We’ve all heard the conversation, “Kite X is the fastest kite I’ve ever flown!” Before you switch out your current quiver in search of the fastest kite available, it’s important to understand what we mean by “fast”…
So what makes a kite fast?
There are 2 different types of “fast” that are often confused.
1. Fast turning:
When most people talk about fast kites, they are referring to the turning speed of the kite. It’s an important characteristic of the kite and something that many of you will have noticed while out on the water.
Things that affect turning speed:
Pivot vs Arc: Kites that pivot will stall in the turn, twist and rotate around the wingtip and turn quickly. Kites that arc in the turn will continue to drive forwards as they turn creating more power and also a slower turn.
Bridle Design: Bridled kites are able to turn more quickly because the bridle helps twist the kite when turning. This twisting motion makes the kite stall and helps it pivot.
Wingtip size: For kites without a bridle or kites with a very compact bridle, wider wingtips help with turning speed.
Here is a great explanation of the pros and cons of different types of turning.
The full thread is available at: http://www.seabreeze.com.au/forums/Kitesurfing/Review/pivot-turning-kites/
2. Fast flying:
The second type of “fast” are kites that fly fast. On any given kite there are 2 core forces at work: lift and drag. The tradeoff between these two forces is the lift to drag ratio (L/R ratio) and that defines how far forward in the wind window the kite flies.
Kites with a high lift drag ratio fly closer to the edge of the wind window (and go upwind better). When flying the kite through the middle of the power zone (or cruising with the kite parked), high L/D ratio kites will fly faster.
If we start to get really technical, the L/D ratio is inversely proportional to the angle of attack (AoA) of the kite although we will save that for another day!
How fast is your kite?
The next time you are talking about how fast your kite is, make sure you clarify whether you are talking about turning speed or flying speed, it will start to make a lot more sense!