Southern California Kitesurfing - Kites

Dan Slater - 2007/9/8


This page has more information about kites including the 14 m Cabrina 2004 Co2 and 19 m Peter Lynn Venom kites that I used to fly.

My current kiteboarding setup is a 12 meter Cabrina Crossbow II kite, an Underground Wavetray WT-157 twin tip board and a Da Kine Fusion seat harness. In the past I have used 14 meter 2004 model Cabrina Recon Co2 kite and a 19 meter Peter Lynn Venom ARC foil kite.

Kites -- Kites have advanced technically quite a bit over the last few years. Important points include fast response, steady power, wide wind range, water relaunchability and a good safety release system. Moderate aspect ratio kites are good for beginners and wave riding. High aspect ratio kites are better for big jumps. There are now three common kite types; Leading Edge Inflatable (LEI) C kite, LEI bow kites and foil (ram air). LEI kites from different vendors kites are similar in performance and generally perform better than pre 2004 models. The bow kites are now becoming very popular with a wider wind range and easier relauching and are generally replacing the C kites. LEI kites are much more common than foil kites but several of the Peter Lynn ARC foil kites are now starting to attract considerable interest. The Peter Lynn Venom has good fast turning characteristics, a bit slower than LEI kites yet does not need pumping, has a very wide wind range, has positive stability than minimizes relaunches and easily self lands.

I was able to test fly a 16 meter Peter Lynn Venom ARC kite and liked it enough to order the 19 meter model. The winds were quite gusty during the 16 meter test flight so some comparisons were a bit hard to make. Transitioning from the 14 m Cabrina Co2 to the 16 m PL Venom kite was surprisingly easy. The turning speed and power were similar. I have since purchase a 19 meter PL Venom and found that it works well. Flying it is similar to the 14 m Cabrina Co2 but requires a bit more bar pressure. With the much slower response, the large 19 m Venom is a bit more difficult to initially get on a plane, but once moving, it generates alot of power providing good upwind performance in low winds. More info: (foilzone) (arcusers) (pelton)

Right now I am only using the 12 meter Cabrina Crossbow II. The most noticable differences between the three kites are:

2007 Cabina 12 meter Crossbow advantages:
1. The Crossbow has a wide wind range, from about 13 to 24+ mph. It probably would work in still higher winds but I have not tried it in those conditions.
2. The kite is fast.
3. The kite is easy to self launch and water launch.
4. It has good upwind performance.

2007 Cabrina 12 meter Crossbow disappointments:
1. The sheeting system has not been of much use. I generally leave it sheeted in all the way. The red and black trim balls should be different shapes so that they can be adjusted without looking at them.
2. There is no swivel on the center lines.
3. The clip for the emergency override easily falls off.
4. I used to like to ride against the stop. This does not work well with the Crossbow.

A note on sheeting the 2007 Cabrina 12 meter Crossbow: I have not been particularily happy with the sheeting system and bar in general. 1. There is no swivel on the center line so you have to rotate your body to untwist the kite. 2. The sheeting system needs better human factors, i.e., the two trim balls need to be different shapes. 3. Sheeting out causes the kite to depower to a point where the kite falls from the sky. I have found that at minimum, using the 3rd knot on the rear lines and not sheeting provides good kiting. I don't even consider sheeting out at less than solid 22 mph winds. I have added an additional knot and in weak winds, often tie to the top of the pigtail.

2004 Cabrina 14 meter Co2 advantages:
1. As expected with a smaller kite, the 14 meter Cabrina kite turns much faster than the 19 meter Venom kite.
2. The Cabrina Recon 1 bar is clearly nicer. The Recon has a simpler / integrated safety leash, the depower strap design is better and is easier to untwist.
3. The PL Venom needs a bit more bar pressure but this is probably just because the Venom is larger.
4. The Cabrina kite is definitely easier to self launch. I have had problems self launching the Venom. The PL Venom is launched partly in the power zone for further inflation.
5. The Venom control lines are not polarized so it is possible to cross the leading and trailing edge control lines. Double check this before launch.

PL 19 meter Venom advantages:
1. The Venom generally has a wider wind range and better low wind performance.
2. With hands off, the Venom will rise toward the zenith while the Cabrina Co2 would drift toward the ground. Water relaunch with the Venom seems to be easier.
3. Self landing the Venom is much easier and safer than the Cabrina. The Cabrina is very difficult to safely self land in high winds.
4. The Venom is easier and quicker to inflate as no pumping is needed.

In general, the following seems to work for the PL Venom kite.
1. Set the internal power strap to mid range.
2. With the kite flying, set the trim strap so the bar pressure increases fairly rapidly in the last part of the bar stroke.
3. When flying in low winds:
    a. Pull in on the bar on the down stroke and also when the kite is high. The correct amount of pull is when the bar pressure noticably starts to increase.
    b. Let out on the bar on the upstroke when the kite is near 45 degrees and then pull back on the bar as the kite reaches the zenith. Also edge more at this time.
    c. Shaking the bar on the upstroke also seems to help, maybe better filling the kite with air.

