CABRINHA CONTRA 9M (2021)
TESTED BY: Jim Gaunt
TESTER BIOS AND TEST PARAMETERS: Here
PUBLISHED: Issue #109 – March 2021
TEST TEAM NOTES: In a slightly different approach, you can find the extended version of this review on our website here – where I contrast the new Contra single strut 9m with the new 10m Moto - which we received at the same time – comparing the two kites over three different sessions. Find some condensed notes below as well as a little video review from the third and windier session. Visit the website for the extended review.
We had been dealing with a wet weather front, forecasting 20 – 30 knots when I received a shipment from Cabrinha, including the new 9m single strut Contra, a 10 metre Moto and 9m Switchblade. In reality the wind ended up only being between 12 and 18 knots for the first two days that I had the kites, the third day was a bit stronger, but very up and down, up to 25 knots but down for long periods to just 15. Having only 9 and 10 metre kite options might not be ideal if I had my heart set on powered twin-tip riding, particularly for the first two days. However, with a selection of surfboards, twin tips and hydrofoils on hand, there aren’t many conditions that you can’t make 9 & 10 metre kite sizes work, so I focused on the two all rounders - the new 2021 one strut Contra 9 metre and the Moto 10 metre. SPOILER ALERT: This will quickly become a story about how the Contra 9m is an absolute session saver! NOTE: The single strut 11, 9, 7, 5, 4 and 3 single strut Contras are all new. The three strut 17, 15 and 13 metre models also remain in the range. FIRST TEST DAY - 12-18 KNOTS The wind was dropping when I started to unpack the van and the few riders out were coming in to change up to 14 metre kites. I thought, ‘Okay, this will be a perfect time to see just how good the light wind range is on the Cabrinha Contra 9m.’ So I rigged up and took the twin-tip and hydrofoil to the water’s edge.
CONTRA 9M - INSTANT IMPRESSIONS What I noticed immediately is the Cabrinha Contra 9m looks like a little round ball in the sky overhead. There’s quite a deep cord width at the single strut and a generous arc to the leading edge (much more so than the bigger three strut Contras you may be familiar with, which look wider and thinner / more high aspect). What we usually expect from a more compact shape, such as this new single strut version, is that the mid-aspect canopy depth provides easy power and good stability in the window, while the curved leading edge delivers more reactive steering. That’s all well and good when a kite has enough wind, so the big question was how good the Contra is at generating power in light winds. We have the privilege to test so many kites each year that through experience we can often draw a lot from our first impressions when the kite first goes up. All four lines on this nine metre feel immediately engaged. When I sheeted fully out there was still tension in the back lines. I looked up and thought, ‘Do I need to add depower?’, but the Contra just sat there. I pulled the bar down and the wing tips flared. I felt a smooth lift sensation in my harness and when I abruptly sheeted the bar out again the Contra didn’t surge overhead. It stayed pretty much where it was; driving power and then backing it off smoothly. It was like pressing the accelerator pedal to rev the engine. I was keen to open things up on the water. Fully expecting a couple of runs and a walk back upwind I made it back to my start position quite easily on the twin-tip. One more run; the same. By then the other two riders on their 14s had come in, uninspired. I swapped boards and grabbed the foil (pausing just long enough to take in a comment on the beach from someone saying they were sure it wasn’t even enough for their 11 when they saw my kite was only a nine. I’m going to start calling this ‘the classic Contra query’...!). The waves were pretty decent (for here), shoulder high at times and big enough to make foiling challenging. I could not have asked for more from the Contra. I didn’t have to think about it once, I could spin it, dive it, turn it, sheet it really hard and when I got thrown towards the kite when falling in waves it just sat there. When I resurfaced it hadn’t moved. I kept trying to put it in awkward situations and I honestly couldn’t really find any. I was riding a new foil set-up, a combination of two different manufacturers and an untried front wing. It was taking some getting used to, particularly in the really rolling waters, but I was happy to stick with it as I wasn’t worried about the kite at all. The Contra was always giving me just what I needed to control my ride.
