The Ultimate FW Board Tuning Guide

April 2, 2009 Design, Racing, Review 69 Comments

In late 2007, the IFWC elected to lock the registration of Formula Boards for 2 years, meaning we’d all be riding the same boards in 2009 as we had been in 2008. Now, after a full season on the current boards, there exists an unprecedented opportunity to have your board ‘already’ dialled in for the new 2009 season. So, in order to help you to go faster, here at CarbonSugar we’ve asked some of the sports’ top professional FW sailors, to share their settings and opinions on the boards they are riding in both 2008 and 2009. Coupled with precise measurements and some inside information about the development of each board, here we present the most comprehensive current formula board tuning guide available anywhere on the internet; everything from mast-track, footstrap and boom positions, to recommended fins and cutout plate strategies. Enjoy!

There were 8 boards registered with ISAF for use on the FW circuit. These included, the F2 FX-Z/FX-VI, Mike’s Lab L8, Starboard F162/Apollo, Gaastra Vapor, Lorch Thunderbird Formula F1 and the Exocet Warp Formula 100. We haven’t had access to all of these boards as some of them weren’t available in the countries we tested in or weren’t properly represented on the FW Pro Circuit during 2008, so for the purpose of this tuning guide we’ve only reviewed the more mainstream and widely available of the boards which included, Starboard F162, Gaastra Vapor, F2 FX-Z/FX-VI, Exocet Warp Formula 100.

The riders interviewed for this tuning guide include:

  • Jesper Vesterstrøm (DEN-111)
  • Gonzalo Costa-Hoevel (ARG-3)
  • Steve Allen (AUS-0)
  • Sean O’Brien (AUS-120)
  • Allison Shreeve (AUS-911)
  • Dennis Littel (NED-13)
  • Markus Bouman (NED-6)
  • Steve Bodner (USA-4)
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* right now, we haven’t been able to get access to any of the new F2 boards for measurement. If someone would like to supply these measurements, that would be great! Email them to Sean.


We’ve supplied fin suggestions based on the fins the riders have previously tried with the boards. Its possibly that many different styles of fins will work with each board. We’re not suggesting you need have one of the suggested fins or you are wasting your time, merely that if you had already decided to buy a fin, here’s some helpful suggestions on model. We’ve tried to suggest a model from each brand but obviously not every fin was available to every rider. Consult your fin maker for more specifics before making a decision.

Mast-track settings and boom-height will change dramatically based on the fin you are using. We have given the settings as a ‘guide’ only. Start with our settings and then make adjustments to your own preferences and sailing styles.

Starboard F162 / FWOD

Starboard F162 Formula Board

Starboard released two versions of their F162 board. The second version, released mid way through 2008, was an identical board given the graphics of FWOD (Formula Windsurfing One-Design, pictured left) as Starboard made a bid to create the new Olympic Windsurfing equipment for the 2012 Olympics. Although Starboard always maintained the shapes were identical, there was some speculation that the rocker lines were changed on the newer FWOD versions (weweren’t able to find this on the boards we measured however) to give them less flat towards the tail however, the main feature riders will notice is that the new F162’s or FWOD versions, sport a thicker grey paint and logo on the bottom of the board, either to stay with ISAF’s policies on Olympic equipment being difficult to modify by sanding or to help with early problems they had with the board with the veneer of the bottom of the boards weeping.

The F162 came under early criticism from the general public on the windsurfing forums that the board wasn’t performing well compared to its competitor’s boards, however, after a 12 months on the market it would appear now that it was just a case of sailors not realising how different this board was to its predecessors and not tuning the board correctly.


Compared to the F160/F161 Starboards, the new F162 is considerably wider in the tail and has a wider and thinner nose, with considerably less nose-rocker leading up to the front of the board. The concept behind the thinner and flatter nose, was to aid with the ‘sticking’ problems that the 160 and to some extent the 161 had downwind, whereby the big and bulky noses of these boards would catch each wave and slow the board down. This new nose has been quite successful in improving downwind speed on the F162 even with the wider tail, which although helps immensely with upwind ability, the wider the tail, the more wetted surface-area you are dragging downwind.

This board sails incredibly ‘flat’, meaning that the nose sticks to the water and the board feels very rigid and stiff under your feet.  Because of the flat nose-rocker, you need to be mindful of always trying to set up your gear to keep the nose clear of the water. Even with good rail pressure, without the nose lifting you can produce too much leeward rail engagement, which slows the board down. As a result, the best tuning settings are ones that free the nose and help to rail the board.


No doubt, with the ‘flat’ characteristics this board has when it sails makes fin choice a lot more critical then previous Starboard boards. The F162 requires an extremely powerful fin to help rail the board and lift the nose to get the board to ‘free up’ and stop sticking to the water. Don’t mistake a powerful fin for simply just an ‘upright’ fin; these are two different things. What the board requires is a powerful fin and the best way to do this is to try fins with little to no ‘geometric twist’ and torsionally stiff. The best fins showing these characteristics are the Kashy XS/XXS, VMG Blades ‘K’ model and Hurricane FRB6 with ‘0’ twist. During testing this board we found the Deboichet R20 not powerful enough to keep the nose of the board lifting.

The fins we recommended for this board are currently:
Light Winds:

– Kashy 72/70 XS
– Ifju LWXS 70*
– VMG Blades K76/70
– Hurricane FRB6 ‘680’ S- 72/70

Strong Winds:

– Kashy 70cm XS
– Ifju LWXS 70
– VMG Blades K70
– Hurricane FRB6 ‘680’ S- 70


*We hadn’t tried a cutdown Ifju at the time of testing. But presumably they would be as good as the 70.

Starboard F162 Formula Board

In lightwinds, the tail width of this board will allow cutdown fins up to 72/76cm however most of the riders using this board used 72/74cm fins. The board requires a lot of power both from your fin and also from your sail, so it is recommended in light/medium winds to always use the biggest sail possible. Pro rider Jesper Vesterstrøm suggested he used his 11.8m sail up to 18 knots which is higher than other riders on other boards.  The extra power from your sail will help generate the lift the board needs to rail and also help power the bigger cutdown fins you are using.


