. In contrast, the lower-scoring F2 Xantos was loved by many sailors (myself included), and just mildly disliked by a few others.
One good way at looking what board was really well liked is to check how often a board was picked as a favorite. Here's a list of how often the different large board were picked as favorites by the testers:
- 7x : Fanatic Ray 145, F2 Xantos 140, Tabou Rocket 145
- 5x: Starboard Ultrasonic 147
- 4x: Goya FXRS 144
- 3x: Angulo Kihei 155
- 1x: JP Super Lightwind 154
The following boards were not picked as a favorite board by any testers:
- Exocet Twist 145, Naish Nitrix 155, RRD Fire Ride 155.
A note about the list above: the Fanatic Ray was available only during the second test week, so none of the first-week only testers had a chance to try it. I wonder how many "favorite" votes it would have gotten if it had been there both weeks...
If you compare the list above with the charts on pages 60-61 in the June 2011 issue of the Windsurfing Magazine, it seems that someone has mixed up a few charts. Yes, some boards were a bit more controversial than others, but there's just no way that a board that was most often picked as a favorite has much lower scores everywhere than a board that was picked by nobody!
A total of 37 testers worked (and played :) hard for 2 weeks to evaluate the boards, so it's kind of sad to see the work diminished by what looks like an editorial mistake. A lot of times, the graphical summaries are the first thing windsurfers look at when deciding about a new board to buy, and the apparent mix-up may prevent many readers from trying or buying boards they would love. Fortunately, the write-ups ("Best board for...") are spot-on.