Issue 39: Review of Spirit by New Tech

Manufacturer: New Tech
Model: Standard configuration, SPIRIT
Wingspan: 80 inches
Height: 32 inches
Standoff depth: 6 inches
Type of kite: Quad-line cruiser.
Materials: SkyShark P100 frame, Pultruded solid rods, Toray polyester sail, TW connectors.
Source for test kite: Sample from the manufacturer

Quality of Construction
The Spirit is sewn with overlapped seams on Toray polyester sail panels, fold-over edge reinforcing on the straights and edge binding strips sewn onto the curves. (PHOTO “A”) The end-caps are hard plastic, except for the truss system. The pockets are seat-belt webbing. The reinforcing patches on the sail are 3.9 ounce Dacron, bungee and washer/knots are used to tension to the frame. Everything works great, but this is certainly a production kite.

Tuning will be more difficult due to the way the kite is assembled, and what components were selected for construction. No directions for assembly or tuning were provided with the Spirit either. The across spars had the ferules break loose during the first maiden voyage. The new owner would be well advised to knock ‘em out before heading to the field and re-glue with 5-minute two-part epoxy the night before. The kite comes in a lovely padded, zippered case with spots inside for handles and your flying lines on a winder card inside the case.

The bridle is unique, whereas the top portion of the sail is adhered with three legs to the frame members on two sides plus the center spine and a pigtail for locking onto the upper flying lines, but the bottoms are adhered to only a single sliding line with knots for various placement of the flying lines (wind range tuning) affixed to the bottom end-cap. The top of the bridle is built outside of the down-spars when the kite is powered up… in my limited experience I find this very unusual. But it flew fine, so what the heck do I know about a quad bridle?

There are linking lines that reach from the center spine fitting to the bottoms of the down spars. This should help to prevent the kite from snagging a flying line when flipped inside out. On the bottom end-caps there’s also a sort-of a trick-line that runs across the bottom of the kite, built of braided Dacron. Although it’s loose and just passed thru some of the other bridle legs, it seemed to work without tangles generally during my several hours of testing.

For this review, I used the longest bridle attachment points (on the bottoms) to get the kite to bleed some of the excess pressure away, in the big wind and gusts I experienced.

The truss system rubber caps should be watched carefully, as with time they will be cut through by the truss lines for sure.

Design Features and Tuning
The kite is a quad-line wing with a center spine, plus two down spars and an across spreader measuring approximately 80 inches wide by 32 inches in height. The across spreader is a 3 piece P100 SkyShark frame with two solid carbon ferules. The center stick passes through the fitting on the center spine. While this looseness bothers me, if you adhere the down spars properly, with the rubber bands, lateral movement should mostly be prevented.

The kite has a truss system on the back of the sail also. It is composed of two solid point 125 carbon rods and braided line tensioning to seat belt webbing pockets and attachment points or end-caps. Just as on a suspension bridge, the lines add stiffness to the frame without a significant weight increase. The kite does not blow away when landed either. It sits up on the truss system and waits for your next input.

The kite did not come with any directions, but many areas can be adjusted (and should be!!) so I’ll attempt to explain in prose and with photographs what settings I used for testing. The new owner should feel completely comfortable varying from the review settings to see if they like the new effect.

The Spirit has several adjustable areas, which can be manipulated to suit your pleasure. The single most important area to address is adding a curve to the center spine. The kite comes alive with this feature properly set!! ~! This adjustment is proper when the tensioning line does not reach or touch the center tee fitting. I had to add several additional wraps (re-tying) on the tensioning line at the spine. First I placed some slight tension on that line to collapse the seat belt webbing into a “V” shape on each end of the center rod, a point 125 solid. Then I moved the spar into the center of the “V” shape just formed and tighten ed it further. Now the stick can’t move and the front of the kite has a moderately pronounced curve built into the sail.

Notice in the photographs the extra wraps I placed above the factory’s knot, to insure it held. I could not get the factory knot to hold in position, when tensioned sufficiently to add a curve to the center spine. You would assume that a spine fitting would come with Velcro. It would be on the bottom and the top formed with a pocket, maybe even with a Kevlar patch to prevent wear-through of the seat belt webbing. I am not certain that level of construction is incorporated, so watch this area over time.

The curve in the sail allows the kite to fly higher and wider in the wind window compared to other quad line kites. It prevents the kite from falling out of the sky at the edges too and allows a dead-launch no matter how the kite winds up on the ground. This kite makes everyone look better, because you just can’t screw-up a landing, even an aggressive lawn-dart or a completely slack four-line stall.

The frame components are locked together with a rubber band on each side of the sail at the down-spar junctions with the across spreader. I removed it from the kite; and then I looped one end around the upright truss system fitting ,then traveled behind both tubes diagonally. I concluded the wrap by hooking the other loose end of the band onto the fitting from the opposite direction. Now the center stick and the down spars can’t move (easily) during flight. I want all the adjustments necessary for flight to come from the pilot commands, not from movements of vital components internally.

When everything is properly tensioned and assembled, none of the frame members should be curved except for the center spine. Assemble the kite on it’s back, insuring the across spars go in-between the two pieces of Dacron at the wing tips during assembly. If the down spars are curved or the across spreader tubes are curved, the kite won’t have hard edges to grab the wind. It will go all totally floaty and be unrewarding to fly. You’ll be making adjustments for the wind bending around the frame members, instead of directional control, speed and orientation. You’ll be adjusting, to the adjustments you just made!!! The kite won’t “lock-in” and follow your commands.

Photos by John Barresi

Wind Range
The kite is very resilient to gusts. It likes a rather significant amount of air. It is actually nice to fly in medium to heavy wind, mostly due to its center spine that can rotate back and dump excess pressure. As some of the components are solid carbon rods rather than tubes, the kite is heavy for it’s available surface area. I would recommend a 5 mph bottom-end unless you have extensive previous quad experience and some specialized accessories, like long handles, shorter line-sets, fast shoes plus some pretty good physical stamina!

