Ezzy Freeride or slalom sails? – A personal review by Danny Geereedhary
Sail range sizes used in review:
Ezzy Cheetah 2015 6m,7m, 8m
Ezzy Lion 2016 6.5m, 7.5m, 8.5m
I adore these sails. I have owned each one of the above listed sail sizes and have used them in both slalom racing during my first year on the BSA Amatuer fleet 2015 as well as for freeride sailing at home in the local coastal waters of East Anglia, on the sea, i.e. West Mersea, Point Clear, Felixstowe, Dovercourt – Harwich. Plus used each in fresh water at Alton water inland reservoir.
My experience with Ezzy sails is that I’ve sailed their wave sails plus a couple of their freeride sails for a number of years and so have familiarity plus confidence in the sails performance and their construction as a well engineered sail.
This familiarity with the brands sails is what led me to move towards their slalom / ‘freerace’ oriented sails once I’d made the decision to try the discipline of slalom racing and hence move up to ‘bigger’ sails. Within that decision I was hoping that they would carry over some familiarity of feel in handling and transitions that I had come admire over the years that I have owned in their smaller wave sail versions.
It was a natural progression and the obvious choice to move from the brands smaller wave sails to their bigger sail versions.
By the way my research went as far as contacting (emailing) both Dave Ezzy and Kevin Pritchard about these sails. Ezzy Customer support is great.
Ezzy Cheetah 2015
The Cheetah is the no cam freeride/freerace version consisting of seven battens.
My concern, moving up to larger sails from smaller wave sails sizes, was did they carry that characteristic feel and ease of handling that their wave sails did? More importantly, for slalom racing and blasting about freeriding, would they be stable enough in the stronger gusts yet still be nimble and versatile enough to power up in lighter airs for getting me back up onto the plane/speed early after gybing?. Without any doubt once I sailed them my concerns were eradicated as the sail lived up to both expectations.
Using the Ezzy Cheetah at Worthing BSA event 2015
Ezzy Cheetah’s have been around for several years now, having done research in their previous years models test reports convinced me enough to follow through to purchase them from my local shop, ‘Fluidlines’. I was not disappointed with my decision and purchase and the 2015 Cheetah versions were beautiful looking sails as well as superbly constructed, as all Ezzy sails are.
Compared to a cammed sail, they are much lighter and far more user friendly to handle, move around, uphaul and water start. They use either skinny rdm masts or standard diameter masts. They work well with both (I’ve tried them with both, although they are sweet in my opinion with rdm skinny masts). Ezzy will advise use of Ezzy masts for optimal performance, but I’ve tried them with Neil Pryde sdm masts and other brands like Tushingham’s and they worked fine.
Rigging up the Cheetah sail is a breeze. Both downhaul and outhaul are done according to wind strength and calibration marker gauges are supplied on the sails that are spot perfect to rig the sails settings to according to these ‘every time’.
De-rigging the sails is super easy and super fast. There are no cams to worry about and the relatively wide luff sleeve makes insertion of the masts into and from the sails easy to slide in an out. Ezzy provides quick YouTube tutorials on this and sail set up if there is any doubts, but it really is very easy.
Each one the sail sizes performs excellently, with a wide wind range as has become characteristic with Ezzy sails for a number of years. They are surprisingly stable for a no cam sail even as the wind picks up. Get the technique and commitment right and they will power your freeride, freerace or slalom board right off the fin to fly over the chop or waves or simply propel you quickly through flat waters for an exhilarating feel and ride, capable of overtaking your mates (if you get it right) such is their level of control.
Handling is very easy, almost like a large wave sail in some respects. In transitions they simply flow smoothly around in gybes, while heli-tacks feel almost as familiar on the 8m Cheetah as they were on my 5m Ezzy elite wave sail. I was so surprised at my first attempt at heli-tacking the 8m Cheetah sail that I nearly fell off the board having completed the rotation from the shock of how easy it was to do it on such a large sail (not what I expected from an 8m sail on my first ever try on such a large sail).
Sailing back to sail (i.e. sailing backwards on the reverse side of the sail to the wind) is also quite easy too (i.e. if you’ve practiced and know how to do this old school freestyle trick?) so for basic transitions they can be fun too, something I had not expected, but was hoping for as that really proved to me that this was Ezzy keeping it real but user friendly without sacrificing anything on performance or build quality and their typical Ezzy feel.