This board sails very flat, so to counteract this characteristic you need to get all the power and leverage towards the back of the board. Start with the mast-track all the way in the back (with your plate covering the serial number even) and straps in the back holes (front and back straps). Your boom height will depend on your style, however it is recommended to use as higher boom height as possible to help lift the nose of the board. Using larger cutdown fins, may cause the nose to sit lower in the water due to the amount of vertical-lift they produce; having a high boom, straps and mast-track back will help to counteract the fin and the boards insitence to keep sailing flat.

In stronger winds, the mast-track can be moved forward to aid with control, however it is not recommended to go much further than the middle of the track, even in hurricane conditions.

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Overall, this is a very comfortable board to sail and the specified weights of the boards we measured were all within tolerances. It may require a little bit more tuning than other boards if you have been riding the previous Starboard FW boards as the F162 is a very different animal to its predecessors.

Gaastra Vapor Racing

Gaastra Vapor BoardGaastra entered the Formula Board market quite late, with the Vapor Racing 2008 board their first ever FW board. Shaped by Tabou shaper Fabien Vollenweider and developed by Steve Allen (AUS-0) and Hubert Mokrzycki (POL-25), Gaastra were pretty quick to snag a good market share of the FW boards sold in 2008, even if it took them 10 months to acknowledge the board even existed on their website!


We’ve written a more in depth review of the Gaastra board which you can read here, however, the fins have changed immensely since that article was published and we recommend using the settings mentioned below rather than in the previous review.

The general characteristics of the Vapor board are that its got a nice amount of scoop-rocker, a very wide tail, similar (which we like!) cutouts to the F162 and a very well designed nose which has just the right amount of vee/concave and thin outline built in to it to make this board a real performer downwind, even in strong winds.

The board arguably feels similar under the feet to a Starboard F160, however, with the wider tail, the board feels much more ‘free’ even in light winds. It is a very ‘aggressive’ board, meaning that the nose rides high in the water and the board feels very twitchy and responsive under your feet. Although, there will be no problems with control, even in high winds, with this board, the general ride characteristics are that the board is extremely loose and ‘flighty’ with the nose being lifted easily and fin/rail pressure being generated easily. All the tuning settings for this board are to keep the nose tracking straight without bobbing up and down which is can do with the wrong mast-track position. This is one of the few boards that is not very fin specific, almost any fin will work and feel comfortable with the board, which is a great attribut to its design.


As we mentioned, this board works well with almost any from an old Deboichet R13 up to the latest Kashy/VMG etc super soft fins. With the very forgiving feeling this board has in high winds and the safety the nose of this board creates when sailing downwind in big swell, it will be possible to use much larger fins in higher winds with the Vapor board. We found the best fins suited to this board are the newer, much softer, swept-back fins such as Kashy, VMG Blades, Deboichet R20 and Hurricane FRB6 as these fins create a bit of vertical lift under the board which helps to keep the nose down a little and under control.

Different to the Starboard F162, you don’t need as much power from the fin to generate rail pressure with this board, so we recommend getting fins with maximum amount of twist in the tip which will help depower and settle the board down when the fin loads up in high winds and will also allow a much more comfortable and smooth ride downwind at deeper angles.

The fins we recommended for this board are currently:
Light Winds:

– Kashy 74/70 XS
– Ifju LWXS
– VMG Blades K76/70 (Gaastra model)
– Hurricane FRB6 ‘682’ S- 72/70
– Deboichet R20


Strong Winds:

– Kashy 70cm XS
– Ifju LWXS
– VMG Blades K73 or K70 (Gaastra model)
– Hurricane FRB6 ‘682’ S- 70
– Deboichet R20


With a 12m sail, the mast-track should sit in the middle of the track. Any further back and you begin to stall the board as it does not require the track so far back to lift the nose, the shape of the board does this automatically. As it is quite an aggressive board, when the wind gets up you need to move the track forward to keep control of the nose. With the track 2-3cm further forward than centre, the board comes in to its own in strong winds, with a very comfortable and easy ride, despite how responsive the board feels under your feet. It might be possible to stay in the outside straps in strong winds much longer on this board compared with any other, due to its nose shape and wide tail. Straps should always be in the back holes on this board and boom height needs to be as high as comfortable.

We recommend running a higher boom and mast-track further forward to keep the nose at the optimum control level. If you were to move your mast-track further back than middle (to help lift the nose) and then run your boom lower to compensate, the board seems to ‘stall’ a little and be slower to get planing.

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Overall, Gaastra have done a very good job providing one of the few boards this season that is as fast as it is easy to sail and tune. Any fin, any sail and any sized rider will suit this board.

Exocet Warp Formula 100

Exocet Warp Formula 100 Formula BoardIt was said that Exocet’s Patrice Belbeoch developed the Warp Formula 100 entirely on his own without testing against another rider or another board brand. Whether that is true or not, Patrice certainly came up with a very different board for the 2008 season, turning away from trends or copying other designs and creating one of the most talked about boards in 2008. With its slick carbon look and black paint, the new Exocet, aka the “Black Machine” turned a few heads this year when Argentinian rider Gonzalo Costa-Hoevel ended his long-term deal with F2 to ride the new Exocet.


The first thing to notice about this board is the weight. At its ISAF registered weight, the Warp Formula is nearly 1kg lighter than than any other board on the market and we’ve found by weighing a number of different boards the gap could even be more than 1kg.

Much like the F162, the Exocet sails extremely flat, with the nose sticking to the water, however this characteristic is due much more to the underside of the board’s shape. There is very little rocker and concave in this board and very little nose-rocker towards the front. Exocet have widened the tail of this board immensely and the Exocet has become the widest tailed board behind the new F2’s, with an extra 1cm over the F162 and 2cm over the Vapor at the 30cm off mark.

The board has a similar sailing feeling to the F162 upwind in that the board sails incredibly ‘flat’ with the nose sticking to the water, however it feels a lot more stiff and rigid under your feet than the F162, probably due to the wider tail and flatter rockerline. With the super light weight, the board planes up considerably earlier than other boards with an 11m sail and has extremely good upwind angles in lightwind with its flat bottom shape. The nose appears to stick a little downwind in stronger breezes however this can be fine-tuned with the right fins and setup.


Much like the Vapor board, the Exocet’s strengths are that it appears to suit a variety of fins. Everything from older R13 fins up to the latest Kashy/VMG etc super soft fins. The extra width in the tail allows the rider to use a big fin in stronger breezes however the fin must be working to help lift the nose of the board otherwise it could be counter-productive. Different fins give this board a different riding style. Using more traditional fins such as the R13, the board feels incredibly stiff under your feet and generates a lot of lift and speed upwind. As the R13 is a fin that generates a lot of ‘railing’ very easily downwind, we found this fin to give almost the best performance downwind in a variety of windstrengths as it helped rail the board which could clear the ‘sucking’ nose of swells and also reduce the wetted surface area of the board downwind; decreasing drag.

