From a school perspective we find that valuable learning time is often used up as we try to break students (either experienced fixed bridle kiters or beginners with a lot of trainer hours) of the habits they learned when flying on their own. Again, this is why Hardwater Kiting stopped using fixed bridle trainers in our programs 2 years ago. Fixed bridles hindered the learning process more than they helped.
So if not a fixed bridle trainer, what can you use to learn to fly safely and with minimal risk? Well, given the quality of the safety systems available now and the huge levels of depower that kites possess, a small full fledged 2.5-4m depower kite is an option. However for many beginner riders the cost of those kites can be a bit out of their price range for training purposes and the few nuking wind days that they can actually ride with it. Although a small depower for high winds should be considered for anyone's quiver as it will add sessions just like a large kite for light winds will. So what can I use that won't cost me $700-$1000?
Enter the HQ Rush 300 School.
- Kite: 2015 HQ Rush School 300
- Size Range: 3m
- Target User: Novice
- Test/Demo Duration: 12 hrs
- Location: Northern New England
- Surface: Snow
- Tester Skill: Expert
- Winds: 3kts-30kts
About the HQ Rush School: The HQ Rush School is a depowerable version of the HQ Rush fixed bridle trainer kite. It comes only in 3m and comes ready to fly, kite, bar and lines. There was a bit of a delay in the release of the Rush School 300 but it was worth the wait. The Rush School fills a gap that we feel is not often noticed or given much consideration. It's a price point ($375), depowerable foil trainer making it much more suitable for learning in areas where wind quality is not ideal and for kiters looking to advance to riding modern depower kites. Unlike fixed bridle trainers it can be depowered when things get nasty and has actual safety systems when all else fails instead of just a simple wrist leash.
Set Up and Launch: Set up is pretty straight forward and not unlike other foil trainer kites. You will have to attach the lines the first time out but the lines are numbered and the kite is carded with and installation guide. The bridle system is extremely simple, brightly colored and has little tendency to tangle. When anchored by the stall handle the kite sits extremely well in the center of the window regardless of wind speed. Launching is about as user friendly as you can get and the kite opens up and inflates instantly. It launches well in light winds and high winds and has some amount of tunability to enhance or limit its performance. The HQ Rush School doesn’t use "kook-proof" attachments but the instruction card clearly shows proper set up.
Handling : Pleasantly surprised to say the least. The HQ Rush School can be adjusted via knots on the rear bridles and offer a wide range of adjustment to suit the pilot's handling preference or wind conditions. When set at the knots closest to the wing the kite has near stunt kite flying characteristics. At the setting farthest away the steering is still responsive but somewhat muted and good for beginning kiters, especially those who are a bit heavy handed initially.
The middle setting will work for most people and seems to provide the best all around performance. Since the setting are knots they can be removed and re-positioned to better fine tune the kite's steering and sheeting response to individual tastes. In general all the settings are fun to fly in. At the softest setting there seems to be a lot of rear line slack though it handles just fine.
We flew the HQ Rush School side by side with the Ozone Ignition 2m fixed bridle trainer and the Flysurfer Viron 2.5m for comparison. Bear in mind that sizing on any of these kites is subjective and we were simply looking for power comparisons in a given wind range. In a nutshell in moderate winds the HQ Rush was about equal to the 2m Ignition which was expected given that fixed bridles offer more power per size than their depower counterparts. In higher winds (gusts to about 20kts) the Ignition became lighting fast required some muscle to hold onto while the HQ Rush School was simply sheeted out and pulled much less even directly in the window. And of course you are harnessed in so this is all while finger tip steering. When compared to the 2.5 Viron the Viron seemed to provide slightly more raw grunt when powered and slightly more depower when sheeted out. SLIGHTLY. Unlike the Viron the HQ has no trim system which in our opinion is not a problem, the sheet effect is plenty of depower. However the turn rate on the HQ Rush, even in the slackest setting, was more sporty and seemed more precise.
The factory wind range for the Rush School is 5-28 mph.
Gust handling of the HQ Rush School is excellent. No sudden surges in power, kite sits nicely, very little over flight when directly overhead and very little if any lift generated. We tried getting little boosts out of the Rush School but to no avail.
Once in the air the HQ Rush School is striking. The red, white and blue color way looks great and is a real eye catcher.
Safety Systems and Depower: The HQ Rush School safety systems are activated the same way as many other kites on the market today. HQ has re-purposed their older non-magnetic chicken loop safety to the Rush School and the kite is killed by a front line flag out system. It's simple, intuitive, easy and effective. Be aware this is NOT A LEASHLESS SYSTEM. A leash attached to the 4.5 line is required to use this kite safely. Pop the push away safety at the chicken loop and the kite flags out on a single front line and falls from the sky. The simple bridle system seems to do well not to get tangled and reloading and launching after activation is pretty simple and quick.
Depowering the kite is a matter of simply sheeting out. Many of HQ's other kites that had this chicken loop had issues with reach when sheeting out for smaller riders or riders with shorter arms. This doesn't seem to be an issue with the Rush School. When you want to dump power, push the bar away. "When in doubt, push the bar out". When you want more grunt or sporty handling, sheet in. Sheeting in with the bar turned produces very little bar bite (resistance friction on center lines when sheeting) and functions very well.
Build Quality: The HQ Rush School seems to have the same build quality found in other HQ Trainer offerings. Clean simple and built to take the abuse that trainer kites are often subjected to. The HQ Rush School is looking like a long term, durable kite that will offer many years of fun. Design details are well made and work as expected. The simple and brightly colored single pulleys bridles are stout and look like they will resist wear for a long time. As we often say, very few people sell off a trainer after they outgrow it as the trainer often becomes their high wind option. This kite especially fits that scnario.
Bottom Line: The HQ Rush School was worth the wait. It's an excellent option for a trainer kite and will allow anyone to build and refine their handling skills in preparation of moving onto bigger more powerful kites while remaining a great high wind option. Not to mention the kite is simply just fun to fly! As soon as we got our hands on it and got it in the air we couldn't get enough. The ease of use and the nimbleness the kite can offer makes for just some really nice flying. Pair this kite with an Ozone SB harness and you have a complete set up for just over $500. That's just a little more than the "Snowkite in a Box" trainer offerings out there and this is DEPOWERABLE with a real safety system.
Someone asked if the Rush School 300 could be flown without a harness. Like an old school traditional fixed bridle trainer. The answer is "Yes". If you set the back lines to the knot furthest away from the kite, it will fly unhooked quite well. But, still having the added benefit of a front line flag out if you were to affix the 4.5 line to yourself in some many. I just wore a harness and hooked my leash in and flew unhooked.
The kite flies quite well unhooked but we think if you to ad a 30mm pigtail to the backlines, the performance wound be even closer to what you would find with a fixed bridle.