In light wind anything goes, more or less, in stronger wind, especially if gusting, I would say it's safe to launched hooked in if you keep the kite low and launch so the kite is pointing towards the water and you don't fly it at, or past zenith, because you never know when a gust will hit. If you have to launch with the kite pointing inland or pass the kite past zenith for any reason I'd say it's best to be unhooked so you can let go anytime.
You can launch a foil unhooked and fully/half depowered by holding the depower on the bar, pull half or full depower and hold it on the bar under one hand then launch, works fine. I'm pretty sure you can do the same with an LEI too but you obviously can't power the kite up/depower to change the angle of attack, or fly the kite further back from or towards the edge of the window, unhooked the kite will stay depowered as much as you're holding the depower on the bar and basically just fly on the front lines, which isn't ideal for control.
Pulling down the trim you can launch unhooked in quite strong winds as long as you move the kite slow and keep it at the edge of the window, but it'll be further back in the power zone and if it picks up speed, starts a dive or drifts further back in the power zone it can take off fast and you have no way of depowering it, which you do if you're in the depower.
Imo, it also depends how powered up you want to be, if you can't hold the kite at the edge of the window without using the depower, unless you're looking for extreme jumps the kite is too big anyway. Once it starts flying it has apparent wind too so even more power.
In the potentialy nasty situations I've been in near or on land, once I got lofted by a gust and only had time to release the shackle after it was all over (couple o seconds and a lot of luck), another time after I'd stopped using a shackle I was hooked in but pulled the bar down, hooked out in the air and let go of the bar just before I touched down, much better, best of all is just being attached to the kite with your hands, shit hits the fan, just let go and let the leash do its job.
The bottom line is that your own personal safety is a very personal thing so up to you to decide how you feel safe, after getting lofted without warning once, personally I don't feel safe hooked/shackled to a traction kite in strong or gusting wind on land.
Anyone tried launching an LEI unhooked while holding half depower on the bar?
Royce you launch unhooked, how do you launch in stronger wind?
<font size=-1>[ This Message was edited by: Mr Jo Macdonald on 2002-10-30 17:22 ]</font>