I live in San Diego and regularly kitesurf at the Silver Strand where the wind conditions average about 10 mph. I weigh 180 pounds and use a 179 cm Litewave Dave as my board. The Silver Strand is on the ocean side of the Pacific Ocean and the surf can range from 3 feet to about 7 feet.
I have a Cabrinha 23.5 lei, a 15 m2 and a 19m2 slingshot lei. Of all the kites i own, I prefer the Speed 17. The speed has just as much power as the 23.5 Cabrinha and the turning speed is faster on the softest 2 steering positions. Prior to trying the Speed, I had modified my Cabrinha into a 5 line kite using the bar from my 19m2 Slingshot. My primary motivation for using the fifth line was to aid in relaunch and secondarily to assist in self landings. Launching still required help. Self launches with a big kite in light winds is fairly difficult.
However, self launches with Speed 17 is easily done by launching directly down wind in the power zone. The kite takes off with only half the usual power as kite continues to fill with air. It doesn't attain full power in 10-12 mph winds until directly overhead for about 5 seconds. I place the kite downwind and put a handfull of sand on the trailing edge in about 7 places and shake out the bridle lines to insure no tangles and seaweed passengers.
I untangle the line by walking toward the bars rather than walking from the bars toward the kite as I normally do with the leis. When I get to the bar I usually have to twist the bar a few times to get the lines untwisted. If necessary, I can easily slip off the center lines and reconnect if the bar has rolled so as to have the center lines wrapped around the steering lines.
The key to avoiding tangles is to pack the kite with the bar near the center of the kite but two feet below the trailing edge with the red lines off to the left and the green lines to the right and the kite and the bridles laid out horizontally in front of you on top of the kite. I then fold one wingtip over the other wingtip and roll the two wingtips with the bridles safely sandwiched inside toward the center. When I get the kite fully rolled up, the dirty sandy bar and some of the pully lines are available for easy washing when I get back to my house. The kite is now about 6 feet vertical with leading edge away from you x 1 feet wide with trailing edge at feet and kitebar with small amount of lines right underfoot. I then fold the kite from the leading edge down towards the trailing edge twice, in order to fit into backpack and wrap with a strap. The bar is easily washed as it is not buried in the middle of the kite.
The 23.5 m2 Cabrinha has about the same power as the Speed 17. The Cabrinha turns faster than the speed when the speed is on hard steering and slower when the speed is on the second knot from max soft steering. Also, when the Speed is tuned correctly (additional 4 inches added to the back lines), the kite will turn faster when sheeted in and slower when sheeted out. If the kite is backstalled by sheeting in too far (usually a problem when kite is used as delivered with the center lines that are 4 inches too long after third use of kite and stretching of lines and bridle has taken place) sheeting out slightly may be necessary for optimum turning speed.
Since, the wind is usually about 10 mph, I have modified my Speed by adding 10 meter lines and putting the steering on max soft steering. With the extra line length, the Speed is a little less responsive to turning pressure, so the maximum soft steering feels the same on longer lines as the second knot did with the standard setup. In addition, the four 10 meter lines that I added were not exactly the same length. Two of the lines were about 4 inches shorter. The shorter lines, I attached to the center lines and the longer lines to the steering lines. This fixed a problem that I noticed has also been experienced by other Speed owners. By the third use, The sweet spot of maximum power with the kite as delivered is almost fully sheeted our with the yellow line pulled almost all the way in. The answer is to shorten the center lines (with big problems with adjusting the emergency depower lines) or easily adding 4 inches onto the back lines. I suggest adding 4 inches onto the back lines.
With the additional line length, I now am the first one on the water and the last one off. The extra line length gives a larger power window. The disadvantage is that timing for jumps is more difficult since in non overpowered conditions, the kite takes longer to swing overhead from the edge of the window 30-45 degree off the horizon position. If the wind is 13+mph, the kite is higher in the window and jumping is a lot easier to time and the lift is amazing.
Also, with longer lines turning is slower so the kite must be moved to the maximum soft steering position. Also, a big board is required because turning at the edge of the wind window requires slightly more bouyancy to keep on plain for a slightly longer turn. If I time the jumps correctly with the extra power off the ramps produced by the surf, I can get higher and longer jumps than anyone else on the beach. The Caution 20 is the only lei kite that delivers the same class of jumping power, but the people on these kites have about 2 years more experience than I do and weight about 20 pounds less and they still don't get the same lift.
With the Speed 17, I can self land the kite without help. I direct the kite towards the edge of the wind window. When the kite is close to the sand, I grab the blue emergency depower line which pulls the trailing lines and collapses the kite with the leading edge up. I then immmediately grab the steering line closest upwind, and run upwind with pressure only on this steering line as I reel it in and get closer to the kite's leading wing. The kite may tumble a litle bit downwind and even roll as this happens. Makes sure that no spectators are downwind when self landing. If the kite tumbles, detangling the bridles can be a 30 minute project if seaweed and brambles get caught in the lines. Nonetheless, after the first two times self landing by pulling the emergency blue line connected to the steering lines, I had no fear of losing control over the kite.
Another advantage; I have overflown the kite a number of times through jumping. My Cabrinha would have tumbled out of the sky and perhaps even inverted. The speed will float in the air with slack lines and with a minimum amount of direction and end up back in position within the wind window after 3-4 seconds of powerlessness. The weight of the bridles keep the kite from deforming or tumbling. This is a big advantage when jumping a half mile off shore.
One disadvantage of the kite: If you are an expert who doesn't drop the kite into the surf, this kite rocks. If you drop it into the surf and it rolls around in the sand, you might as well pack it up. You have a water logged mess that weighs a ton and requires at least 30 minutes to untangle the bridle lines. All the lei users are busy laughing at you on the beach. I have done this twice in about 12 sessions. Washing the kite in the garage when you get it home and letting it dry now becomes a necessity. If you don't drop it in the water, I don't even bother to wash anything other than the bar and lines which I have conveniently available and unburied in the kite. I have relaunched this kite when dropped into the water by pulling on the back steering lines and flying it backwards off the water. This works great in non surf conditions and with 10mph plus winds.
With the advantages of easier self launch, self landing, huge power in a smaller, faster turning package and the useability in otherwise marginal conditions, the Speed 17 with the modifications mentioned above, is the ultimate light wind machine. Having developed some skill with other kites that are easily relaunched, I prefer to use the Speed 17 whenever the wind speed is below 15 mph. The performance is simply not matched by anything else I've seen on my beach.
By : SilverStrandMan