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 Post subject: Switch Combat 11m
PostPosted: Fri Jul 08, 2011 10:05 am 
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Joined: Thu Aug 09, 2007 4:49 am
Posts: 247
Location: Bay of Plenty, New Zealand
I've had the opportunity to demo a late prototype Switch Combat 11m recently. The differences between this kite and the final production version are apparently minor. I weigh 65 kg and have been kiting since 2001 on many brands and models but have been very happy riding Slingshot RPMs for the last three years. I'm probably too old and stiff to throw a real aerial handle-pass but I try occasionally. My disclaimer is that I am a mate of one of the owners of Switch but I'm trying to be as impartial as possible.
The stitching looks pretty robust but most kites are pretty good these days. The inflation valve is similar to the Cabrinha and Ozone systems and pumps up very fast. I was expecting the safety line to be directly connected to the fifth line but instead the safety connects to all three front lines. I quizzed the Switch guys about this and apparently it is so the fifth line retains tension under load. The fifth line has a Oh-Sh :!: t handle but it is a long way away if you had to reach it quickly. Apart from that the bar is clean and functional. The auto-swivel works a treat and there is a second swivel at the chicken loop as well. The emergency release works as expected.
The kite is pretty heavy with five struts and wing-tip battens. It doesn't compact that tightly. I experimented with flying it in very light winds and it sits unhooked without a hint of back-stall in 8-9 knots. It is only around 6 knots that the extra weight starts to be come noticeable and you have to keep the kite flying.
My first session was at high tide with no beach (and a tsunami warning :o) so I had to self-launch off a grassy field which is slightly sheltered. I was expecting to have to use the fifth line to get the kite on it's back but to my surprise it launched very easily by pulling a rear line. I was very impressed; the Ozone C4 and Slingshot Fuel can also do this.
It was a nice steady 15 knots so I started playing around with some raileys and kite low rotations. The low end is very good for a C, better than some noticeable flatter kites. The amount of slack you get off a good pop is amazing. This is where C kites really excel and make those passes easier. There is no tendency to back-stall and no need to trim the kite in advance. The kite is initially reluctant to turn but once you get it moving it turns pretty quickly. This may be a good thing as accidental rider input errors can get punished on sensitive kites.
The wind started to pick up to a bit over 20 knots in the gusts. There is quite a bit of depower in very little bar travel. This is probably to do with the wide wing-tips, they are really very long. Too much depower though and the steering starts to lag and become imprecise, unlike many bridled kites which continue to steer well when massively depowered. The default bar throw is way too long for this kite and could be cut down quite easily. It would also make the fifth line much easier to reach. I powered up a bit more, gave up on the unhooked stuff, and went cruising. The upwind is very good for a C kite, not as good as a high aspect race kite but much better than I expected. I managed to explore parts of the estuary that I seldom get to. The kite sits a little bit further forward in the window than I was expecting but it doesn't surge back and forth in gusts like kites of old. The canopy shape seems very rigid with no noticeable flapping. The Combat does surprisingly floaty jumps for a C, very good height too.
The 11m would be OK for light wind wave riding if you were prepared to muscle the kite around and weren't concerned about fifth line wraps. There are more versatile kites out there but the Combat is very good at the unhooked freestyle stuff. The 11m would probably be the biggest kite I would need as I usually jump on a surfboard if it's light. I suspect though that there would be way too much overlap with the 9m and too little for the 7m. A 8m would be my pick for the next size down but Switch do not make one.


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