|NORTH RHINO 16M
The North Rhino has always been synonymous with extreme power and big jumps. Designed for jumping, racing and getting out in the lightest wind, the '09 Rhino has the biggest low-end, best hang-time and best upwind speed of any kite in the North range. Less extreme sweep and a slightly flatter profile in the centre and tips contribute to better high-wind stability, less drag in overpowered conditions and smooth, responsive turning. Improved lift makes it easy to get big lofty jumps that are vertical and drag-free. The simplified Attack Control Bridle permits substantial changes in angle of attack (power/de-power) without any undesirable twists in kite geometry, which results in a surprisingly crisp and responsive bar feel.
Additionally, the AC bridle allows you to fly the Rhino on five lines for maximum safety or four lines without losing any performance. Although de-power is not as instantaneous when the safety is engaged in four line mode, the AC bridle does allow the Rhino to flip onto it's back and de-power much like a 5th element. In order to keep the Rhino as light as possible, more light rip-stop has been used in the canopy as well as North's super-tough Snakeskin along the trailing edge.
TEST TEAM NOTES:
It's been a while since we've reviewed such a big kite and this is nothing like the big behemoths of a few years ago. From the moment you get it out of the bag it feels modern and up-to-date. When you're pumping the kite up, you still have a huge amount of rip-stop lying in front of you, but as the kite takes shape it doesn't end up looking that big. It's compact and good looking, with swept back wing-tips and all the mod cons found on a 2009 kite.
The performance was really surprisingly too. We were expecting it to be a bit of a handful and hard work, but this is a very, very good, easy-to-use light wind machine, with none of the quirky handling issues that can be associated with flying a kite in such little wind speeds. On both days we had this kite out the wind never got up above 14 knots, and was mainly in the 8 – 12 knot range. Everyone else on the water were going downwind, quickly. We tried riding a few differently shaped and sized boards too, such as the Skywalker Cruise, F-One Trax and a 6'0 surfboard, and the difference the boards made was minor. Like most big kites, the Rhino has a very smooth and steady power delivery and there's nothing aggressive in the way it pulls you across the water, but it gets you up to cruising speed very quickly indeed. The steering isn't heavy and the kite is easy to turn with a constant power delivery. You don't have to work the kite up and down to build your speed up – simply pull in on the bar. It's very stable and balanced in the sky and although it sometimes made you think it was going to back stall when you flew underneath it during jumps, it simply backed up in the window and waited for you to tell it what to do next.
It's a shame we never got to try it in anything over 15 knots, but we never had to pull on any depower, so the range on the Rhino seems very impressive. At the other end of the scale, people on the beach were amazed when we came back in to where we started, saying, 'How were you doing that? There was no wind!
Big kites have come a long way. Although the Rhino isn't a whippet around the sky, it's a pleasure to ride, causing you minimum exertion and it takes a lot to fly this kite incorrectly. With such impressive drive into the wind, you don't get dragged off downwind when you first dive the kite like some big kites and if you are really wanting to literally be the only person on the water, as we were most of the time, then the Rhino is right on the big money.
KW LIKED: Easy, no-nonsense modern feel in a big kite that gets going in hardly any wind at all.
KW WOULD CHANGE: Big kites are still slow, but that is in their nature and just the way it is... for the moment!
SIZES: 16, 14, 12, 10, 9 and 7m