Before I start, another eulogy
At the end of December, a great friend of mine and fellow competitor, Paul DeHope, passed away after a long battle with lymphatic cancer. Many of you have known him as a long-time Masters class flyer in the Northwest who achieved numerous awards (including winning Masters class at the last Canadian West Coast Championships at Vanier a few years ago). Because we flew the same kites (California Wasp), we developed a bond that transcended competition and I enjoyed his friendship and hospitality at Long Beach and the other events in the Northwest over the past few years.
Now to this issue's subject bridles. Before going on, I should let you know that this particular article assumes that you know the basics of bridle adjustment (up for less wind, down for more wind rule) that sport kiters learn in their beginning stages.
Most sport kites have what would be defined as a 'standard' or 'default' bridle setting. One has to realize that the manufacturer/builder sets it up for what they consider 'average' conditions and an average skill level. Why is that? First of all, most of the kite market is for fliers purely in a 'recreational' atmosphere, and it follows that a bridle adjustment that allows the kite to fly with a minimum of fuss and effort is preferred to one that requires more attention from the flier. Now I'm not putting down fliers who fly purely for fun & relaxation; the purpose of this article is for the flier who wants to advance beyond that stage and make the kite an extension of their own self, for the kite to be a mirror of their own actions. To do that, you have to get over the fear of tinkering with your kite.
No matter what type of bridle, three point, dynamic or turbo, active or compound, the function of the bridle is the same; to interact between you and the kite. If you hold up a kite by the line attachment (the 'tow point') and look down at the sail, you will notice the relationship of that point to where it is located on the sail. The traditional three point bridle adjusts in a vertical direction, allowing for more or less lift in low and high winds.
Around 1990, the first kites were introduced that had adjustable outhauls (starting with the Top Of The Line North Shore Radical). Suddenly people discovered that moving the tow point horizontally also affected the characteristics of flight, mainly in tracking and oversteer. The following chart shows the effects of moving the tow point in relation to the sail, looking at the left side of the kite: (note: click on the images for text detail)
For those who haven't come across tracking and oversteer, let me explain these:
Tracking is the ability of the kite to hold a straight line under minimal flyer input (i.e. 'locked in'). Kites with poor tracking are often affected by small wind changes, requiring constant flier attention.
Oversteer can be defined as the tendency for a kite to delay in response to quick turns and movements. This shows up as a tendency to 'bobble' coming out of square turns, or 'spinout' when doing quick spins. There is a feeling of 'inertia' in the kite during spins and turns.
By bringing two axes of adjustment into the picture, it can become overwhelming because of the number of possible adjustments one could make. So when I talk about bridle adjustments, I refer to the position of the tow point relative to the sail. Then regardless of the type of bridle used, you can find out what needs to be adjusted to have the tow points fall into place. Now let's get into what settings give the best response.
The Response Setting
When I adjust bridle settings on my kites, I have a few basic objectives on my mind:
Minimize excess lift
Flying a kite that tracks well just looks good in general. Compare it to driving a car with a good front end. For me, a kite that doesn't track well is a pain to fly as you're always on edge trying to keep it in line.
Oversteer for me is a definite no-no. Having the kite 'lag' due to oversteer or spinout feels and looks like you're not in control, and in fact, due to kite inertia, you're not.
I have a strong preference for bridle settings that are 'heavy'. I want to be able to stop and or stall the kite at almost any place in the wind window. By adjusting for less lift, I can control the kite's speed much easier and I can always create more speed by using my hands. It's much easier than trying to stop by running forward because a kite has too much lift.
Sensitivity to me, translates to pull. I want to feel the kite feed back to
me and the more it feeds back, the better I can sense what needs to be done.
If a kite pulls too much then I'll put it away and get a vented kite.
With these objectives, you can see that I lean heavily toward the 'down-and-out' bridle settings. How much to adjust, you say? Well, it depends on individual preferences but I have some figures that I fly to determine how much to adjust.
1. Flying large circles - Comparing the speed and tracking when flying the
lower and upper halves.
2. Squares - Even speed coming in and exiting each corner. Watching for 'slurring' and bobble when exiting corners plus straight line tracking. The kite should not look forced (i.e. the infamous 'boing' turn)
3. Launch from center window - The kite should not jerk up and rise at a constant speed without bobbling.
4. Tight circles or spins - The kite should cleanly exit the spin and not spinout.
5. Snap stalls - In the stall, the kite should not rise or drift.
The Response Setting and Tricks
When the Stranger was introduced in the mid-90's, it started a trend of kites with significant oversteer geared toward tricks and freestyle.
Tricks (specifically the axel family) are easier to do on a kite with oversteer than one without. However, I've found that these kites have a generally unstable feel to them, and I get the feeling that the kite takes control while it's doing its thing, and it'll give control back to me when it's finished.
Doing tricks on a response-set kite is definitely more difficult; however, there is the feeling of maintaining control throughout, which I feel is better for setting up combinations. But after all, if we make things too easy, we would have been bored long ago!
Anyway, that's it for this issue. Again, if you have any suggestions or questions please feel free to contact me.
P.S. Bridle trivia
There are two versions of the three point bridle, the US and European/UK versions. The original US version has a static outhaul line while European and UK kites have their static inhaul line from the tow point to the center. Why is this?
My belief is that they've looked at the adjustments and found by having a single piece top & outhaul line, when bridle adjustments for lift are made, the outhaul is also adjusted maintaining performance. Of course, the probable real reason is that they wanted to do things opposite of the US!
Ta for now,