BEST KITEBOARDING has introduced
an intriguing new innovation ...
Best describes the Hellfish as having several unique features:
* The kite surfaces are comprised of Cuben Fiber (an advanced fiber composite conceived for the defense industry). Cuben fiber is very STRONG, LIGHT, highly RESISTANT TO DISTORTION under load and this particular variety to UV degradation. An 11 m Hellfish is 3 lbs. less in weight than a 10 m Nemesis.
* The strong, stiff fabric makes it possible to dramatically reduce the leading edge and batten diameters to LESS THAN one half that of the Nemesis or Yarga.
* The smaller leading edge reduces drag and allows much more RAPID flight. Best has estimated similar performance with kites sized 3 to 5 m smaller than past designs resulting in EXPANDED wind range.
* The non-stretching qualities of the Cuben Fiber fabric stop normal kite warping or distortion that routinely happens during control inputs resulting in FAST kite response with minimal delay. You take your hands off the control bar with the kite motionless and it sort of lingers in SLOW motion.
* The kite is fast but it is also responsive and fairly user friendly during flight thanks in part to the unique rigidity of the airframe. Best describes the unique feel of the kite as an extension of the body.
The name Hellfish was inspired by a legendary craft from WWII, the Grumman XF6F fighter, better known as the Hellcat.
Photo from here
The metalic lines, unique strength and unusual performance evoked images of the Hellcat in this new kite. An 11 m Hellfish prototype in flight.
NOTE: A PROTOTYPE, 11 M HELLFISH IS SHOWN IN THE PHOTOS IN THIS ACCOUNT. IT WAS PREPARED FOR TESTING AND EVALUATION. THE FABRICS SHOWN ARE NOT
THE SAME AS MATERIALS TO BE USED IN PRODUCTION KITES. THE PHOTOS ARE PROVIDED TO HELP ILLUSTRATE THE CONCEPTS PRESENTED AND NOT TO REPRESENT THE EXACT APPEARENCE OF PRODUCTION HELLFISH.
Jeff Beige, a principle in Best, shredding into shore under the thrust of the new kite. Chuck heads on out with the Hellcats uncle, the Nemesis. The Nemesis has only been out for about 12 months but it seems longer somehow.
I asked Jeff which Best kite he had the most time on and how would he compare and contrast it to the Hellfish. Jeff said he has the best feel and preference for the Nemesis 10 m. He felt the Hellfish has almost twice the performance qualities of the Nemesis in that it is much faster, lighter bar pressure, even more stable and it feels like an extension of your body. He related the last sensation to that offered by a Porsche. Shannon Best later said the sensation was closer to that offered by a Ferrari. I've been driving an Explorer and wonder how it relates to that driving experience?!
Jeff related that the Hellfish is forgiving of mistakes and it allowed him to do things today that he hadn't done with a kite before. For example,he thought, he was about to get pelted by a wave, thought he was out of time to react and normally he would just slam into it. Instead he just tweaked the bar, steering the kite up and over lifting him out of range of the wave in less time than he thought would be feasible with his past kites.
Note: I rushed down to the beach yesterday afternoon to see the Hellfish in person after learning about the session by phone. I grabbed a substitute camera in rushing to make this sudden meet, so my apologies for the reduced image quality and cloudy conditions.
Jeff indicated the prototype is a little lower aspect than what is planned for the production Hellfish kites. The production kites won't be quite as high aspect as the Nemesis. Jeff did caution that for handle pass tricks, given the speed of the kite, the rider will want to choose a shorter control bar to slow the kite response down a bit. You would think the faster flight, lower drag characteristics might result in reduced upper end or maximum windspeed characteristics of the kite. Jeff indicated that it has higher upper wind range than the Nemesis. At 155 lbs. he estimated that he could ride comfortably with the 11 m Hellfish up to around 24 mph sustained.
Best has the following to say about light wind performance of the Hellfish: "Traditionally, large leading edge tube diameters were necessary for big kites in light wind to support the shape of the kite, but the drag created by these huge inflatable structures is immense. This inefficiency yields poor light wind performance, making it impossible to have fun in less then 12 knots. The Hellfish changes light wind kiting. Because of the reduced diameter leading edge and struts, the aerodynamic wing yields more power and less drag making riding powered in 5-8 knots not only achievable but fun. The Hellfish is also the first kite to efficiently harness apparent wind. Once a rider locks the Hellfish in place after the down stroke, there is no need to further sine the kite, the Hellfish innately builds speed and power by drawing on the force of apparent wind."
A metallic finish laminant has been added over the leading edge of fared surfaces to reduce drag and to add a startling visual aspect as the Hellfish rips through the sky. Jeff told me that the kite was readily visible from 5 miles away on a sunny day in the Keys. You can learn more about this unusual material by visiting the Cuben Fiber Corp. website at http://www.cubenfiber.com
Jeff tells me that they are planning on producing Hellcats in 7 through 25 m sizes including 7, 9, 11, 13, 15, 17, 20 and 25 m.
I was able to fly the 11 m Hellfish prototype for a few minutes yesterday on the beach. I was immediately struck by the light bar pressure, ease and speed of responsiveness and general light feel of the kite. The wind was up in the upper teen mph range and at 190 lbs. I still felt well powered with the just an 11 m kite. I didn't notice until later that it was fully depowered too! I would dive the kite down and stop the bar and the kite would just STOP. That is stop with minimal delay or hesistation so normal in past kites. I would stop the kite and take my hands off of the bar and the kite would just linger there as it slowly moved on. I was impressed with the unusual properties of the new kite even though I was able to fly it for less than five minutes. There will not doubt be a lot of hype about this new innovation. For what little I could see in a short time, it seems this kite delivers unique performance. I hope to spend more time on a Hellfish and in the water in the future.
NOTE: Jeff said to no be put off by the appearence of the metallic finish laminant on this prototype. Final production fabric selections have yet to be made with durability being high of the list of performance attributes.
I also spoke with Shannon Best. I asked Shannon to compare and contrast the 11 m Hellfish with his favorite kite of the lot. He said the 10 m Nemesis was his favorite, until a couple of weeks ago anyway. He felt the unique responsiveness of the Hellfish makes other kites seem to less capable including the 10 m Nemesis and past custom kites he has had fabricated for his own use.
Shannon passes along on a Yarga with some friends.
I asked Shannon what his lower wind range estimate on the 11 m Hellfish is, he responded that he doesn't accurately know, yet! Shannon said the Hellfish has the unusual property of not requiring to be sinusoided much. The rider can park it at a lower windspeed than with past kites. I asked Shannon to describe the jumping properties of the 11 m Hellfish. He said it "jumps like a 7 m and hangs like a 12 m." He feels the flight is very smooth, predictable and controllable. Shannon was futher quoted, Ã¢â‚¬Å“The Hellfish is the best kite IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ve ever flown by a large margin. It outperforms other kites in all aspects, in fact traditional kites seem doughy, sluggish and slow compared to the Hellfish, but that comparison isnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t really fair. That would be like comparing a Ferrari to a Ford.Ã¢â‚¬