I’ll admit I’m a big fan of Born Kites. I first heard about them from watching a video by John Holgate about the NASA Star 2 kites a few years back. I bought some, and have been a Born-kite fan ever since. I also own 4 of Longstar 2’s, which I like a lot.
I was waiting with some anticipation for the RaceStars. And when they were released I decided to get one pretty much straight away. But which size? I debated for about 24 hours with myself, and then, being cash-rich and self control poor, decided to just avoid any hard decision making and buy a full quiver.
The kites arrived and sat there taunting me as I had injured my back and could hardly walk, let alone fly - until a few weeks ago at the 24th annual Blue Balls Buggy Bash at Port Waikato in New Zealand.
The RaceStars are designed to be a buggy race kite. To go fast on a nice flat, hard pack beach. So in true kiwi style, we tested them in the dunes at port Waikato, because anyone can fly on the flat, but it’s in the dunes where kites and men are truly tested.
As usual with Born-kites, the construction is top notch. Like many single skins, the leading edge contains small flexible battens to keep the edge in shape. The sail is pretty much flat, except for a few small triangular ribs that spread the load in places of high stress. This means that unlike most other single skins, the RaceStars are pretty much flat with no "ribs" running down the wing.
The biggest difference with the RaceStar over previous Born-Kites is in the bridling. There is much, much less of it than with the longstar2’s and it’s made from a proprietary coated line developed exclusively by Born-kite. Less bridling reduces drag obviously but also makes for a much more pleasant experience when you crash in grass or on a beach with that horrible dry razor sharp weed - no more spending 20 minutes getting that dry seaweed out of the bridles. Born-kites are looking at using this new bridle line on the longstar3 as well.
I ordered my kites fitted with the FAS (front area safety). This an optional fifth line safety that essentially folds the kite like a taco. I was intending to use a fifth line setup, but have since changed my mind, as I use an Ozone bar with front line flag out. (Several people asked what that extra line hanging off the kite was until I bundled it up and locked it into its retaining loop) I will probably end up removing it.
Shortly after I ordered mine, I received an email from Steffen with a diagram showing that the RaceStars worked best with a 31cm extension on the steering lines. I made some pigtails up and took them with me to the meet.
I hooked the 5m RaceStar up to a brand new ozone bar, on 25meter lines and launched it. The kite was responsive but a little twitchy in the air and was suffering a little from some back-stalling. Still quite flyable, but “not quite right”. I’m still fairly new to de-power kites, and still working out what to adjust when things don't feel right. Plummet was keen for a go, so I handed it over. He quickly confirmed that it wasn’t right and reckoned it needed a bit more backline. So we landed and added the recommended 31 cm extensions I’d made to the backline leaders, and relaunched. It was a different kite. No more tendency for back-stalling, much better de-power range, and just really nice to fly. And fly it does, fast, with a nice smooth power build up.
Plummet hooked up the 7 and took off into dunes with it. He’s been known to have strong opinions about born-kites in the past, and as a very experienced kiter I respect his judgement, so when he got back pronounced the Racestars “Good. I’d definitely have one of those.” and then went on to give it a good review. I was quite pleased.
I had a brief session with the 7 which was fantastic, but most of the weekend the 5 suited the conditions for me. The kite is awesome to fly, the 5 is incredibly fast to turn, which can make powered turns in the buggy a little hard as it tends to pivot around its centre, I think with a little practice fully powered turns would be fine. After a couple of hours tearing around the dunes I really got the feel for the kite and started getting some nice fast runs. The power comes on smooth and fast, but very controlled. As I said upwind performance is fantastic, Plummet says not quite as good as his Chrono, but it’s not far off. I certainly was able to go upwind better than any other kite I own and there were very few times I had to tack to get where I wanted to go.
The kite was super stable in the air with no tendency to tip tuck and sat nicely in the window. As Plummet pointed out in his review, it would just drift back into the window when slack-lined and not wad itself into a ball and fall out of the sky.
All single skins have a tendency to ‘flap’ (Aka “shopping bagging”) and the race star will if you are de-powered, but when even minimally powered up, the wing pops into shape is very stable with no flapping at all. I only mention it in the Negatives summary because - well - you have to put something in there.
The RaceStars two-tone colour scheme with the black looks stunning in the air. There is something about the fabric or dye’s Born-Kite use that gives their kites a vibrancy of colour that other kites just don’t seem to have.
I also spent some time with the 7 meter last weekend on a nice stretch of flat beach. And it was a blast. However, I was flying on a 50cm bar, and the kite definitely needs a bigger bar as turning was a bit sluggish unless I tent-poled the floats to give it a bit of extra leverage. But that’s not a kite issue, just something to be aware of when matching your bar up.
I haven’t flown the 9 or 11 yet, but I am looking forward to it.
So are the RaceStars any good? Hell yes! Fast, responsive, superb upwind, less bridling, and look good. Low bar pressure makes long sessions a breeze. Light and small pack up compared to a high aspect foil. And, as we discovered on the last day of the Blue Balls, fast to pack up when you have lightning storms approaching.
If you are buying kite only, just make sure you add the extensions to your rear leaders to give that 31cm extra on the steering lines.
I think Born-Kite are a great company who are competing in a tough market by doing innovative things - they haven’t always got it right <cough>longstar1<cough> but sometimes, when a company is trying to innovate, instead of just flog a yearly upgrade, it doesn’t quite work out. But they clearly learn from any mistakes and are committed to designing and producing top notch kites that get better and better. The RaceStars are definitely an example of their innovation and skill in the single skin space.
So If you are looking for a buggy engine with serious get up and go, great upwind performance that looks great in the air, buy one - or four, you won’t regret it.