2004 Cabrina Co2 kite bar controls

My 2004 model Cabrina kite use a Recon 1 control system. This system is conceptually simple, yet provides effective depowering, safety and water relaunch capabilities. The Recon 1 control system can be configured to include a standard wrist safety leash or alternately provides emergency depowering using a small ball handle on the centerline. I prefer the centerline emergency release method as it is mechanically simpler and easy to activate. This section is very specific to the Cabrina Recon 1 control system. Other kites, while similar, have some significant operational differences, particularily relating to the safety and water relaunch systems.

Power / depower loop -- The kite angle of attack (power) can be increased (sheeted in) or decreased (sheeted out) by a pair of control loops on the center line. The closest one has a red tube on it. Pulling on this red handle will sheet out (depower) the kite. Pulling on the upper loop will sheet in the kite.

Red center ball -- Pulling the red center ball toward you will emergency depower the kite. This function is generally only used on land as crashing the kite in water usually is not a problem. The red center ball may be used to self land the kite from the 12 oclock position. This sort of works if the wind is not too strong.

Red side balls -- The red side balls are used to help with water relaunching and to help self land the kite. The red side balls are used when the kite lands leading edge flat onto the water. Sharply pulling on one will unseat the bullet mechanism on the kite, providing lift on one side, that will turn the kite onto the side for a standard water relaunch. The bullet is easier to unseat if you can pull from as high as possible. The red ball maneuver is not needed if the kite lands on the side as is most common.

Control bar -- Kite angle of attack (power) is increased as the control bar is pulled toward the rider.

Power lock fangs  -- The bar can be locked at full power with a fang latching mechanism in the bar. One of three different fangs can be installed, providing no lock, partial lock or full lock. I am currently using the bar with no lock.

Chicken loop release -- This red handle is just above the chicken loop. This is an emergency only function. Use depends upon whether the wrist leash is being used.

No wrist leash: Use this handle only if you need to *completely* disconnect from the kite. This is almost never in the water. The kite will now be completely uncontrolled. You should generally use the red center ball in an emergency situation as the red center ball will depower the kite while leaving it attached.

Using the wrist leash: It is necessary to either use the chicken loop release or the center red ball release (preferred) if hooked in. If you pull the chicken loop release when not hooked in, you will probably end up losing the chicken loop assembly.

Chicken loop pin -- The chicken loop pin is used to keep the chicken loop from falling out of the harness when not under tension.

Wrist leash -- The optional wrist leash can be used as an alternative method for emergency depowering the kite or for self landing. The wrist leash is useful, and necessary, when not hooked into the chicken loop. For beginners, this provides better safety as the beginner need not be hooked in and can just drop the handle when necessary. For advanced kiteboarders, the wrist leash allows handle passes and similar stunt maneuvers to be performed safely.  If hooked in, it is necessary to pull the red emergency release just above chicken loop to be able to use the wrist safety leash. My preference is not to use the wrist leash if hooked in.

Important safety tip: All of the control bar functions should be systematically tried on land, at least in simulated form, prior to water use. This should be done periodically to test the safety mechanisms and refresh your memory. I tied the 4 kite lines to a fence post to form a simple simulator and spent about an hour systematically becoming familiar with the different functions. Make sure that the bar is fully tensioned when validating the emergency release systems. Control activation needs to be second nature, most critically during an emergency.

Kite inflation

A LEI inflatable kite such as the Cabrina Co2 is rolled out downwind with the belly up. Sand or a board is used to hold down the upwind end of the kite. First, the secondary struts are firmly inflated. Then the pump is then attached to the leading edge strut, both with the hose and with a retaining line. The leading edge is pumped up. At some point, when the leading edge starts to take shape, the kite will try to rapidly turn 90 degrees to align with the wind. The pump strap is used to keep the kite from flying away. Continue pumping until the leading edge is firm. Firm means that there are no wrinkles in the leading edge. Then flip the kite over, point it into the wind and put sand onto the leading edge to keep the kite from flying away. The Cabrina Crossbow uses a one pump system so you only need to connect the pump to the main bladder.

Important note !!!: Cabrina kites -- The main strut dump valve should be loose until the main strut is fully inflated. Then tighten it hard. Tightening it prior to inflation will let the bladder twist, potentially damaging it. If it is not tightened hard after inflation, the valve will leak, resulting in poor kite performance and an inability to water relaunch.

The PL Venom kite is rolled out downwind. The end struts are installed. Sand or a board is used to hold down the upwind end of the kite. Set the internal control strap (inside the deflation zipper) as desired. This strap controls the rigidity of the kite. Half way is a good starting point. The downwind and deflation zippers are closed and the upwind zipper is opened. The kite will then inflate. Close the inflation zipper prior to launch.

