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The 5th line is a great new thing, but there is a flaw in the current design. These words of advice are coming from a guy I talked to at Sherman. He told me that his buddy (Joey) had his 5th line rip right out of the kite. He recommneded using one of the old school (4 line, pigtail attachments), as your leash.
Why? 1) Because the pump leash on all kites is not designed as strong as one of the 4 line attachments. Has anyone ever heard of one the attachments on the tips failing? I highly doubt it.
2) Everyone has heard about the 5th line getting wrapped around the kite. Have you ever heard of it sawing your kite in half? Well it happened to my kite yesterday, it ripped the canopy in two.
Don't get me wrong, I think the 5th line is a godsend for quick and easy relaunches. I think it also helps in gusty condtions. I also like it for self landings.
The flaw in all 5th lines I've seen out there is they are using it as the leash line. I believe a better design would be to use one of the existing 4 lines as a leash, then have the 5th line there, with a handle, to pull on to assist in relaunching (as recommended by a kind soul at Sherman).
If you use one of the existing 4 lines as your leash attachment, even if your 5th line gets wrapped around the kite, it won't be under heavy load when you let go of the bar. And you won't have to worry about putting undo stress on the attachment point for the 5th line.
For me, the pros of a fifth line far outweight the cons.
I really like the grey area between power and complete depower, and being able to depower the kite completely without releasing the safety. As a beginner/intermediate, I grab my leash and pull just 20 inches when:
-I'm freaked out in the middle of a huge gust trying not to scallop downwind
-I've blown a jump or crashed and I'm underwater coming up, and I'm freaked out because though I can't see the kite I know its about to get crazy on me
-As I'm relaunching of the water, I use the fifth as power/throttle control, slowly releasing it for a more civilized launch.
-Just about anytime I'm freaked out and have lost track of the kite.
On Norths (and others I assume) you can also adjust the stopper ball to limit bar travel making it much more difficult for the kite to flip inside out.
I do agree that the attachment point should be more heavily reinforced.
Eventually when I try unhooked moves I will have far more confidence knowing I can shut the power off instantly in a civilized, non spiraling manner, by just letting go. I know when I try my first raillys I may go fetal!
It seems that your points are valid for a kite not designed to be a 5th line. I know with the 5th element, the 5th line attachment point is reinforced, as well as the trailing edge of the canopy. I know you can have a pump leash reinforced to be made 5th line compatible...
For what it is worth.. I have broken pigtails and wingtip attacment points on 4 line kites... so nothing is really imune to that abuse...
I don't think you need to be concerned about the 5th line attachment point ripping on any kites that are actually built for 5-line use (i.e., almost any '05 kite). Many older kites (i.e. '03+ norths, I think '04+ Naish, etc.) also come with reinforced attachment points as well.
If you have an unreinforced pump-leash, it should be a relatively inexpensive matter to get a kite-repair shop to sew some additional reinforcement on.
The danger of wrapping the 5th line around the kite is real though... nothing ever seems to come without tradeoffs in life.
North has added a robust "Snake Skin" on the trailing edge that keeps it strong, and less prone to stretching... Essentially it is just thicker material... I am sure it helps in keepint the kite intact... but with enough force, it could probably go... but I'll bet it helps alot.
Coming from the sport kite world (as opposed to, say, windsurfing), I think the 5th line concept is not the best solution, although it is quite straightforward.
The solution, as I see it, is *bridling*, something that appears revolutionary in this new sport, but is as everyday as, well, -- everyday! in the sport kite world. Of course, it does add complexity, and that means attention must be paid to reliability issues. That being said, I think the Windwing SAFE bridle concept (as an example) is right on the mark and represents the shape of things to come.
The whole technology of bridling has been very thoroughly discussed in the sport kite world, and folks keep coming up with new specialized bridles for particular applications. This is most common for "tricking" sport kites. I was amazed to see my kite lines during my first lesson being attached directly to the edges of the kite. I thought, "What the?...no bridle?..." I really believe you're going to see a lot more relaunch solutions through bridling in the near future. It's pretty exciting entering the sport during such a time of rapid technology advancement. ('course, that makes it more expensive, too. )
I'll add a few disclaimers here, but I'll stand by my my opinion until I fly them all.
1) I have no association with any particular manufacturer.
2) I am still a complete newbie and I submit to the experience of the long-time kiteboarders here. That being said, I can fly *any* sport kite, and have a good deal of experience there, including using several different bridling schemes on a wide range of 1, 2, and 4-line sport kites.
Joey's kite who had the 5th line rip right off his kite was a North 5th Element. It was a new one, 05.
I believe having the 5th line is a good thing, I just don't think it should be used for a leash attachment. Breaking pigtails is one thing, and preventable. Having to repair a ripped out 5th line, that caused damage to your leading edge, is a big deal. On the other hand, reinforcing or replacing webbing on your tips can be done relatively easily.
My recommendation is having a handle for the 5th line, near your sheeting system for the chicken loop. That way when you want to water relaunch, you fetch your bar, and then start pulling on the 5th line to get the kite in position. The 5th line will still work the same as usual (being able to pull on it to depower, etc), it just relieves potential stress on the kite for emergency bar deploying situations.
p.s. as far as bridles, ww is going in the right direction. Their new rapture is very interesting, stiff leading edge, no bridles, and with a S.A.F.E. compatible bar for near 100% depower. Can't wait to try one.
Coming from the port kite / foil world I have to agree with the bridle. I think inflatos got a way for a while without a bridle, but there is little you can do to improve them now without a bridle. You start seeing more and more kites with bridles, like BFK. SAFE is a great idea, and we will probably see more like that. The future is probably a bridled inflatable like the wipika protos, they keep promising that it will be release some day, which probably means that they did not nail the design completely.
The Rapture doesn't have a bridle? How does the SAFE work on it?
As the owner of a Rage II, I can certainly say that the SAFE system covers all the bases. The Jumpstart is supposed to be the "easy relaunch" bridle, but I've found that the Rage with SAFE installed essentially relaunches itself every time it's hit the water so far.
I did find that if you unhook your lines after kiting, the SAFE system can get screwed up during packing up of the kite, etc.,, so I tend to leave my bar on the kite, even if I end up redoing the attachments the next time I kite.
Otherwise, the bridles just seem much less problematic than an extra line...
Isn't that the truth? That's why after time, you will instinctively learn to steer/fly/save your kite after major wipeouts. Kite crashes still happen from time to time, but I find myself reacting and steering the kite while underwater and/or getting dragged and upon surfacing see the kite barely missing the water and turning back upwards towards the sky.
Another tip to get out of wipeouts when you know you're going to get worked hard if the kite blasts through the powerzone, and again this is a developed instinct, is to sheet out to your maximum if you sense the kite is turning hard or about to and point downwind with your body. This is assuming you have already flung your board well away from you. By doing this, you avoid the full force of a temporarily out of control kite and buy yourself a second or two to regain control.