Amount of Pull and Sensitivity
The Spirit has a light amount of pull and takes pretty large command inputs, but it is quite reasonable in flight despite it rather smallish size overall. It is not a sensitive kite. Tricks need to be initiated with deliberation — the kite is not likely to do anything by “accident”. Flight is very neutral and the controls are steady enough to talk with someone learning quad techniques for the first time… while they fly.

The Spirit is very easy to learn. As part of my review I grabbed two folks from the boardwalk and asked them to give it a try. Neither of them had any previous sport kite experience at all. A young girl of maybe twelve and an old fart with a tacky gray-white beard, just like me! They were both thrilled with the control and ease of maneuvering that the Spirit offers. In the first twenty minutes they each had the confidence and skill to land, hover, slide and stop inverted before impact. My favorite teaching technique is to begin with cart wheeling the kite from the leading edge down position. New fliers just freak about how easy the Spirit responds after crashing it into the ground. It rolls over with the slightest input command awaiting your next mission orders. Learning the cartwheel first, make the rest of the session much more enjoyable. Whenever the kite crashes, just roll one side over and it’s back upright. Fliers will quickly develop the skills to recover from any bad judgment with the Spirit.

Flight Behaviors
The unusual stuff of flight is more a sense of four line flying than this a unique kite. To launch, you punch both arms forward, rotate your grip on the handles to “thumbs up” and simply step backwards once or twice to initiate flight. Hovering is a balance point between thumbs up and thumbs down. Inverted slides and dive-stops are a matter of pushing your thumbs forward (down) at the proper moment.

The Spirit will also fly in sort of two-line mode, just hold/grip the handles high, next to the top attachment points and push-pull fly to your heart’s desire. Rotating your thumbs forward or backward is the throttle for speed control. Crossing over to the “dark side” has never been easier than with the Spirit. It is built tough enough for any one to learn on, even without a coach.

Dead launching is easy either forward or backward, since the center curved spine allows air to get underneath the kite from any direction. Flick-flaks are possible, but longer throw handles make the trick very reliable and quick. Fliers may need to modify your standard length handles by several inches to maximize the tricks and precision capabilities of the kite. You can fly this kite with a hard style or just “cruise along the boulevard” enjoying the sights and the weather.

I began with a brand new line-set of LaserPro Gold still in the shrink-wrap. I placed the four lines over a stake and unwound them carefully. I placed them two at time over a stake and adjusted one of them by several inches before hooking onto my flying handles. Ensuring your lines are absolutely equal is imperative. I left on the sleeving, but I’m not recommending that to anyone else. That’s just another area to snag a tangle… either in flight, or recovering from an exciting landing or even when unrolling the flying lines to set-up initially.

The frame is flexible, but not to the point of poor flight dynamics. Just remember to lock everything down with tensioning lines, rubber bands and insure no bridle line tangles happen between the framing members, etc.

Precision (corners, tracking, speed)
Slow and graceful, this kite is “cruiser”, not a high performance ride demanding every moment of your attention. I flew it on what I would consider long lines, with short handles. Set-up this way the kite won’t surprise you in any way. Just enjoy the day and share your experiences, as you will certainly be attracting a crowd.

With the across spreader not located exactly on the leading edge, the kite has a more neutral feel to it for speed control. The differences between full ahead and full reverse aren’t so drastic either when compared to other quad line wings. The Spirit Kite is really easy to fly and enjoy. I find that proper tuning of your flying line set-up is best accomplished with a series of leaders on your handles, after equalization of line lengths. I tightened the brake lines (more DOWN) two inches.

Back-up/reverse flight: very good

Side slide: good to great depending upon your previous experience

Walk-of-Shame: almost impossible. It will never be needed, relax and enjoy!

Similarities and Differences to Other Kites
The uniqueness of the center spine is both the key to the Spirit’s success and the kite’s downfall in competition. As your skills increase you may in fact want to influence one half of the Spirit in one direction, while making the other half do something entirely different. Since the kite does not have a pronounced left and right side that can be influenced independently, the kite doesn’t fly as crisply as some other quads available. The extra sail area and the center spine dilute your inputs. The kite is more floaty and spins around inside its’ wing tips without any effort, as opposed to nice square figures/corners done in the center of the window. The window is huge with this kite though . Use it all and marvel at how well it makes everyone look when flying the Spirit.

Flying Experience
The wind range for the kite is probably a legitimate 5 to at least 18 mph. I flew it in conditions when the other kites being used that day were vented, so the kite is certainly durable, if you “give ground” during a big gust and not stand lead-footed.

My testing was done in glorious sunshine (but a 21-degree wind chill!) at Ocean City Maryland using 85 feet of LaserPro gold, 90-pound strength on 12 inch wrapped carbon handles during the weekend of Veterans’ Day. I would also recommend the plastic gripped ones known as TC Ultra quad-line handles. These are the same approximate length of throw, have a built-in winder and cost less besides. The kite cries out for longer throw handles and a much more aggressive flying style than your typical quad-line kite, but I used materials which anyone could obtain commercially without modifications for the review, as instructed by our fearless editor and hero.

Everybody who ever wanted to give quad-line kiting a try should have one of these in his or her bag and use it regularly. The kite is a remarkably easy design to learn with and the platform is very adjustable as your skills increase. What’s the price of fun for this kite? It’s an absolute steal in my opinion!

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Author:Paul LaMasters

Paul LaMasters is a long time flier from Maryland, a founding member of Wings Over Washington kite club, and he can often be found at events up and down the east coast, lending his unique style to the show.

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