I recently received my Speed 5 21m and the winds in Central Ohio have been very light, not even a 21m would get me out. I was in Michigan on a trip and had some kites with me. The wind forecast was for 14 mph and I was near Detroit/Lake Saint Clair Metropark so I was excited about getting out on my Speed 5 15m, I had my Speed 5 18m just in case and at the last minute threw in the 21m.
I get to the park and it was reading 10 mph, not what I expected but it was a hot day I wanted to cool off. There was a large flag near the beach and it looked pretty steady. I decided on a 150cm Bronq XL and the Speed 5 21m. By the time that I launched, the flag had even less wind.
A short story about light wind kiting. I see a lot of threads about light wind kiting. I was in Punta Cana last winter and it was a very light wind day, probably 7-8 mph at the beach. I had my Speed 4 21m and a Nobile Carbon Split Flying Carpet. I was able to launch and just barely make it up wind. Another guy on holiday had his Speed 19m and a large board, maybe just a little smaller. Once I was able to get off the shoreline the wind was just a little stronger and I was able to have a nice time. I stayed out for an hour or more. As soon as I got out successfully, the guy with the 19m sets up and is trying his best. My sister was on the beach watching and after numerous attempts the guy gave up. He was able to launch the kite and get moving but was never able to make it up wind. He was very frustrated and packed it up. He told my sister that maybe it was a good day to take the family snorkeling but he was not very convincing.
His kite was 10% smaller, that would not make much of a difference. His board might have been as wide but a few cm shorter and he might have weighed 5-10 lbs more. I had a wet impact vest on so the weight might have been close. We were both experienced with our speed kites. The winds might have been just a little better when I launched and may have allowed me to get off the shore.
All these things are tiny and some of them, like the wind when I launched are just a possibility.
That is how light wind kiting can work, tiny differences can make the difference between getting up on plane and up wind.
For those of you who would not kite on a day like this, there is always snorkeling.
Back to the Speed 5 21m, I was frustrated that the winds were so light. It was 90+ degrees and there is no snorkeling that I know of at Metro Beach Park. I had ridden 91 miles on a jet ski the day before so more jet skiing was not very appealing. My alternative was sitting on my mom’s patio in 90-degree weather looking at the birds that visit her bird feeder.
The Speed 5 21m inflates the same as all the other Speed 5 kites, the stiffer fabric seems to hold its shape better than the Lotus fabric but it does not seem like to files up as much. I get the thing in the air and it takes a few turns before the tips inflate. There was one guy on the water when I arrived and it looked like a 17m. He was doing fine when I was setting up but now he is standing in the water with his kite overhead.
The 21m seemed to fly just like the Speed 5 18m, only bigger. I was surprised at how fast it turned and I think there is more difference between this kite and the Speed 4 than other sizes. I usually have line extensions on my Lotus 21m, it gives it more room for turning. The Speed 5 21m is fine without line extensions but I will probably try them another day.
The Lotus 21m does not like to be sheeted in when in very light winds and it does not like to be pumped up and down to get you moving. Sure, you sweep the kite around and down to get started but once you get going, best to just keep it relatively high and not move it around a lot. You can generate some power on the down stroke but it does not turn very fast and it likes to be sheeted in on the start of the up stroke or will feel like it is stalling. The Speed 5 21m flies a lot more like a LEI, you can work it up and down and it turns quickly and flies faster. I did not feel like it generated as much power when statically flying, I felt like I needed to work it more. The Lotus 21m pulls like a truck if you can get up on plane and get the apparent wind moving over the kite.
I was out for a while and making some progress getting up wind but not enough to get much closer to the other guy who was near the shoreline but up wind from where I was at the beach. The wind would drop and I would be lucky not to lose ground against the wind. The other guy had his kite laying in the water, at least I was still moving.
While Lake St Clair might be an inland lake, the wind was crossing a lot of water and was very smooth. Here in the Midwest, we get lots of practice trying to just keep a kite in the sky. This is where the Speed 5 21m really makes a difference compared to the Lotus 21m. Because the kite turns so much faster, I was able to keep the kite downwind and moving. With the Lotus 21m, things are great until the kite gets too far to the left or right and stalls out. Skill helps a lot, taking short runs right and left and keeping the kite moving helps but when you lose tension in the lines and the kite is off too far to one side, it does not always end well. The Speed 5 21m is so much easier to turn back and even when you mess up and start losing tension, the kite keeps its shape much better and wants to just drift back until it hits the wind again.
The other guy gave up after a while I lost ground and back to the beach for lunch. Later the wind picked back up and I had enough wind for a few jumps. The quicker turning made the kite feel more like a 15m but it was when I over cooked the jump and the kite quickly recovered, that was the part that really sets it apart from the Lotus 21m.
I would still be tempted to take the Lotus 21m on a trip where I might get very light smooth winds. The Lotus kite weighs less and sometimes luggage weight is real problem for me because I like to take lots of kites and have the right kite for the conditions.