Despite what fin you decide to use, the fin needs to have considerably less rake than other board models. A fin that is less upright will help to lift the nose of the board and may also generate a little more geometric twist in the fin which can help with speed downwind and giving the board a more comfortable ride downwind.

The fins we recommended for this board are currently:
Light Winds:

– Kashy 72/70 XS (rake 4.5 deg)
– VMG Blades K73/70 (rake 5 deg)
– Deboichet R13 S– 70 (rake +4)
– Deboichet R20 70 (rake +4)


Strong Winds:

– Kashy 72/70 XS (rake 4.5 deg)
– VMG Blades K70 or K68 (rake 5 deg)
– Deboichet R13 S– 70 (rake +4)
– Deboichet R20 70 (rake +4)


The mast-track on this board needs to be run as far back as possible at all times; even in strong winds. The same goes for the footstraps. The reason being, upwind you need to release the nose of the board and having your setup all in the back with maximum pressure on your fin will help to generate the rail pressure needed to lift the nose of the board. Downwind, this board is susceptible to the nose catching waves and slowing down. To counteract this you must get your weight centralised over the back of the board and aggresively rail the board with your feet. Hitting the swell at an angle, whilst the board is extremely railed, will help reduce drag and improve your speed downwind. Fin choice will help with this and one of the main reasons we’ve included the R13 fin with this board is that it is arguably the best fin to generate the rail pressure needed to rail this board downwind and ‘fly the fin’.

On another note, there has been mixed responses as to whether this smaller, lighter board can handle a 12m. The Exocet feels lower on volume than other boards on the market (even though on paper, it is even bigger than some of the other baords) because the overall thickness of the board is less at the the tail and the flatter rockline makes the board appear to sit lower in the water. Although, Gonzalo has been using 12m successfully in light winds in the early part of this season, some heavier riders might find this board a little harder to get planing with the bigger rigs because the board will stall when the nose is pushed down during pumping.

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Overall, Exocet have done a great job with this board and provided an interesting competitor to the F162, Vapor and F2 boards. This board, might have more advantages for lighter riders as it ‘may’ have more potential for early planing used with an 11m sail in lighter winds. It is a very easy board to sail/trim upwind however might require a bit more tuning downwind to get the best speed out of the board.


F2 - FX-Z Formula BoardF2 did something unusual in response to the IFWC’s two-year board design lock; they registered two boards, with the FX-VI being produced early on for the 2008 season and the FX-Z only being made available to the ‘general’ consumer much later in the 2008 season. Although the boards share some common characteristics, they are two different boards, with F2 shaper Patrik Diethelm working with Gonzalo Costa-Hoevel on the boards before Gonzalo switched to the Exocet team halfway through 2008. The boards appear to have followed two completely different development paths, each following on from the 2006 and the 2007 F2 boards, which were very different in concept.

For the purpose of describing the general characteristics, we will describe both the FX-Z and FX-VI at once.


Compared to the other boards on the market, the major design feature of the F2’s is their incredibly wide tails, with the Z being slightly wider than the VI and both being almost 5cm wider than any other board at the one foot off mark. Both boards sport a very rounded outline in their tail and a lower overall scoop-rocker than previous F2 boards which allows them to have good early planing ability despite the drag of the extra tail width.

Looking at both the boards, they appear very square as the tail is almost the width of the nose, but on the water is where they show their abilities. Both boards have a very ‘aggressive’ sailing style which is a little bit more technical to sail comfortably than other boards on the market. The F2 boards are easily railed with their flat vee section in the tail and very sharp rails in the middle however this can also make the boards feel very ‘flighty’ in stronger winds and chop and more mast-track forward pressure is needed to keep the nose down.

It is probably a fair comment that these are both ‘lightwind’ specialist boards. With the added tail width, it’s possible to run fins bigger than ever before (Pro Rider Dennis Littel used an 83cm cutdown Kashy fin in light winds with the FX-Z in 2008) as the added leverage from the board’s tail width allows greater control. The majority of riders will be using much larger cutdown fins in 2009 as large (+76cm) cutdowns are still relatively new on the market. To some extent, the F2 boards have helped drive the need for bigger cutdown fins in other boards on the market.

In stronger winds these boards can become a little more difficult to sail as they require a taller and heavier rider who can use their height to leverage over the board to keep control and stop the board from flying the nose; especially downwind. Of course, the wider the tail the more leverage you get against the fin but also more drag you get whilst sailing. It is a tough comprimise with these F2 boards as they definitely have the best lightwind abilities of any board on the market this year but at the expense of being more difficult in stronger winds and a little more technical to keep the speed up downwind as the tail seems to suck a little on the downwind legs.

F2 recommends the VI as the choice for lighter sailors and the Z for heavier/taller sailors. This is a good recommendation as generally speaking, most of the taller, heavier riders on the tour used the Z versus the smaller guys using the VI when they had both to choose from.


F2 FX-VI Formula Board 2009As usual, the F2’s sport the booster pipes and adjustable cutout plates to help with the tuning difficulties downwind. The concept behind the booster pipes and cutout plates have always generated a lot of discussion in the FW world and many theories are out there as to their effectiveness. Originally, when the pipes were brought in to their FW and slalom range in 2006, F2 stated that the pipes were to eliminate the vacuum created in the large tail cutouts while travelling at speed. From testing the boards in the past seasons that have used the pipes, its been more apparent that the pipes play a better role in reducing the vacuum at low speeds especially when trying to pump on to the plane. The same can be said for the current boards, as the tail width does have the propencity to ‘suck’ to the water whilst trying to initiate planing.

The cutout plates, give the rider four options (with plastic ringed spacers allowing the adjustments) by either using no plates, or putting 1-3 rings in between them to make the cutout depth smaller. All of our test riders found the board performed best with 2 rings in on both boards; in either strong or light winds, upwind or downwind.


