(Note: For those of you not familiar with the relatively new XD tag being used with Lasers, it refers to LaserPerformance's most tricked out racing package. LP is now selling Standard, Race and XD models of the Laser -- all three have the same hull, spars and blades, but everything else is customized depending on the level of sailing you're planning on.)
The XD tiller/extension combo has been shipping with new XD Lasers for most of the year, but this is the first time they're available as stand alone products. I took the opportunity to take some pictures and check out how these two innovative products stand up against the rest of the tiller and extension offerings for Laser sailors.
My initial first impression is that the tiller is a bit flashy. You immediately get the feeling that Xzibit paid a visit to the LP factory and "pimped their ride".
Looks aside it's very stiff and doesn't sacrifice weight savings to achieve this - it weighs in a mere 0.1 oz heavier than the popular Acme Carbon Laser Tiller. The XD Tiller achieves this with its unique shape: the main body of the tiller is arched and this arch is mirrored on the underside. It's difficult to see in our pictures, but a cross section of the tiller is shaped like an upside-down U.
The result is a super light, super stiff tiller. This isn't without a downside, as it has a taller profile than the Acme or many other available carbon tillers. As you can see in the picture to the right, the XD's profile is almost twice that of the Acme, which is the thinnest tiller we currently have. The XD's profile is about the same as the standard black aluminum tube that has come standard on the Laser in the past.
The tiller extension is a relatively standard 48" (actually measures more like 49") straight carbon affair. It is 24mm in diameter, which is comparable to the Acme Fatso Jr. Unlike the Fatso the universal doesn't swivel but it is attached with a fairly standard looking pin & shrink wrap arrangement, so replacement should be much easier.
One welcome suprise was that the grip on the tiller extension is fantastic. It has an almost sandpaper like texture, but it's not so aggressive that it would be uncomfortable for extended use on a long day of racing.
Overall, I think these new XD products are a solid offering from the US Laser manufacturer. The tiller is not my favorite - partially due to its cosmetics, but mostly due to its height compared to the Acme. The design of the XD will slightly hinder your ability to suck the traveler down tight. If there is a positive to the design, the arch shape should allow the traveler block to slide across better than most, but I don't know if that makes up for the extra height. At $232 it's also a bit steeper than the Acme at $205 (pending '09 price changes).
I do think the tiller extension is great - excellent grip and stiffness. At $97 it's $5 cheaper than the Acme 48" Jr. so that's a pretty good deal. I could easily see this extension become the standard across the board for racers especially since it has the built in advantage of coming with new XD boats.
Available at APS by following this link.