Sailing fast: ‘Oh yes they can’. Flat water or on the sea slalom racing conditions, as long as there is wind to fill the sails they can be as quick as virtually most other sails.
Their beauty is that after gybing, or from a stand still start, they are extremely easy to move around into the optimal position to capture the wind in order to fill their sail area and power them up to plane away ‘very’ early (naturally, the riders ability and weight and board matching plays its part here) compared to fuller cammed race sail versions.
I would say the only time I ever felt these sails lost out to full on 3 or 4 cammed race sails is when the presented wind has lulls and/or is flukey on a reach. In contrast a cammed sail has a set shaped luff area at the front of the sail that helps keep the sails profile stable and hence assists the air flow (wind) remain a little longer in the sail and hence maintains that airflow to keep going just that bit longer as the sail enters areas of wind lulls. That apart there is pretty much nothing that I experienced that was not perfect for freeride sailing or racing. Myself, being a typical average joe, weekend warrior type of sailor, I have held my own against others on full racing 3 and 4 cam race sails during racing heats on these sails, so at least that much is a testament alone of how capable these sails are, especially in consistent wind conditions where they really do perform very well.
Ezzy’s are known for their build quality and construction too so reselling them on after a couple of years use is part of the attraction of owning an Ezzy sail and hence easy. But they are so well built that you may never need to sell them on and may prefer to keep them for many years for your own personal freeride, freesail, use. (Note: If I wasn’t considering more slalom racing I would have no reservations about keeping such sails for years. But racing sort of forces you to consider the latest updates and improvements however small or large that are made to a sail and in racing one has to look out for every advantage one can get. So I have to trade in existing sails for the next progressive models (either next years model or the different sail type versions, but that’s me for learning to race in its full form, but these sails are quite capable as they are)
I have not sailed the 2016 version Cheetah sails. I traded my 2015 Cheetahs for the twin cam version Ezzy Lions, since I was keen to progress further into the discipline of slalom racing and build a natural progression of strength, technique and familiarise myself sensibly going from smaller wave sails (having been used to sailing those for a number of years) to using bigger, more demanding larger / heavier sails that would allow me to compete in slalom racing (and eventually to try full cammed race sails). However from all the reports I‘ve read the 2016 Cheetah’s carry through the same characteristics plus are improved on certain points.
Ezzy Lion (2 cam sail)
These are Ezzy’s two cam freeride/freerace (slalom) version sail consisting of seven battens.
This time my concern was regarding the move up from the no cam ‘Cheetah’ sail version to Ezzy’s twin cammed sail.
Would the Lion sails carry that characteristic feel and ease of handling that the no cam Cheetah sail version provides?
More importantly, for slalom racing and blasting about freeriding, would they maintain that typically ‘Ezzy feel’ and still be nimble and versatile enough to power up quickly onto the plane in lighter airs or after gybing? Short answer is yes.
Essentially the two cams on the Lion sails provide a touch more stability on from the no cam Cheetah sails, or rather they provide the capability to handle top end wind a little better. Both the Cheetah and Lion will operate in the same wind strengths for the same given sail size but at the very top end of their wind ranges the Lions set shape in the front area just behind the luff sleeve is held by the two cams and this allows it to be more forgettable and hence handles a little more top end better in that sense. (uncannily the Lions cams can be removed and the sail can be used without the cams. I have never tried it this way, but it’s handy to know that it can be done).
The Cheetah in comparison is so versatile and manouverable yet stable that small adjustments can be made to compensate and achieve control in the same top end range as the Lion.
Ezzy Lions’s have been produced for a couple of seasons now, I was not disappointed with the 2016 versions which were also strikingly attractive looking sails and in true Ezzy fashion exquisitely constructed. Compared to a full on 3 or 4 cammed full race sail they are much lighter and much like the Ezzy Cheetah’s no cam versions they are user friendlier to handle than full cammed race sails. The lions will also use either skinny rdm masts or standard diameter masts. They work well with both (I’ve tried them with both, generally constant curve masts). Ezzy will advise use of Ezzy masts for optimal performance, but I’ve tried them with Neil Pryde sdm masts and Tushingham’s and they worked fine.
