Skyward's Tracer

In the past, I've ragged on the Tracer, sparred with AFC 2400, both here
and in e-mail, saying that it's a slow, heavy kite that while reasonably
priced just can't keep up with some of the other kites whose league it's
supposed to be in.

I want to retract that...

I've been flying a 2400-framed Tracer for 10 or 12 hours in the last 4 days 
or so, in winds ranging from 2 or 3 up to about 20 mph, and it has performed

I will point out, though, that my kite is not a stock Tracer.  I've removed
the extraordinarily heavy vinyls and bridle and replaced them with much
thinner-walled vinyls and 300# Spectra.  I also added rubber bands to each
end of all 3 spreaders to hold them in place.  I've set the clip about
1/8" _above_ the half-way point along the main bridle line.  I haven't
needed to change the bridle setting at all in the entire range within which
I've flown the kite.  Obviously, one could inject a little more oversteer
in high winds by dropping the clip down a bit, but this is flyer's 

As the wind picks up, the kite does get a bit noisy, but I've seen no trace
of distortion in the frame, and would guess that the kite will fly in winds
of at least 25 mph, as suggested by Skyward.  I've seen no sign that my lighter
vinyls are going to rip or stretch from flying in high winds.

While still not as apt in the _really_ light range as, say, a Phantom, 
it's still a fun kite and worth a look.  At a list price of $220, it's
quite a bargain, compared to some of the other new kites.  (but if you do buy 
one with the 2400 frame, consider making the modifications I've suggested 
above; it's like a completely different kite)

For those who don't know much about the Tracer:

This is the latest kite from Skyward, the company that produces the NLK/NBK/
RBK series, as well as the Hawk II.  It's a big kite, with a wing span of
over 8' and a height of 4'--there's lots of sail area.  The sail is extremely
deep--the stand-offs, at 10.5" from sail to spreader are amongst the
longest I've seen on a standard 'full-size' kite.  In addition to this, the
leading edge is curved, creating a camber.  Finally, the kite makes use
of what Skyward is referring to as "active frame tensioning"--instead of
the usual bungee in the leading edge, the sail is held taut by a length of
spectra sewn into the trailing edge.  This has the dual role of keeping the
trailing edge taut (making the kite quite quiet) and keeping the sail tight
on the frame.  It actually works quite well.

In terms of performance, the Tracer is somewhere between a precision kite
and a radical ballet kite.  With a combination punch-pull turn you can
cut extremely tight angles with great precision.  While it's not really on
rails, the kite does track pretty well, so groundsweeps look good.  Despite
all this, the kite has a nice bit of oversteer, and it's a very simple matter
to dump air from the sail, stalling the kite in a lot of neat positions.  This
also makes the kite good for groundwork--you can set it down where ever you'd
like.  Sometimes it even looks as if the kite is flying on quad lines.
Belly and leading edge launches are a snap, and the kite is very easy to
turtle--and recover.  It's a good idea to string some monofilament along the
trailing edge to keep your lines from wrapping around a tip or the keel.

While not as fancy or workable as the Pro, Wolfe's various kites, or Marty's
Katana, the Tracer is a good introduction to the new flying style.

(who is in no way associated with Skyward Manufacturing; just happy with their
basic design)

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