Control bar attachment

Cabrina Recon / Co2 -- Unwind the lines directly down wind from the kite. The red side of the bar should be to the right when looking at the upside down kite. Hook up the center leading edge lines first, then the outer trailing edge lines. Make sure that you bring the trailing edge lines over the leading edge lines. Double check *everything* including that the recon bullets are free, after the attachment is complete. The Cabrina lines are polarized so the leading and trailing edge lines can not be reversed. Line reversal will result in an out of control kite so if your kite does not use polarized lines, it is *essential* to verify that the center lines are properly attached to the leading edge.

PL Venom -- Unwind the lines directly upwind on the trailing edge side of the kite. Connect the lines from the closest to the kite to farthest, always putting the next line on top. The leading edge downwind line is then velcroed to the "launch assistant" near the downwind inflation zipper.

Assisted launch

Inflatable kite -- Go to a launch position so the kite will be near the edge of the wind window. Your assistant should lift the inflatable kite using the front center of the leading edge without grabbing any lines and orient it into the wind. Slowly tension the lines and verify that everything is correct. As you continue to tension the lines move down or up wind if the kite is leaning up or down wind. When in the right position, signal your assistant to release the kite and slowly fly it upward.

PL Venom kite -- It is easier to self launch so that is recommended instead.

Self launching

Inflatable kite -- After the kite is setup and the bar is attached; Turn the kite over until it is in an assisted launch position. Make sure that there is no tension on any of the kite control lines until you actually launch the kite. Fold over the wing tip near the ground and place more than enough sand to hold the kite in place. Push more sand up near the edge of the kite area to block any wind from getting under the kite and prematurely lifting it. Hook into the control bar, making sure that the power is set to minimum (pull the red loop on the power control strap). Slowly tension the lines and move laterally (up or down wind) as needed to make the kite stand vertical without any left right tilt. Continue to tension the lines until the kite slowly lifts off.

PL Venom -- Make sure that the kite is properly inflated and all three zippers are closed. Move to a position 45 degrees off the wind on the trailing edge side. Slowly tension the top lines until the far wing tip lifts off. It may be necessary to jerk the rear leading edge line to properly get the kite tip into the wind. Steer the kite toward the edge of the window to increase the inflation before moving the kite upward.

Assisted landing

Inflatable kite -- Slowly lower the kite to the beach and have your assistant grab the front center of the leading edge while avoiding all kite lines. Your assistant should then place the kite, leading edge down onto the beach, pointing into the wind. Then add some sand to the leading edge to keep it solidly on the ground. To pack up the kite, deflate the main bladder first, then lay out flat, deflate the other bladders and roll up each side to the center and fold in half.

PL Venom -- The assisted landing of a ram air foil kite is done very differently than a C or bow kite. Your assistant should grab the lower batton and walk toward you. Your assistant should use then the batton to flag the kite downwind, onto the beach. Fold over the batton and use some sand as a weight to keep the kite solidly on the ground. It is important that the assistant not use the more common inflatable kite landing technique of grabbing the center of the leading edge.

Self landing

LEI inflatable kite -- Self landing an inflatable kite in high wind is quite difficult and takes considerable practice. First practice in weak winds where self landing is easier. Self landing the Cabrina 14 meter Co2 kite is reasonably straight forward when the winds are below 12 mph. Self landing a LEI kite rapidly gets difficult and unsafe with stronger winds. Assisted landing is *very* strongly recommended in strong winds.

LEI method 1 -- Gently lower the kite toward the ground. Then abruptly steer it up for about 10 feet and then immediately steer it back to the ground. This causes a forward rotation of the kite so it will land leading edge down. Immediately pull in on the upwind kite line to point the kite into the wind. When using a leash, this is by dropping the bar while holding onto the leash. You should land on the side opposite of the safety leash. Keep tension on the upper line while walking to the kite. The most common problem is the kite taking off through the power zone with considerable power, after landing.

LEI method 2 -- Recon system: Drop the kite from a high position using the center red ball release. After the kite lands, pull on the upwind line to orient the kite into the wind.

PL Venom ARC kit -- Lower the kite to the edge of the wind window. Sheet in to move the kite rearward and release the control bar so that the safety line takes over. The lack of the rigid inflatable leading edge will cause this kite to flag out and immediately lose power. Walk up the depower line, grab the upwind batten and place it on the beach with the kite flagging downwind. Fold over the batton and use some sand as a weight to keep the kite solidly on the ground.
Acknowledgements: Special thanks to Ron and Mike at Kite Surfari, Kirk, Tom and Tim from Captain Kirk's, Rudy from and the many friendly local kiteboarders for countless helpful discussions.

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Copyright 2007 by Dan Slater, All rights reserved.