Going into the 2016 Alcatel J/70 Worlds in San Francisco, it was time for new sails and the decision of cloth had to be made for the spinnaker. We opted to go with AirX 650 this round. It’s strange that after being in the class for three years, this was going to be our first AirX kite. Here are the differences I noticed:
- It is very stiff and stable. The kite makes a lot of noise when it’s brand new and likes to hold its shape.
- The finish is not quite as slick as the other spinnakers we’ve used. This required a little extra effort when hoisting it from the bag.
- The spinnaker responds INSTANTLY to changes in pressure.
- The spinnaker kept its proper shape despite 10 days of absolutely punishing conditions where the wind hit 25kts nearly every day as well as a few minor wipeouts that needed the spinnaker to be flogged and then trimmed on again, resulting in a brutal POP!
Let me just say this spinnaker made me tired. I had more load on the sheet than I’ve ever had with our other spinnakers. The smallest difference in air pressure pulled on the sheet in a noticeable way. If there was wind to be caught, the AirX caught it.
- The stability of the spinnaker allowed it to hold shape in very low wind ranges to deliver power to the boat, even after a few days of heavy air abuse
- The rapid feedback from the spinnaker allowed us to respond quicker to changes in windspeeds to maintain our optimum angle to the wind in light to moderate conditions
- This quick feedback also allowed us to leave displacement mode and switch to planing mode faster when the wind picked up
- In the big breeze the spinnaker stayed powered up longer, reducing the number of times we would fall off a plane and require a lot of work to get going again
- The spinnaker responded much better to quick pumps on the waves to initiate a surf and get the boat back to planing speed quickly.
All-in-all this is my favorite cloth for all conditions. The benefits easily offset the minor inconvenience of the rougher finish on the hoist. Though I’d been told it would be more difficult to gybe in light conditions due to friction against the furled jib, this never seemed to be a problem. In fact it seemed easier overall since the spinnaker could fill more quickly on the new gybe requiring fewer pumps to get the luff to perk up and start drawing.