I've always thought of the Gator as a flat water sail but I now think it has a valid place in a wave quiver as your biggest wave sail, especially if you're unlucky enough to have to sail cross on when the wind isn't nuking.
I recently compared a Severne Gator back to back with a Blade of a similar size over a few sessions. Both sails were rigged on a redline RDM.
For just cruising around in a straight line the Gator is slightly softer and not as immediate/twitchy as the Blade. On a wave the Blade powered nicely through the bottom turn and depowered nicely for the top turn.
I found the Gator to be very flexible in the downhaul settings, with more power if under downhauled, and less power if over downhauled, but still having a nice balance on both settings (if adjusted outhaul too). The blade felt terrible on any downhaul except the exact setting specified. Very heavy and unbalanced feeling if under downhauled, and starts to lose power as more downhaul applied. But wonderfully balanced in the hands at the right downhaul. When overpowered I prefer the Blade to the Gator. Over downhauling it definitely dumps power and locks the draft closer to the mast. The Gator was definitely earlier planing in lighter winds.
I found for both sails that the required boom length was longer than specified, at the specified boom length the sails flopped over the boom. I prefer my sails to be off the boom but if it's really light I'll let them slightly kiss the boom.
I also switched between a wave board and a FSW board and the FSW/Gator combo was great in lighter winds and smaller waves. The Gator seemed to keep speed more easily in bottom turns where the wave wasn't providing much power. The wave board/Blade combo got better the better the waves got and the stronger the wind got. The Gator felt "big" on a wave board when the waves got consequential, while the Blade seemed to lack the push needed on the FSW board in the more cross on wind direction that occurred during my light wind sessions.
My equipment choices are now:
Cross on direction, light wind and small or medium waves - FSW/Gator
Cross on, light wind and big waves - wave board/Gator
Cross on, medium wind and small or medium waves - FSW/Blade
cross on, strong wind and small or medium waves - wave board/Blade
Cross on, medium or strong wind and big waves - wave board/Blade
Cross, light winds and small waves - FSW/Gator
Cross, light winds and medium or big waves - wave board/BladeCross, medium or strong winds, all wave sizes - wave board/Blade
Cross off, all wind strengths and all wave sizes - wave board/Blade
What size Gator / Blade did you use for your comparison? I do like the Blade up to 5.3, above that I really value the deeper draft of the Gator and the ability to give you a bit more power. Saying that, I now mainly wing when it's not windy enough for my 4.7!
I've got a 6.7 blade and a 7.5 gator, but I've also got a 5.0 blade. Both seem more sensitive to downhaul like you say. I've got a mismatched kit with some freeks mixed in (4.4,5.6,6.3) and they feel quite a bit different. I'll use the freeks in the waves here because they aren't that big and the shorebreak isn't that bad, but if I'm going to be overpowered I'd much rather have the blade up.
Excellent review Chunder, couldn't agree more, been working this out over the last few years as well.
I've got Gators 5.3, 5.7, 6.0 and blades 4.2, 4.7, 5.3, 5.7. Boards 106L FSW (quite a wavy one), 102L quad, 86L quad. I'm 90kg
we can have quite big waves and light wind some days in western Vic (dead cross shore) and there is little in the way of a channel, hence need the power to get out with. That's where my 6.0 and 106 come in good. I've tried a 6.2 blade, however found the 6.0 gator just as manoeuvrable but with way better bottom end. It's only when you are coming off the lip (late) when powered up, in big waves, that it may tend to push you around a little more than the blade, however all the other advantages out way this
Concur with your comments that the gator is slightly softer than the blade. I've gone to using the Gators as much as possible because of this, there is less spike coming through the rig when faced with choppy conditions meaning that you have a more controlled and comfortable ride. Somewhere around 2020-21 the blades moved to a slightly higher skin tension and draft further back (had to move my harness lines back 2cm), which as you described makes them more immediate (reactive) but twitchy, compared to the older blades.
I've got a 5.3 gator, I've only used it twice, in cross on conditions. I've yet to use it in big waves and cross shore conditions. It's quite different to the 5.7 and 6.0, in that it has a Dacron luff panel like a blade. It seems wavier than the 5.7&6.0. I can't wait to test it out and compare it to the 5.3 blade in hard core wave conditions.
I think the Gators are a really underestimated range in the Severne line up. With its progressive geometry as you move the sizes, it really suits 90% of the conditions you find yourself in, you just got to pair it with the right board for the conditions then.
I'm interested in anyone's views on the smaller sizes <5.3, how they compare to the blades in cross shore wave conditions
The Gators use a different geometry in different sizes. The smaller size are wavy, medium freewave-freeride, and the larger ones are a freeride shape.
The difference is notable and it's interesting that the one sail type comes in different geometries as you can't really compare characteristics of a 6m2+ sail with the smaller sizes. At the same time it makes sense given the different conditions and use of a sail in stronger vs lighter wind.
I use a Gator in freeride geometry as my large sail and smaller sizes are all Blades as I really prefer the responsiveness over the Gators, particularly in moves. The difference is immediately noticeable when gybing in stronger winds. When I felt how direct the Blade responds, I couldn't possibly go back to a Gator. Never felt they are twitchy and their wind range is impressive, work quite well in lightly powered and are amazingly easy to control in close to overpowered conditions.
I have a gator 7.0 and I love it for both flat water cruising and wave sailing in small waves and light winds. The 7.0 is the biggest size before it switches to a free ride design. Lots of early planing power and easy to pump into a wave when the wind really sucks. Depowers well for such a big sail in top turns. I've tried doing a top turn with a camless slalom sail and that's awful. The 7.0 gator is much closer to a wave sail than it is to a camless slalom sail.