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Stranger Level 7 (Flexifoil International)

 

It poses a new set of problems for the reviewer, to which end some time was spent with the designer to give an introduction to the kite and its special qualities, something that will be available with the kite in the form of a video.

Stranger Level 7 (Flexifoil)

Design/Construction
The Stranger Level 7 looks like no other kite. First it has a long keel which is S-shaped—the spine spar is made up of cut down Hot Shot and Stacker spars which allow the outrageous curvature. The amount of curve at the top (and therefore billow in the nose area) is adjustable with a line which runs from the T-piece to the nose. At the T-piece, the keel stands 15cm away from the sail before curving away to the tail. This lower curve makes the kite able to "dead launch." The leading edges are made up of standard 6mm carbon spars on the upper part and solid fibreglass tapered spars at the wing tips which curve inwards radically. The trick line which runs from tip to tip through the tail controls the amount of curve in the tips with adjustable lines which run to the base of each stand-off. The sail is massively deep—the stand-offs are 31cm long! The look of the kite with its curves in all directions seems somehow eastern, as if the design of the kite is starting to turn a full circle and move back to its roots. But, the Level 7 is decidedly hi-tech. The sail itself is very well sewn with clean rolled seams in Icarex with Dacron reinforcements at all relevant areas. The graphic is typically "Preston" with lighter and darker panels giving a shadow effect. The colour ways include many of the new shades of Icarex in different, effective combinations. The Dacron is wider at the lower leading edge and bottom of the keel to accommodate the radical curves. The wing tips and tail have small fittings which take the trick line (actually Exel 4mm leading edge fittings) which look neat and work well. The wing tips have a plastic button through the Dacron which takes the elastic band to keep the leading edge tight. The bottom of the spine is held with a Velcro fastener. The "turbo" bridle and all the tensioning lines use braided polyester.

Flight Test
Flying the Stranger Level 7, you have to try to put out of your mind any expectations you may have from a normal two line kite. The kite’s radical shape makes it difficult to relate to a "standard" kite. It is as different from other two line kites as a four line kite. The idea behind the Stranger Level 7 is that it is a pure fun kite and it allows the flyer to explore a new plateau of radical and different tricks. The kite also has an incredible amount of tuning possibilities which will take a while to be fully explored.

The Level 7 will launch fron any position and can be safely set up to fly without a ground stake from the nose-toward-you position. The first thing which will strike you is the amount of oversteer. First attempts to fly the kite often ended with the kite sliding from one side to the another out of control, ending up in a crash that a complete novice might make! Watching the master, Mister P, all soon becomes clear.

The Level 7 Stranger is as—if not more—stable in a fade (inverted, nose towards the pilot) or a turtle (on its back) than in forward flight. In this position it can be flipped in and out in a flic flac or even 360’d whilst remaining in the fade (christened the Backspin), a move the designer is able to perform repeatedly. Perhaps one of the most astounding things about the Level 7 is that it is impossible to get a line wrap that is not recoverable. This, combined with the dead launch capability mean that whatever trouble you get into you can always keep flying—no more walk of shame. The other amazing feature of the kite is its ability to glide like a paper airplane. It can do this from overhead or from the edge of the window. With a tweak of the line the Level 7 can be provoked into coming directly toward the pilot with lines slack. The immediate reaction is to panic, but stay cool and let the kite sort it out and following a triple Yo-yo, the kite recovers itself!! Wow!

Getting more used to the way the kite reacts, the amount of control asserted becomes higher and the embarrasing crashes fewer. The Level Seven will do a standard axel—although it doesn’t look much like one with any other kite—and the start of any rotation always makes you feel like there is another one coming along at any moment! It is almost impossible to get the kite to belly out in a classic flat spin, but you can pop a 540 from the edge of the window almost at will. While never perhaps feeling totally in command, the grin on this reviewer’s face got progressively wider as more time was spent with the kite.

Conclusion
Learning to fly the Level 7 is as much getting into a state of mind as it is reading a set of instructions. It’s more about exploring new possibilities than trying to impose demands. Andy Preston has, for the second time in five years, blown away the boundaries of kites flying. To say the Stranger Level 7 is an easy kite would not be exactly true, but for a flyer with some ability it opens up new horizons if you are prepared to look. At a time when there are so many kites around, looking and performing very similarly, the Level 7 breathes new life into a market which was becoming somewhat stale. It may look strange now, but will probably end up as a classic with one in every discerning kite flyer’s bag.

Good Points Bad Points
Totally original
Virtually unbreakable
Completely recoverable
A bit mad

 

Kite Passion Magazine

This review was taken from
Kite Passion Magazine

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Extras
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