My interest in kite flying was renewed in the fall of 2006 after seeing ‘modern’ tricks performed at a kite festival. Soon after buying a new-to-me Benson Gemini I registered at FracturedAxel kite forum (among others) and went down the rabbit hole.
So many kite designs were discussed there and I soon stumbled across the video’s of Juha Kokkala flying the Barracuda designed by Simo Sivonen (WildKite) from Finland. The simple yet striking appearance of the kite intrigued me and Juha’s skills with the kite were amazing.
Simo designed the kite during the winter of 2003/2004 and Juha tested the kite extensively. I found some pictures of the development phase. Miniatures were made to perfect the shape and test the distinctive panel layout. It looks like the initial design had 2 standoffs per wing. A vented and ultralight version were also developed.
Juha flew his orange Barracuda at the 2005 Tricksparty World Cup in Cap d’Agde, France. There was quite some interest in the Barracuda but not many kites were produced. My friend Fred Blok managed to find one of the production kites (#6, build in 2006) in the UK and bought it. Fred kindly supplied the kite for reviewing purposes.
Width: 227 cm
Height: 100 cm
Weight: 265 grams without tailweight
Bridle: 3 point
Frame: LE and LS Skyshark P300, US 6mm Structil, Spine 6mm Structil/P300, SO 3mm carbon rod (single SO per wing)
Sail Material: Icarex PC31
Materials and building quality
The Barracuda sail has a 5 panel per side layout made from Icarex PC31 fabric. Leading edges, upper spreader rub patch and the center cross to tail area are Dacron. The nose is reinforced with Cordura webbing material. The trailing edge consists of a very very narrow folded Dacron tape and appears not to have a leech line installed. Mylar film was used to protect the standoff and spine areas.
Skyshark straight P300 rods were used for the leading edges and lower spreaders. The upperspreader is 6 mm pultruded carbon (structil) and so is the spine. A piece of sky shark P300 was added to the end of the spine to fit a brass tailweight. The long Standsoffs are 3mm carbon rod and give the kite it’s deep shape. The connectors are a mix of APA, EXEL and R-Sky. Nothing to complain about what so ever! The Barracuda build quality is neat and solid.
Testing the Barracuda for this review was done in light to moderate wind. First thing you notice after take-off is the comfortable feedback on the lines. It feels very solid. Almost feels like a full-size kite. The overall speed is quite slow and speedcontrol is good across the window. Turns feel precise and without any oversteer. The lack of a leech line is not noticeable in flight. Dacron trailing edges create a very light buzz when the wind picks up. The kite makes you want to cruise around the window and fly straight lines and corners. Nice!
Stalling the Barracuda is easy. Just a quick pop unloads the sail. Sliding the kite can be a bit harder and needs subtle inputs. I really like the way the kite can be landed in 2 Point Landings and Spikes. They can be performed both aggressive and smooth. Half Axels and Cascades are very nice and easy to execute. Cometes look solid and controllable. The fade is a bit “nose high” but can be maintained with ease. Flicflacs tend to over rotate a bit in de flare but when done carefully they are manageable. Backspins are not that nice looking and hard to perform really flat. They need a hard input to get started and the rotations also need to be stopped to Backspin Cascade.
Flatspins are where it’s at with the Barracuda. Slotmachines are very nice with a very distinct “nod” when entering the flare. Pulling the kite back to Fade and then Mutex it is one of the strong points of this kite. Very cool. I struggled with the timing for Taz-Machines at first but then I realized one has to wait a bit after flaring to pull for the rotation. Taz-Cascades are within reach.
The Backflip is reasonably deep, but doesn’t like to lock for Lifters. Lazy Susans and Rolling Cascades are great but Multi Lazies require some finesse in tending the slack. I wasn’t very consistent with those. I struggled with Inverses. Never really got the hang of those on the ‘Cuda. Rolling up the kite is very easy and fast without missing the stoppers too often. Multiple rollups are a possibility. The Frontflip is good. Crazy Copters and Yofades must be doable but I didn’t manage to perform them during my sessions.
Simo was way ahead of it’s time with this design. The kite looks and performs a lot like the style of kites that are flown nowadays. I certainly like it a lot. Very curious about the UL version as well. If you can manage to find a Barracuda: grab it before it’s gone. A rare beast for sure.
(Images courtesy of WildKite, Lars Fakkeldij and KarelOh)