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Bill Hansen has designed plenty of sails over the years with a career stretching back well into the dark realm of 80s windsurfing and various kite designs under his belt. A qualified pilot from the age of sixteen, it’s safe to say he knows his way around flying objects of all types. In fact, he developed perhaps the original hand-held wing in the form of the Windweapon, so it’s fitting he’s now working with Vayu, bringing his wealth of experience designing their inflatable wing range.
Available in three concise sizes of 4m, 5m and 6m, the Aura X is their top-of-the-line, no compromises high-end offering, and our initial reaction was that it certainly offers plenty of exotic new materials. The full Aluula airframe is exceptionally stiff and light, and allows for narrower tube diameters, which are essential for a more aggressive and performant wing. This is particularly noticeable in the strut, which has a serious slim down in comparison to the Dacron version of the Aura. The leading edge has scuff protection on every segment join running all the way out to the wingtips, and the nose handle is comfortable and rigid, allowing for excellent control levels when flagged. They’ve run a sneaky band of Aluula in the trailing edge as well to keep things tight here, as well as three soft EVA battens in pockets per side for anti-flap measures. The leash is a constricting Velcro wrist cuff and has a bungee with a decent amount of stretch making it easy enough to paddle prone with. There’s a small stainless swivel integrated near the cuff to avoid any bunching after repeated tacks and jibes which works like a charm.
In the front quarter, X-Ply has been utilized in the window region to avoid the bagging associated with PVC when in extreme heat or cold, and this in turn will also stabilize this mid-section of the sail. The remainder of the canopy is Teijin D2 cloth, with a detailed canopy layout with seams running parallel to the trailing edge. The tip of the strut has some Dacron reinforcement in a layered radial arrangement. A healthy level of dihedral has been employed, this seems to aid its flagging stability and upwind performance.
The handle system is modular, and you can switch between softer webbing loops or carbon mini booms with four simple hex fittings per handle. Both options were provided as standard. We tested both and found the softer loops useful in gusty offshore wave scenarios to add a little suspension to a wing that has an inherently rigid airframe. The carbon handles are beautifully manufactured and super lightweight; we found no discernible difference in the flagging ability between the two options when on the front handle. These provide a very direct and connected feel, and allow you to push the wing into the backwinded position, and will keep the freestylers happy.
Handling-wise, the wing lives up to its exotic materials – it’s searingly fast in a straight line and very light to handle. Its efficiency and speed allow you to carry plenty of apparent wind and it loves to climb an aggressive angle upwind. Round the bends the lack of mass and low diameters make it easy to run round your transitions, particularly noticeable when tacking upwind with speed; there’s no unwanted down pressure or turbulence here. Its power band is quick to access and progressive, and you can access a lot of power in a short sheeting adjustment with your arms. Pumping on foil in the lighter airs, it seems to prefer a quick sharp cadence as these stiffer wings tend to, and the low end is comparable amidst its peers.
The Aura X is going to suit sportive freeriders that want to go fast and turn aggressively. This naturally makes it a good contender on the race circuit as well, and its lightness and fairly high levels of dihedral means its wave performance is also formidable, particularly when mobility is needed to get in position. It’s best paired with a fast, higher aspect foil to get the most out of the fast sail. Unashamedly high end, the Aura X is a versatile speed machine across disciplines with punchy power delivery and handling attributes that any progressive rider is going to benefit from.