A new addition to the Airush kite family, the Varial aims to set a new standard for feel, stability and performance, while enhancing the range, efficiency and lift that riders expect from the new generation of SLE kites. Airush claim that through ACTive Engineering (Active Conical Tension), the Varial introduces the most stable and forgiving platform available, allowing riders to focus more on their riding and less on their kite. Whether your preference is charging waves, shredding flat water slicks or launching yourself into the clouds, the Varial is ready and willing to go when you are.
TEST TEAM NOTES:
As with the Lithium we tested last issue, the Varial is wellpackaged, well-built and equipped with a solid one pump. The Varial also comes with Airush's new 'Smart' bar system, designed so that you can remove the end sections to shorten the bar's length via a push-pin fixing system, similar to what you might find on the end of some windsurfing booms. Being able to change the length of the control bar (between 45 and 55 centimetres) means you only need one bar for your whole quiver of kites. This isn't a gimmick, it's very solid, works well. The bar itself has a nice, neat layout, back line adjustments under the floats, good grip, above-the-bar depower straps on the end of a good throw and an easy-to-use sliding stopper that can be pulled down to stop the bar running up the line and depowering the kite so much. Very useful in light winds when you want to maintain power and rest your arms. The 'Brain' quick-release is a neat push-away system; the simple action to use it belies the technicality behind it.
The Varial immediately looks distinct in the sky with a very inwardly curved trailing edge. The conditions we had this out in for the first test were quite light; around 14 knots, but the second session was much more in its suited range, around 18 ? 20. The Varial has plenty of low-end power, but is also very controllable when powered up; the large bridle length giving a smooth flight. It's high-aspect and feels it in its turns, flying really far forward in the window. This accounts for a couple of things; A) why it goes upwind so well, and B) why it also has a fantastic top end and depowers nicely. The Lithium has similar qualities but doesn't fly so far forward; maintaining a manoeuvrable and adept position more centrally in the window. The Varial feels much more, dare we say it: old school. The Lithium and Varial are both new launches for Airush this year in a four kite strong LEI lineup (not counting the school kite and Lithium light wind ). With so many good all-round kites on the market (including the Lithium), that do everything 90% of the buying market could ever ask of them, it's hard to imagine where the Varial will fit.
But Airush are determined to have no sections of kite society empty handed. The Varial turns on the wing-tips in a swooping manner. If you can imagine going out for a Sunday stroll with a well-trained dog leading the way, it's a bit like that. Never drifting too far into the power zone, it's not going to tear off its lead and run away from you; it depowers well, too! It's very predictable and has a pleasant amount of bar pressure. You can easily take your eyes off it and check out the birds or dolphins and it'll always tell you where it is,pulling reassuringly towards the front of the window, keeping you on track. Should you be so careless as to drop it in the water, it doesn't like getting wet, drifting quickly to the side of the window, tugging on the bar, itching to get back in the sky again. In waves, these are all positives and although it spends half its life at the front of the window, it's not out of the power zone and still responds sharply to regular amounts of input. Pull in for some power and the kite will drop back in the window as you bottom turn; push out on the bar and it will drift forward again as you come around your top turn. All very sociable.
The Varial does work well at the bottom of its wind range, but gets much more lively the more juice it has; jumping high and turning quickly. Boost and hang-time are very good. It's not an unhooked machine, but it will cope. Basically this is the older brother to the Lithium. Where the Lithium is all about charging hard, having fun and staying out late, the Varial is well aware that it has a prime racing pedigree and, with such a powerful wind range and high-aspect nature, it's likely to win the morning's race with ease, so decides not to have that last shot of tequila.
KW LIKED: The utterly obedient nature and very good forward speed across the water for racing.
KW WOULD CHANGE: To change it would bring it in-line with most of the rest of the kites on the market, which isn't really the point.
SIZES: 14, 12, 10, 9, 8, 7 and 6m
This test is inissue #43
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Fraserburgh, Aberdeenshire, Scotland