No doubt, with the insane tail width of these boards, it’s possible to use bigger fins than ever before. We had tested a smaller amount of fins out with these boards so there may be many more options available, but for tuning purposes, fins that work with the VI will work in the Z. Softer tipped and fins with a little bit more ‘geometric twist’ are a must with these boards to help release the board a little bit from the water and help it to rail. The fins need to be fast to generate the best lift but also to be powerful to help rail the board downwind. The best fins showing these characteristics are the Kashy XS/XXS, VMG Blades ‘K’ and ‘B’ models, the R20 and Ifju LW models.

The fins we recommended for this board are currently:
Light Winds:

– Kashy 78-80/70 XS
– Ifju LWXS 70*
– VMG Blades K78/70, B78/70
– Deboichet R20

Strong Winds:

– Kashy 70cm XS
– Ifju LWXS 70
– VMG Blades K70
– Deboichet R20



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[table “” not found /]

We hope you are able to use this guide to better tune your boards in 2009. CarbonSugar would like to stress that it is actually a ‘guide’ and not a definitive tuning methodology. Everyone is different and we only sampled a small number of fins, so please our recommendations as a basis to begin tuning and try your own settings to see if they are faster.

Feel free to post your comments/suggestions and personal experiences about the boards in the comments so the discussion can be built on.

Join the discussion 69 Comments

  • Gambler says:

    Nice article.
    Any opinion for Lorch formula boards?

  • Sean OBrien says:

    Hi Gambler,

    Unfortunately, I don’t. They’re a little under-represented on the tour (although I do know there’s plenty floating around in the National fleets in Europe) so I haven’t had access to one to even look at it, let alone sail it. Lorch always made nice slalom boards so I’m sure their FW would be fine.

    I’d be happy to post other people’s opinions on the board, but I can only write about what I’ve tried 😉

    • can sailor says:

      I have a question about recreational fw sailing. I’d rather post this in a forum but I’m not sure this site has one. I’ve got a second hand Starboard 147 with a 70cm drake debochiet fin. I’m 150 lbs, sail in fresh water. What size should my first big rig be for planing starting in 12 knots?

      This might be bad form posting this here but this is the only place online to get a straight answer on formula gear. Any help is appreciated.

      • Sean OBrien says:

        @ can sailor – No problems asking here! That was the idea of the site as there is really nowhere else to ask other than forums (which can “sometimes” be useful, but “sometimes” not).

        Ok, you’re pretty light at 150 lbs (68kg). If you are just recreational sailing and not planning to race (or even might like to race ‘one day’ but not right now) then I wouldn’t get anything larger than a 10m. It is unnecessary. The bigger sails (11-12m) are usually a step up in boom and mast size so the total rig weight is a considerable jump and might be heavy and tiring to sail with. Every tack and gybe is a little more work with a bigger rig and the early planning advantage is minimal if you don’t want to pump really hard.

        If you don’t plan to use the rig in more wind than 18-20 knots then there’s a lot of good twin (or 3) cam free ride sails for light-wind slalom in the 9.5-10m category that would be nice as these sails are sometimes a bit more full in the profile and nicer for early planing (as well as lighter) than the full race sails. The race sails are usually more stable and have a larger wind range but come at a bigger price tag and heavier weight.

        I’d recommend you save a few dollars on the sail and spend a few extra dollars on a good carbon boom versus an alloy one. On big sails, a stiff carbon boom makes a HUGE difference to the friendliness and stability of the sail. That’s a quick explanation of things. Shoot me an email from the Contact page if you want more info 😉

  • Tomek says:

    Hi Sean

    Pretty good job I must say. The only missing board seems to be the old trastful Starboard F160. I noticed some pros are still using this board so I hope you will publish here some important tunning tips as well.

    Thanks for your effort anyway. Looking forward to see you in Poland during Grad Prix events…

  • Sean OBrien says:

    @ Tomek – I guess I just wanted to document the 2008-09 boards because its fair to say the sailors using the older models (like the F160) have been sailing them 3-4 seasons and have them pretty dialled in.

    I didn’t want to do ‘every’ board, cause if you include previous years there’s too many already. If you include the 160 then what about the 161 that won the most recent Worlds? lol.

    But I could certainly put in these comments some tuning ideas more boards. Maybe we could start a Wiki? Would be kind of cool in 10 years to look at a tuning guide for 50 boards!

  • Spokas says:

    Hi Sean,

    This tuning guide is exelent advice for new FW riders .Unfortunately almost all novice FW riders starts with used equipment . So tuning tips for previous years boards ( SB160 ) would be extreemly useful.

  • Sean OBrien says:

    @ Spokas – it seems like a lot of people still really like the 160!

    It’s a little hard for me to do tuning tips of many other older boards because I need to sail them and try different settings to learn how the board works; of course I don’t own any of these boards.

    I did however, own the 160 up until a few weeks ago and I was sailing it every now and again when I didn’t have my Gaastra board with me. So I can give some tuning advice on it:


    The Gaastra Vapor board was designed using the 160 as a base and making modifications from there, so generally speaking, all the setup points mentioned for the Vapor board will work with the 160. So put your straps all in the back holes and use the fins that worked well with the Vapor board or even an older R13 works well with the 160 (although the newer fins will be faster).

    The main difference I think is there feels like there’s a bit more flat in the 160 so the mast track settings are a bit different. Start 2cm back from the middle for a 12m and if you are using an 11m as a lightwind sail or are a lighter rider you could try mast track ALL the way back. Just move it forward as the wind increases, but try not to go too much further forward than 1cm past middle as this board doesn’t like too much downward nose pressure.

    After that, just follow the advice on the Vapor board as they are quite similar.

    Hope that helps 😉

  • Michelb says:

    Fantastic job.
    I want to add a congratulation for this site and all the information that you use to share with we, the common people.
    I’m a recreational Formula sailor ( just a weekend sailor). But thinghs thet I read here like fly the fin, starts etc… I translate to the spanish and also share with friends. All we are better sailors thanks to you and other people who share this knowledge.

    A big hug and thanks again from Chile.

    If you can add some words for the 161…… will be very nice.

  • Marco Bal says:

    Gaastra Vapor Board.

    I have an additional fin that works really well with the Vapor board:

    Hurricane FRB8 “702” S– 70

    The fin is quit soft, allowing the board to get off the water quit fast. The fin works best between 8 and 15 knots. With 15 knots the board still is horizontal during the gusts.
    Getting into a plane is quit easy but still the Vapor board sticks a bit to the water with low winds. I looks like the board is too deep in the water, maybe because off the double concave?

