Every now and then there is a new board that comes out that truly intrigues me. The D2 combines some old design wisdom and performance with new modern high performance board design.
Let's set the stage though. This board is of interest IF and I underline IF you know how to rail up a board and sail on the windward footstraps, and know how to operate a mast track and centerboard on the fly. If you raced Equipes,Fanatic Mega Cats and Ultracats, Imco One designs, Division 2 boards, and are thirsty for a new twist on that family of boards, well, check out the Exocet D2.
The sails used on this test where the Aerotech Dagger 9.5 and an older Maui Sails MS2 9.5.
First look , the board sports very thick rails, with a perfect shape that fits the curvature of the feet when sailing had upwind on the windward footstraps. This is the most comfortable rail shape I have found on any longboard I have ever sailed. The leeward footstraps stay clear off the water, so keeping drag to a minimum. The centerboard is sunk in the deck with a wide groove that allows feet to find leverage and support when working upwind or downwind.
Compared with an RSX this board is infinitely more enjoyable to sail upwind with centerboard down.
A long centerboard helps it stay on the footstraps even in light winds. The Bow pierces the waves, and the rear is a modern planing design. So the big question, with a low rocker up front, does the wave piercing bow design work? How bad will it spear the waves going downwind?
So I set to find out. Upwind, the board immediately got itself to speed, and it was pretty easy to get it set on the rail and windward footstraps. In 8 knots of wind the board sailed effortlessly upwind railed up, and in 12-13 knots it just flew over the chop, with a small centerboard angle adjustment. The ride was just smooth and oh what a joy to be perched high on the rail, flying over the chop, the board just cutting upwind like a knife. There is an angle that If set too low the board can hobyhorse some and spear the waves, but once you find the proper railing angle, it is just smooth as can be.
The tacks are much slower than on flat bottomed boards so that should add an interesting twist to upwind tactics.
Off the wind, Centerboard goes up, track back (all the way back for my size)with my weight of 72 kilos, the board promptly planes in around 9 knots without pumping. You do have to sail a slightly higher angle than I remember sailing on an equipe, but the speed of the board is just tremendous.
Planing jibe is sort of trying to coax a drunk out of a pub, but if you keep the board fairly flat and use the sail, the job gets done without much fuss.
Comparing to sailing a rounded bottom division 2 board on a plane, well, there is no comparison. The Exocet D2 is stable,easy to sail and fast!
When you feel dropping off a plane, track goes forward with centerboard up, and now comes the anxiously awaited truth.... first few seconds it took a little guessing where to be, but almost right away I fund the sunken area around the centerboard to be a huge plus, you keep your heel tucked inside the groove, and the board behaves very predictably for something as rounded up front as the D2.
Surfing the waves became a surprise as the board raced past the crests, occasionally exploding through their backs, but never slowing down. On a traditional longboard, if you hit the waves from the back, the board simply stops. Not on the D2. It feels it has its own motor. The release on the board is super clean and the board just uses the wave energy to accelerate.
For non planing jibes, I was surprised again that it was a very complying board, it should not take much learning from anyone to master the board.
So for going around a race course with varying winds, I think this board will be a deadly weapon
And once off the race, fun sailing, what a thrill!! I found myself a few miles from my staring point , just cruising away, covering large distances in a short period of of time.
The version I tried is the carbon version, and felt solid and stiff.
As with most performance boards I ever sailed/raced. The centerboard is, as usual, a little fiddly.
In 27 years that I have sailed high performance raceboards, only once or twice have I come across a centerboard system that works as it should. Every one of my boards I have had to change and customize so it would work right. And I believe most serious racers will have done the same. The Exocet D2 has some teething issues with the centerboard operation, and I hope they get solved as the board deserves a well functioning system. However, if you know how to install an adjustable outhaul system on your boom, you will be able to make your centerboard work properly. I hope you don't let this issue deter you from getting one of these boards, the ride is way too much fun.
Resuming, this is a new step in the evolution of high performance board design. The transition of a displacement front to a planing rear really works, and marries the best of two worlds. This board flies upwind in light winds, Flies upwind in planing winds, Flies on a reach planing, or non planing.
I truly believe that this is what an Olympic racing board should be, not the overpriced RSX we have now. If you follow the new 45 foot Americas Cup catamarans and watch the exciting racing going on there, the D2 would provide a racing format that is as close as you can get to that new era of racing.
Full report and picutres http://calema.com/forums/viewtopic.php?id=632