Monday, May 26, 2014

Racing Cats and Phantoms

We just had two great days of windsurfing, on days where the wind averages never exceeded 16 mph. On Saturday, we went to Chapin for some SUP sailing in knee- to hip-high little waves. Tons of fun for both of us - Nina caught "SOO many waves". She played around with upwind wave 360s, which mostly ended up as heli tacks, but still made her smile big time. While we sailed, water levels dropped more than expected, but it was definitely worth carrying the gear half a mile back to the car.

Yesterday was just as much fun in similar wind, but on flat water with different gear:
That's Nina in the foreground on her (formally my) Fanatic Ultra Cat. She's on a full plane, with the first 9 of the 12 feet of the board out of the water, despite being "not fully powered" on a 6.5 freeride sail. The picture is from Dani's quadcopter movie (check it our on the Fogland Windsurfers Facebook page).

We practiced some longboard racing for the upcoming East Coast Windsurfing Festival in Long Island. Nina used the Fanatic Ultra Cat, I used my Kona Mahalo, Sabah a Mistral Equipe, and Dani his new Starboard Phantom 320. In the first few races, the Kona was able to keep up with the other boards, but I think that was mostly because the wind level was just right, and everyone else was not yet dialed in. In later races, when the wind had picked up, Nina left everyone far behind, with Dani coming in second.

I got a chance to try all four boards. The Equipe badly needed Redeck, and was too slippery to rail. It had all 9 or 10 footstraps mounted, which left almost no space for my big feet. It picked up speed nicely when gusts hit, but had the narrowest tail of all 4 boards, which made downwind sailing a bit harder.

The Fanatic Cat was my favorite of the four boards. With fresh Monster Paint Traction, just 3 straps, a huge carbon dagger board, and it's slightly wider tail, it was pure fun to sail. Being almost 50% heavier than Nina, I did not get it to plane fully, but it's just amazing how the board converts every little bit of wind into speed; how easily it rails up on upwind courses (which is FUN); and how nicely it glides through the water in light breezes.

The Starboard Phantom 320 surprised me. I tried it during the windiest half hour of the day, and had now problems to get it planing. One on a plane, if felt as quiet and stable as a true longboard, but faster. My top speed from just a few runs was close to 20 knots, in wind that never gusted above 16 knots. Dani, who took out his Carbon Art Slalom gear and KA speed sails for a while, got up to 22 knots, not a whole lot faster. We both were on 7.5 m sails, but I outweigh him by 50%, so the Phantom's top speed is rather decent. I have no doubts that the board could have gone a lot faster in more wind.

The Phantom 320 has very thick, boxy rails, similar to the F2 Lightning from the early 1990s. The adjustable mast track was very easy to use, and the huge daggerboard was the easiest to adjust of all 4 boards. With the dagger board down, the Phantom railed up very nicely, seeming faster than I would have though possible for such a short longboard. But when I tried to tack the Phantom with the mast track forward, but the daggerboard up, I was in for a surprise: it was impossible to turn the board through the wind. Even backwinded with the sail raked all the way back onto the board, the board tracked perfectly straight, rather than going into the wind. This is not really an issue, though - with the mast track back or the dagger board down, tacking is no problem at all. Even with the track all the way forward, the board had plenty of volume in the nose to make tacking easy for my 200 pounds. While being reasonably easy to sail, realizing the Phantom's full speed is not trivial - I think the board is a bit more technical to sail than the others. For example, Nina had a hard time to get the Phantom to plane, even when she had no problems to plane on the Cat. But for a light sailor who has the Phantom fully dialed in, the board should be rather competitive to old school longboards.

The Mahalo was the easiest of the four boards to sail. It can be sailed as a tandem, and all the extra volume makes tacking, jibing, and sailing downwind very easy. Like the Phantom, it has a fat nose, so the glide at low speed does not feel as nice as on the Cat or the Equipe. With more rounded rails and a smaller daggerboard than the Cat and the Phantom, the Mahalo's upwind angle is a bit more limited, though. It also does not pick up speed quite as well when the wind picks up to 15 mph or more, and requires more power to get planing. Here, it is probably limited by both its weight (roughly the same as the weight of the Cat and the Phantom combined) and the lack of an adjustable mast track. On the plus side, the soft top provided plenty of grip, making it easy to rail the board at exactly the desired angle. Considering that the Mahalo was not designed as a race board, I think it did extremely well.

Two days of windsurfing - different water conditions, different gear, but lots of fun both times. Add another day of light wind fun from earlier last week, when we practiced light wind freestyle in East Bay - and hopefully some short board planing later today, and we are talking about a lot of different ways to have fun windsurfing!
Fogland from above


  1. hi!
    thankyou for sharimg your experience with us!

    My name is Mike and I sail in Lago di Lecco (Italy).
    unfortunately in this lake normaly ther is jus a small wind so the most of the times I use Starboard Phantom 320 with Neil Pryde V8 10,6mq.

    I would like to use also phantom 377 but it is too expensive and so I' m looking for old long boards.

    Could you plese let me no more about your experience?
    could you please let me have a more detailed comparation betwen phantom 320 and fanatic Utracat?

    many tx for your help

    1. Mike, I have not sailed both boards a lot, so I cannot really give a full comparison. At the races last weekend, I was glad to use the Phantom 320 in gusty (partly planing) conditions. It is a lot easier to jibe than the Fanatic Cats. In my best race, I beat a few Cats, and one Cat was ahead of me. Sailor skill made more of a difference than the boards.