That was totally it. Our reset circuit is not waiting long enough before releasing the XMOS from reset. The flash is not always ready when the XMOS is released (hence the 20% success rate some of the time).
If I manually hold it in reset (tweezers on the reset line to ground) while it's cold booting and then release it, I get 100% success rate. So it looks like we have to tweak our circuit.
Thanks so much for everyone's help, it's much appreciated!
Issues flashing an XE216 micro Topic is solved
Technical discussions around xCORE processors (e.g. xcore-200 & xcore.ai).
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