  • Daniel says:

    Excelente review, thank you very much, long time needed. I did some thing similar some months ago, but this one is lots better.

    I just miss Mike’s lab… superb board..

  • Sean OBrien says:

    @MichelB – Thanks! I will try to write some things about the F161 soon; I don’t have that board anymore so I’ll have to do some research about it to be correct.

    @Marco Bal – Cool! I saw your pics of this fin on the Gaastra forum a while back; I was going to ask you about it but I’ve been to busy! The fin looks nice and I hope to try one when I get to Europe.

    When its ‘sticking’ to the water in low winds? I assume you mean the nose is staying quite flat when normally the Vapor board is quite ‘lively’ and ‘free’ and the nose rides high. We’ve discovered this on some of the bigger cutdown fins which could also be the case with this FRB8 – the fins are creating a lot of ‘vertical lift’ under the back of the board which is pushing down the nose. So often, you need to try running your mast-track 2cm further back than normal to get the nose to lift. That might help with the early planing?

    @Daniel – cheers! I’d love to one day have a sail of a ML board as I always hear good things about them. Unfortunately, we never see them in Australia so I haven’t been able to sail one to make some comments on it for this tuning-guide. Maybe one day …

  • Marco Bal says:

    the early planning is not an issue, but the sticking is. I allready moved the mast track to the back, but that did not help very much.
    Today had some TOW again with the board + Vapor 12m2 and this time I have put the boom on max height + moved the mast track 2 cm behind the middle. This setting looks to be the right one for me. Maybe I can shorten the harness lines a bit, but first I have to get used to the higher boom position before I’ll do that.
    The board just needs some extra effort than my previous board (F2 2005) which was very, very easy to rail. The Vapor board is better in early planning nad handling the 12m2 sails.

  • Starboardd says:

    Hi Sean.. I own a stb 160 and I sold my old F2.. Now Im going on the stb again… The thing is that I have to buy a fin.. I can buy only one fin and I want to buy an Ifju… What would be the best stuff for the 160, A 70MWXXS or a harder one like the 70LWXS. I sail on quite choppy waters and I want that fin for winds up to 20 knots…

  • Sean OBrien says:

    @ Starboardd – ok, if you are only buying one fin for up to 20 knots then I would definitely get a 70 rather than a bigger cutdown fin.

    I haven’t used a lot of Ifju fins but probably the softer one XXS might give you a bit more range in the bottom end of the windrange. You could ask Peter if he could put a little more extra twist in the tip section as this would make the fin a little more controllable in the stronger winds. Peter himself could probably give you a little more guidance as I’m not entirely sure if there is a foil difference between his MW and LW fins?

  • Starboardd says:

    Thx for your answer Sean

  • tomaso says:

    sean, absolutly the best reviews obtainable! thank you for all the time you are dedicating to the sport.
    i got the gaastra vapor board last fall, (based on your original review) have not had a lot of time on it but enough to know i made the right choice. i just want to be clear about what you mean by “the center of the mast track”. does that include the insertion area? or just the actual slot that holds the nut?
    i’m about 76 kg. and use 11.0 as biggest sail.

  • Nico-3430 says:

    Hello, you speak about fins bigger than 70cm, are they authorized for races? I thought the max was 70cm
    Thanks for your website!!!

  • Sean OBrien says:

    @ tomaso – yes, I mean the exact centre including the insert hole.

    Since you are a bit lighter than most and using a smaller sail as biggest, you might get a little more performance trying your track 1-2cm further back than I have suggested in this guide. The reason being, a heavier guy, puts more weight on the back of the board which in turn raises the nose of the board (and loads the fin much, much more) so they won’t need the track so far back (in fact, if they go too far back the board will stall when trying to pump), you on the other hand, won’t sink the tail so much with your lighter weight, so could try the track a tiny bit back (especially in light winds wit h the 11m) to try and create a bit more lift from the board and fin.

  • Sean OBrien says:

    @ Nico-3430 – sorry if this seemed confusing! Yes, the max fin rule is 70cm.

    When I am talking about any fin bigger than 70cm I am talking about a ‘cutdown’ fin. You’ll see I mention things like 76/70, which means a fin that was made 76cm long and it has had 6cm cut off from the tip to make it 70cm (and class legal) fin.

    Although cutdown fins have been around for a while, this season and last they have become much, much, much bigger and have become more popular because the board tail widths are considerably wider than previous years. A cutdown fin will have a greater overall thicker (and usually wider) foil and also has a much larger tip section as you’re cutting the fin from the tip, not the bottom – so you get a kind of ‘squared-off’ look on the tip of the fin.

    The trick is for the fin manufacturers to be able to build the same (or better) twist/bend characteristics into the ’70’ part of a 76cm mould that is much thicker, bigger than an ordinary 70cm fin and keep the same fin performance as the smaller fins do. Its an art; an probably why some fins cost more than others :-/

  • Brett Morris says:

    I think this is the only “cut to the bone” Formula information hub on the net? Great work Sean.

  • Matt says:

    Sean, as your website is a reference within the formula community, I think it would be great if you could add a forum where we can buy / sell equipment. What do you guys think?

  • Sean OBrien says:

    @ Brett Morris – yeap, I don’t think ‘beating around the bush’ with information helps anybody. I actually even think being brutally honest about certain gears’ performance actually can help sell it, even if its performance is perceived to be compromised. Conjecture and ranting on forums about FW gear seems to make people really confused about what gear to buy :-/

    @ Matt – hmmm, that idea has merit, but I’m not sure if its viable for me to do something like that on this site. Firstly, I run this site for free, and I’m usually pretty busy so can only write articles when I get time – if I ran a forum I’d have to constantly maintain it and keep it up to date (ie, prevent spam, abuse etc etc) and I believe I wouldn’t have the time to do that EVER, hehe.

    Also, it might be difficult to run a ‘worldwide’ buy/sell forum. It’s really quite difficult and expensive to ship individual gear around the world, so I’m not sure how that would work out for actually being able to buy/sell gear from the forum?

    Thanks for the idea though, I will keep it in mind if it ever becomes an option.

  • Tuan says:

    Sean, thx so much for all very helpfull info. I’ve decided to get Vapor board, 11.0 Vapor sail but need advise on fin . I sail in 12-15+mph condition in bay flat to small chops and weigh 160lbs. currently have R13 70cm M+ and R17 67cm S, but interested in Hurricane FRB6. will it give better performance? what is considered Light/ Strong wind conditions in your fin selection pls? thx much

  • Sean OBrien says:

    @ Tuan – I just sent you an email about this … Cheers.

