As the IKA Olympic registration closed, the marketing gates opened to the new generation of kite race foils. The departure of Mike’s Lab from the registration program has created a really interesting void, where most of the top 20 riders needed to find a new weapon of choice if they wanted to compete in registered events. Somewhat silently, the Airush GOLD made its way onto that registration sheet with no marketing fanfare and unknown performance. You can’t register an imaginary product, and it takes time to design and produce an Olympic foil, so what exactly is the backstory to this foil? I was given the opportunity to try one out so I feel it’s my duty to let you know what this foil is all about.
The mast and glider get padded covers which are simple but perfectly functional. These days I’m just happy to have a made-to-fit bag provided and not have to order one from Russia.
The assembly of the glider and mast is perfect, with no hammering or pressure fit required. Similarly to how ML foils use a small shim to fine tune the back wing angle of attack, the GOLD comes with a range of inserts you can change to adjust the angle. I tested a few settings and ended up settling on the least amount of lift setting, where my weight is required to be furthest back, but there’s a lot of personal preference here. The result is similar to the Levitaz R5 (or Spotz2) hex key adjustment, but with zero chance of wear over time.
The fuselage bolts onto the mast with five small (5mm) screws. The foil is supplied with multiple spares and a torque-limited screw driver, which means you get a consistent 5Nm tightness on each screw, each assembly. My poor car choice means I need to remove the glider every session, and I have experienced no problems with the setup after roughly 40 sessions.
The head of the mast is a medium Tuttle with four standard threaded inserts so that the back footstrap screw can be held in by the mast if that is your preferred position. Again the most balanced stance will depend on which insert/shim you choose, and your personal preference.
The foil construction is arguably the highest quality of all the foils available. The mast and glider feel super high tensile. Tapping it with your finger feels like tapping a metal beam. Airush have used pitched based 760GPa carbon fiber to produce this no compromise foil.
But we’re not here to look pretty in the carpark. Right? We’re here for performance on the water.
First up, the ride is stable. I feel more of an ‘on rails’ ride, similar to an Enata or Chubanga, and not as loose or surfy as my Mike’s Lab Bullet 3. The longer 111cm mast demands more effort to carve through a tack, but provides more control upwind, especially in hectic conditions as I can keep the glider deep underwater while maintaining the maximum possible mast angle. Normally, leaning a mast aggressively in chop results in dreaded mast ventilation.
But there’s some magic going on with the finish on this foil. Or is it the shape? I don’t know, but I have ridden the GOLD for 40 hours in a range of conditions that played havoc with competitors’ foils, yet I haven’t ventilated upwind once. River water, open ocean, fresh rain, it’s all been great. It’s never failed to give me a comfortable and confident ride, letting me push as hard as I like (or can). I’m sort of scared to touch the finish, so I haven’t even cleaned the mast and definitely won’t let sand paper touch it. I just give it a fresh water rinse when possible and try not to let fingers come in contact!
With the trust I have in this foil I’ve been able to push it faster than I ever managed previously, frequently maintaining over 36 knots for 400m (which is good for me)! When course racing my VMG downwind hasn’t changed much over using the the ML Bullet 3. The GOLD designer claims the foil has the least drag of all the foil profiles, so I expected more speed downwind and especially in the lighter conditions but I’ve found it similar to my previous speeds.
Upwind however is a different story. I can maintain a similar VMG and angle as my regular training buddies but the GOLD has a secret weapon. On demand I can find a few extra degrees upwind at the same speed. If I give up a little speed I can push it even higher upwind. This ultra-high mode is really helpful tactically, enabling the switch from blocked rider to blocking rider. Or to start at the pin end of a start line and cause mayhem by relentlessly pointing up into the riders above you who must raise their kites and slow down.
The power is intoxicating. To the point where I have mistakenly thrown away overall VMG in races by pointing too high, too much. So yeah, with great power comes great responsibility! The angle difference is immediately identifiable. Friends who jump off their Levitaz or ML-B3 notice the height improvement immediately.
Put simply, I jumped off my Mike’s Lab Bullet 3 on to this foil and never looked back. It’s definitely piqued the interested of all my competitors, even those with the latest batch of registered foils. While the marketing noise round this foil has been almost silent, the four-year lock down of designs for the Olympics means this foil has plenty of time to prove itself based on performance alone. Until then I’m quite happy to be the only guy at my beach with this secret weapon.