Ezzy Lion used in BSA 2015 event Tenby, Wales
Rigging up the Lion sail is slightly more involved than compared to the no cam Cheetah but is still relatively easy. There is an excellent short duration Ezzy YouTube tutorial on how to do this. Or your local shop can show you how to do it. But it’s really not that difficult. After the first couple of times rigging the sail it is really simple from then on.
Like the Cheetah the Lion sails also have the downhaul and outhaul marker gauges on the sails and are spot perfect for rigging the sail ‘every time’. This really does take any uncertainty out of rigging up the sail as every time you do you know it is set perfectly according to the conditions.
De-rigging the sail is relatively easy. There is a relatively wide luff sleeve on the Lion sails that helps insertion of the masts into and out of the sail easy compared to a full cammed race sail. The YouTube tutorial on rigging the Lion sails also shows how to derig it. But it’s not that difficult. Once you ease off the downhaul tension a little bit.
Each of the sail sizes performs very well, they have a wide wind range and are stable and a joy to handle as the wind picks up. They were well suited to power my slalom board right off the fin and handling is superb. Giving too much downhaul past the calibration marker gauges on the sail is possible and feels perfectly balanced and allows one to handle even more top end wind to the sails brief. This makes for a very pleasant stable sail when freesailing and blasting about as it allows you to continue enjoy sailing without having to change down sail size when the wind cranks up a bit more than what you would have felt comfortable with on such a sail size before using the Ezzy Lion. But for racing in heats a little caution is advised as that same extreme top end setting ability will also spill the wind more than what you will effectively need to keep top speed and for going upwind more efficiently. So staying within the provided calibration markings provided on the sail is recommended in proper race conditions. But for free sailing you are at liberty to experiment beyond the markings as you are not being subject to a comparison against others in a race setting.
Handling is ‘easy’ for a cammed sail, in fact it is not that far off the no cam slalom version in transitions. The cams simply flow around the mast smooth and effortlessly in gybes.
Sailing back to sail (i.e. sailing backwards on the reverse side of the sail to the wind) is also quite easy too on these. So for basic ‘old school’ transitions they can be quite fun too.
Plane away and lock them down very early and they are a joy to sail. I’ve sailed them in quite bumpy waters and they handle quite well. Technique does help the bumpier the water state gets but they are capable of being sailed in such conditions within reason of course. I wouldn’t go advising anyone to take them out at a proper wave venue unless you are Kevin Pritchard) but I’ve used them in small bump jump and swell conditions at Clacton on Sea.
Sailing fast: ‘Yes yes yes’. Flat water or on the sea slalom racing conditions, and are as quick as virtually most other sails.
I used the 7.5m Lion at a slalom training session last summer at Hayling Island and managed to keep in front of everyone during one of the race training heats on this size sail. That provided me the proof that the Lion sail can be very fast when everything is working right.
Compared to fuller cammed race sails.
I think there isn’t much in it in terms of performance. There is pretty much nothing that I experienced that was not perfect for free sailing or racing. A fuller cammed race sail may provide great stability and prolong the drive of the sail a little longer in lighter airs or wind lulls but I didn’t experience much difference in my own comparions.
Resale value after a couple of years use is likely to be quite easy and rewarding as an Ezzy sail is known for its build quality. This sail, being an Ezzy, is so well built that you may never need to sell it on and may prefer to keep the sail for many years for your own personal freeride, freesail, freerace use.
If you are looking for well built and well engineered sail that looks beautiful at the same time with the high likelihood of lasting you a long time (unless of course you do something to destroy it) while also providing you with a welcome level of high performance plus user friendliness to go fast with then these sails are well worth a look.
Many sailors get used to particular brands and its no secret that I have been using Ezzy sails for many years. I’m 73kg and they simply worked well for me.
Unfortunately Ezzy does not produce a 3 or 4 cam version race sail. So I am moving towards another sail brand to fulfil my developmental learning curve. But the Ezzy Cheetah and Lion are very capable sails.
If I were not continuing to learn about and participate in racing (i.e. at amateur fleet level) then I would have been hanging onto the Ezzy sails, probably for a very long time.
If you are looking to find out more regarding supply and purchase of these sails, my local shop Fluidlines in Colchester, Essex have them to order and can be contacted for advice.
Shop phone number: 01206 545533
Email address: firstname.lastname@example.org