  • Alain Enault says:

    Thanks for the tips on the SB160. I noticed Wilhem Schurman moved back to the 160 and seems to be very competitive. I understand he is using Kashy XS fins on it, but not sure which cut down size.

    Mathias Pinheiro, in the master division, is also sailing on 160 plus Kashy.

    I think it is great they can prove you don’t need the new and improved model to win races, but that an “older horse” can stil be a contender under the feet of a pro sailor.

  • Sean OBrien says:

    @ Alain Enault – is Wilhelm using the 160 in all regattas?? I know a few of the Brazilians used the 160 at the last Fortaleza GP as the chop there is pretty nasty and I think the small tail on the 160 compared to the new boards lends itself towards being more controllable in high wind/large chop conditions. But I figured he’d have to be using the 162 at some point as he’s on the Starboard DreamTeam?

    I definitely stand by the fact you don’t need the latest gear to go fast. A lot of guys like myself who may have deals with certain brands, are always updating their gear each season – not always because we know its faster, but because our sponsorship deals require it or we might need to sell the gear each season as it might lose too much value after two seasons to pay for any new gear! It always helps the National fleets when they can buy quality used gear at cheaper prices from the teamriders, so some people upgrading gear all the time is good for the class.

    I think a lot of people assume because the top guys always have new gear that you always need new gear to compete against them; but that’s not the case. It’s great when champions like Wojtek Brzozowski show this case in point by winning a Worlds on a 2 season old board and 3 season old sails!

  • Alain Enault says:

    If this picture is of Wilhem, at the Calema Midwinters, it definitely looks like a FW160 to me.
    And according to exchanges I had with Mathias Pinheiro, both Wilhem and himself sail on the 160.

  • Sean OBrien says:

    @ Alain Enault – yeap, that definitely looks like a 160 to me too! Interesting … that was a pretty light wind regatta.

    My personal view from sailing the 160, 161 and 162 is that the 162 was the best all round board once you had got it dialled in with the right fins and trim and certainly was the best board in light winds as it has the widest tail of all the starboards. The 160 had a distinct advantage in strong winds or nasty chop/waves etc as it has a smaller tail (less wetted-surface area downwind) and more scoop rocker in the nose (less nasty crashes when you catch the nose), however, as much as I love high-wind FW racing we don’t do so many races in winds like that these days so I picked the 161 over the 160 to race in 2007 (when I still rode Starboard boards).

    Good to see the old, old designs are still up there.

  • Rimiclulley says:

    Terrific post – will definitely come back soon…

  • Angelos says:

    Is the 162 comparable with the sb apollo board…?
    They seem pretty much the same…

  • Sean OBrien says:

    @ Angelos – I never sailed an Apollo, as they never made it to Australia, but my guess would be that they are fairly different boards to sail.

    I think from memory the 2008 Apollo was slightly wider at the very end of the tail section and and much longer in the nose – which probably included a longer ‘flat’ section at the back of the board’s bottom for early planing. This would mean the Apollo was probably quicker to plane than the 162, but then the 162 would be faster in top end speed once they were both planing.

    The Apollo was marketed as THE early planing board when used with a 75cm fin but the fact Starboard have stopped making it leads me to believe that you could get ‘close’ enough performance out of the 162 with the added bonus that the 162 would be much faster and easier to ride in stronger winds. I would think the Apollo would be a handful to sail in 20 knots compared to the 162.

  • G-42 says:

    nice compilation. A slightly different take on the Exocet from my point of view. Gonzalo uses Maui Sails, which have a very low cut foot area and seem to sail “heavy” – meaning, they seem to produce a lot of mast base pressure. He’s also using Kashy fins, which are super flexy in the tip. And he’s not all that heavy (mig 80 kg’s?).

    I run this board with Sailworks formula sails, which seem to produce a somewhat flightier lift pattern. I also run Finworks fins, which, in summary, seem to generate a lift pattern similar to the Kashy’s; they’re not quite as lifty, but are lower drag (due to thinner foils), with similar flex characteristics.

    For me, the best setup seems to be be straps back (at that point, I agree with Gonzalo) and high booms (about forehead for me), but I run my base a bit further forward (about 137 in “normal” conditions, up to 139 when it’s time to keep the nose down in ballistic conditions). Part of it is that we race in pretty windy conditions here (my 10.8 is my big sail, as we simply don’t race here on the US West Coast until I’m usually happily powered on 9.9). Part of it is the difference in the sail.

    I also find that the board isn’t really sticky off the breeze. I’ve compared it to the F161 and F162, and it rides quite a bit more freely that those. So it seems that with a sail that doesn’t ride as “heavy” as the MS (or NP, for that matter), the board performs very differently, whereas the F161/162 don’t differ quite so much.

    For those riding in very windy and choppy conditions – this board absolutely begs for a double chicken strap. It’s way faster, as you can still rail the board (which is hard to do in the center chicken strap), but with more control and at deeper angles than in the outside strap. For those races where you wish you were running slalom gear, it’s the way to go both in the Gorge and, even more so, in the San Francisco Bay Area (where the water is lots rougher).


  • Tom says:


    after a season of racing on the vapor, will you still sail the vapor next race season? I know Starboard is coming out with a new design for 2010

    I’m on 161 now and looking to get a new board for 2010 season. Love the 161 in most conditions except downwind in choppy seas.


    • Sean OBrien says:

      All the brands will have new boards for 2010 and there may even be some new ones as there is rumours of JP and CarbonArt making FW boards in 2010 … I haven’t heard anything from the Gaastra camp, but they are usually the last people to inform the public of any developments!

      I’ll see what is going fast next season but at the moment I would be happy to stick on the Vapor board as I think it is working really well in all conditions. To further confirm that, Steve Allen, who is no longer sponsored by Gaastra and had the opportunity to test all the board brands before this season started, is using his Vapor board still 😉

      For me the Vapor works perfectly as it is a very EASY board to sail as well as being fast. I’ve also got my fins tuned specifically for it now, so it might be nicer to stick with what I know next season; but we’ll see …

  • Michel Merceur says:

    Do you think Vapor Board will change too this year?
    I hope you ll do the same analysis comparing all the futur model of all the brands!

    • Sean OBrien says:

      That’s the million dollar question Michel!

      I’ve heard from Arnon Dagan they’ve tested some new shapes (only slight changes to the rocker and tail section, but keeping the same outline as the board is already very good) …

      …but then I heard from some other people that Gaastra weren’t going to invest in another mould, so would just keep the current board and possibly just update the graphics …

      Since Gaastra have traditionally been VERY quiet on the internet front, I can’t imagine we’ll actually find out the answer until the boards are actually available… lol.

      • Gi says:

        hallo Sean,
        I’ve heard that new Gaastra board will be the same of ’08/09 but with an improved construction (full carbon?).No idea if there’s also something new in the rocker line.
        In the beginning the Vapor looked an high wind oriented board.Probably it was true because fins weren’t actualized and developed for wide tailed boards but now it seems that even this problem is solved.I think that with some more strenght in the board due construction light wind ability can only get better.

        Just to talk rumors say that almost 2 other brands has taken inspiration from the Vapor for their new (2010/11) designs…

        I know that in few weeks the aussie fleet should be able to test the new Carbon Art fw.Look forward your feedback as soon as it possible!

        Last one regards Santapola Starboard/Exocet show up.What’s your opinion about those boards?I guess you’ve seen people testing… Why don’t you let us know more?

        Thank you

  • Gi says:

    is it the Vapor a board that match best the style “go for angle” or “go for speed”?
    To make a difference in the past years (and probably still nowadays) Starboard is the best of “go for angle” and the F2 is the best for “go for speed”.Where’s the Vapor?

    • Sean OBrien says:

      Hmmm, I haven’t actually heard the boards referred to like that. I prefer to see them as ‘loose’ or ‘locked in’ boards. The Exocet and Starboard 162 have quite a locked in feel as they have more flat in the back section of their rocker-line, harder rails and thinner noses which seems to keep the board tracking very flat in the water (hence the masttrack needs to be back) and very stiff under your feet.

      The Vapor is the exact opposite, an extremely loose board but as a result it feels a lot more responsive under your feet and alive. You have to set the board up more to keep the nose flat but even when you get overpowered you don’t have trouble keeping the nose of the board down. It just continues to ride high in the water, but not out of control.

      You can achieve the same angle on both; I wouldn’t put one over the other with the Vapor vs Starboard. I’m not sure if I could describe them as a ‘pointer’ (angle) or a ‘footer’ (speed). They both are able to have these characteristics, depending on the fin you put in them and your sailing style.

  • Logi says:

    I would be interested in buying fins for my Exocet black machine and Starboard 162 . I would be interested in vmg and ifju, my weight 78kg and my height is 182, use 11 and 12 m. what would it be better? which models? 2 fins for exocet and other 2 for starboard , 1 strong wind and other light wind.

    • Sean OBrien says:

      Hi Logi,

      Send me an email – seanobrien [at] and I can give you some more information about the fins.

      I haven’t sailed too many Ifju fins but I have used a variety of VMG fins in the Exocet and helped develop some of their fins for the 162, so I can point you in the right direction there.

      In your email, tell me your level of sailing – ie, are you ok using a 70cm fin in high winds? Typically for a 2 fin setup you’d look for a cutdown fin 73/70 etc and then a 70 or 68 for high winds depending on your level and style.

  • Gasper says:

    Guys, i am lookinig for Exocet black machine board, used one. Has anybody something to sell? Pleas econtact me on my email Thanks

  • Hogar says:

    Hi Sean,

    now when JP has a new formula board (simmilar to ML) is there any chance for you to write a review of it?

    • Sean OBrien says:

      Hi Hogar,

      I believe there is some pre-production JP formula’s arriving in Sydney in November, so we’ll get a look at them then. They are not mine to ride so I probably can’t write a review, but I’ll hopefully get a chance to have a blast on one at some point and can share some comments … there is a PDF floating around the web at the moment with some photos/details etc. Judging by the photos it looks very ‘not’ ML style!

      We’ll wait and see …

      • Phil says:

        I have a question.
        Starboard will come 2010 with 2 fw boards.
        One for lighter winds and the other for more wind.
        I dont understand why is the light wind version with less volumen und smaller?

      • Hogar says:

        Hi Sean, did you have a chance to try the JP formula? Any comments?

  • Sean OBrien says:

    @ Phil

    I think the way Starboard has marketed their boards this season is really confusing as lot’s of people have been asking the same question!

    Don’t think of them as a light-wind board and a high-wind board as that’s not correct. Their names are supposed to mean Lightweight Racing (LWR) and Heavyweight Racing (HWR) however I don’t think its correct to choose from these boards based on your bodyweight either!

    The LWR is a development of the F160 and the HWR is a development of the F161. Both the 160 and 161 were great boards but they have different riding characteristics (see some comments about this here –

    If you have previously used Starboard boards, I would advise you to make the decision based on whether you like the 160 or 161. The 160 being a looser, free’r board in the water and arguably faster in high winds (160 = LWR) or the 161 being a more flatter-riding, more locked in board (161 = HWR).

    Hope that doesn’t confuse things more!

  • Sean OBrien says:

    @ Hogar –

    Yes, we have a pre-production JP Formula board here in Australia which I got a chance to ride only briefly. It’s incredibly wide in the tail, almost like an F2, but amazingly in strong winds its really controllable in chop and with the double-chicken is quite nice off the wind. Upwind, with the wide tail it has great angle and is comfortable.

    It needs a big fin though because the tail is so wide. My only complaint was that in light winds it seemed a bit ‘sticky’ when trying to get on the plane. I think again, that’s because of the wide tail and maybe the cutouts are a little too big to get the surface area required for early planing. I think it will be a popular board this year for sure though…

  • eduardo says:

    the PATRIK BOARD is unreal!!!!!!!!!!

    have you guys been able to try it?


  • Sean OBrien says:

    @ eduardo – great!

    Unfortunately, we probably won’t see any PD boards in Australia, as we basically never saw any F2 boards here either. Basically a Starboard (and now JP) country over here. I was the only one with Gaastra boards and brought them in from Europe.

    Would be cool if you could share some info on the PD or maybe some pics? All I’ve seen is that post Patrick made on ContinentSeven about the board a while back …

  • Mark says:

    Hi shaun, I just got a 2008/9 Exocet, been reading your site for a while, definitely the best resource for learning about formula! I watched you sail with a few other at botany bay this january, which was the driving force to give it a go.

    I am light and reasonably tall 6ft never more than about 72kg sometimes quite a bit less (marathon runner).

    You mention that Exocet needs the mast right at the back and of the track and the footstraps all the way back. I have only sailed it once, but I put the straps right up the front and the mast foot near the middle, (only with 7.8M S-type)

    Should weight be a consideration as to where to place the straps and mast foot? I understand that for the exocet to work well the nose needs to lift a little. So perhaps not so far back for a lightweight?

    Also have you ever though I righting a guide for the newbie formula sailor? This is my first formula, and first board that I have owned that is not a wave/freestyle board. So for example stuff like when to rail the board to leeward it a bit of mystery.

    Sort of basic techniques that recreational sailors may not understand.

    • Sean OBrien says:

      Hi Mark,

      Awesome! Sorry I took so long to find this comment … has been a busy year!

      Weight does make a difference to where you put everything … a heavier guy (+90kg) puts more weight on the back of the board which brings the nose up a bit, and as a result can usually run footstraps or mast-track further forward than a lighter sailor to get the same result.

      This is counteracted a little by the fact that a heavier guy might use bigger sails (ie, an 11m when everyone else changes down to 10m) and the bigger sails seem to lock the boards on the water more because of the pressure … which means they don’t necessarily need to move their settings forward etc…

      All that aside! You are on a fairly small sail and starting out, so I wouldn’t worry about ANY of this as moving tracks and footstraps 1cm or one hole forward and back give such small differences to the trim of the board that you may not notice in the beginning. I would concentrate more on just getting comfortable on the bigger gear and practicing gybes/tacks (worth more around a race-course than moving your footstraps one hole!!!) and eventually increasing the sail size over the years.

      The 7.8m will be ok to get you started but the real performance out of the board will start when you throw a 10m on it and an 11m one day down the track… sounds daunting at first but if you ‘gradually’ increase the sail size over the years they will be as easy as the size before it …

  • mike_surfer _ gre162 says:

    Hi Shuan,

    I just got an F2 FX -Z , I am 75kg , got a North WARP 9.8 2009 and a Deboichet R13 later will get an R20.

    Where should I put the mast truck for high wind and low wind conditions?

    • Sean OBrien says:

      Hi Mike_Surfer …

      Ok, most of the riders I interviewed for this article liked to stick the track at +3cm in front of middle. This is because the Z likes to lift it’s nose a bit when powered up so to move the track forward was for control and to keep the board trimming a bit flatter which is fast for this shape.

      I would definitely suggest starting there or even all the way at the front of the track at your weight in strong winds.

      In lighter winds you could experiment by bringing the track back a bit from +3cm from middle. The riders who suggested this are all big guys (+90kg) so they would put a bit more weight on the back of the board and raise the nose a bit more than you… I don’t think I’d go any further back than middle though, as the board seems to stick on the tail a bit if you put the track all the way back.

      Use my suggestions as a guide to start from, as you’ll notice there is slight differences to the trim of the board when you switch from an R13 to an R20 (or other fins). When you experiment, move the track 2cm at a time at least … very hard to tell the difference between 1cm increments in my opinion!

  • mike_surfer _ gre162 says:


    By the way, fantastic website,very good info especially for rookies.

  • patinaire says:

    Hi Sean,thanks for sharing your knowledge.
    I’d like to expose you two questions:
    1-Regarding the recomended fins for the Starboard F162 I’d like to ask you about what you consider a powerful fin (not soft? not flexy? hard? ), is Deboichet R13 70M one of them.
    I use it with my F162 and Gaastra Vapor 10m2 (2009) and I think it works better than my old idem fin but S.
    A lot of initial problems with the no nose take off,but solved going back with the mast track and the “harness ropes” (excuse I don’t know the exactly word in english but imagine you understand).
    2-As well to know about your opinion of having 75% carbon mast with this sail (severne), indispensable 100%?
    Once again,thanks for your opinions.

    • Sean OBrien says:

      Hi Patinaire.

      I think the 75% carbon masts can be fine. I’m not completely sure on the Severne masts, but I know personally a ton of guys who use the Neilpryde X6 masts in their race sails instead of the X9 and lose no performance. I have seen a lot of 75% carbon masts break though, so it’s not always the answer to mast structural integrity, but for sure they are much cheaper to buy!

      I wouldn’t consider a Deboichet R13 M a powerful fin by todays standards. Whilst the Debs are still good fins, they were developed nearly 10 years ago; the game has changed now – the boards are wider, sails more powerful…etc etc.

      I often use the words ‘newer, softer’ when I talk about the new fins around on the market these days that have come about over the past 4-5 years. They include VMG Blades, Kashy, Ifju, Virus, Z fins to name a few (plenty other brands out there also). These fins are typically much, much softer than the Deb fins and have more swept back leading edge outlines and are generally more expensive to buy.

      The good thing about these newer fins is that you don’t really need more than 1. So yes, they cost more, but you don’t have to buy 2-3 fins like we all used to when everybody used Deboichet fins in their hay day.

      For general cruising and sailing, the R13 M will be fine in the 162 but if you are racing and want a bit more performance. I would highly recommend trying one of these newer fins.

      In regards to the mast track… ALWAYS put it all the way in the back on the 162. That board sails really flat with the nose down! So don’t be afraid to have the track far back!

  • Andres says:

    I am thinking of buying a new/used FW board, but I do not know which one. (FL winds)
    Is it possible that you could updated these cool article with current boards?


    • Sean OBrien says:

      I will try to put a new article together with some of the new boards in this cycle…

      When I wrote this article I was in a lucky situation where I had access to nearly every board personally. This time around there are many new boards on the market that I have yet to actually see as not everything is sold in Australia and last year we had no international competitions per say…

      I’ll see what I can come up with but it might take a little time…

      • Charlie Brown says:

        Hi Sean,

        I will start growing white hair and a big fat belly and your updated artilcle still not posted….. LOL
        Anxiosly waiting……

  • Spokas says:

    Hi Sean,

    Maybe its time to put here Starboard HWR tuning guide?
    I hope you had time to study this board since you became Starboard rider.

    • Sean OBrien says:

      Hi Spokas,

      Yes, I’d like to do that. Funnily enough I actually haven’t spent so much time on a HWR yet as I’m still waiting for mine to arrive in Europe … but when I get my hands on mine I’m going to put a guide together…

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