A NOTE ON THE CABRINHA 2X OVERDRIVE BAR WITH RECOIL I was using Cabrinha’s 2020 2X Overdrive with Recoil control bar (still current) that features a spring mechanism alongside the trimming tabs, allowing you to physically push the bar beyond where it rests against the stopper for extra depower. It’s really useful when heading out over waves on a foil. You might recognise this sensation: you get a pick up of speed and find yourself heading towards a wave and what you really need is to kill the power and reduce your speed so you can focus on calmly clearing the white water – the Contra gave me that instant moment of silence to remain in control. Once over the wave, I’d release the pressure on my arms and the spring then pushes the bar back down, all the while the Contra seems to have automatically adjusted its gearing. CONTRA - ALWAYS IN THE SWEET SPOT What’s really apparent when flying the new Contra single strut is its very constant position in the window. Sheet in hard, sheet out hard, slacken your lines, re-tension them; the Contra just seems to hover in position, so you’re never shunted around. There’s no surprising jerk. TURNING AND HANDLING DIFFERENCES, COMPARED WITH MOTO In designing the new range of single strut Contras, Cabrinha have delivered light wind performance in smaller, more manoeuvrable sizes. These energised single strut Contras are capable of generating really useful amounts of power and super agile handling, which is exactly what freeride hydrofoilers are looking for. Compared to the Moto, the Contra wins hands down on low end power generation (and remember it’s one metre smaller than the Moto), so let’s look at the differences in turning:
Recoil bar with the spring and trimming tabs, while the Trimlite bar features a cleat. Both bars have modular chicken-loop options
Where the Contra differs to the Moto is in the power it delivers through a turn. Both kites are brilliantly responsive. They’re as quick as you want, but can also be steered steadily too. I could slowly steer both around a wider arc, using the turn to reposition the kite, rather than simply to create power. This is really why they’re such good cross-over kites. There’s no doubting that the Moto delivers more power as it turns; the Contra has very little. The Contra creates power in a straight line and then drops power when it turns. Even when you feel quite powered you can steer it very hard without concern. As a small kite for foiling, this has many advantages, and can make the difference between scoring a wave session or not when the wind’s light. Essentially the Contra makes you feel as if you always have good, usable power with control. You can use the Contra’s pivotal turning style and positive back line tension to dramatically reposition the kite in the window very quickly. For example, in waves you can loop it as you bottom turn to bring the kite further back in the window, so it’s better positioned to drift with you as you inevitably slacken your lines when you carve. On a foil there are countless times when you’re riding on a more aggressive downwind angle than you would on any other board. Being able to loop the kite to reposition it like this is a fundamental handling requirement in a kite for foiling. Both the Contra and Moto are very capable at re-positioning, but the lighter weight and better drift of the Contra will make life easier for more riders in lighter winds. In really onshore conditions when the waves and white water are always trying to push you towards your kite, it’s easy to suffer from slack lines. The Contra drifts brilliantly in this position and also has the advantage that when you sheet in you can then find even more power to prevent you dropping off the back of the wave. The Moto has more power shut-off when you sheet out and behaves more like a wave kite you might be used to; driving further forward. The Contra always holds some power in the canopy, which is why it maintains such a steady, slightly set back position in the window. In lighter winds this is where that magic handling comes from and is why you don’t need to watch the kite as much, because it never surges overhead or to the edge of the window where you lose feeling in the lines. You can read more and find my day three test notes riding the Cabrinha Contra one strut in stronger winds on our website. Apart from during difficult moments in waves when using the hydrofoil on day one, other than that, during the first two days of riding I never needed to push the bar beyond the stopper to use the Recoil spring for extra depower. I would on day three though, and I would appreciate it!
“The Contra’s awesome stability and stunning steering connection at all times makes for excellent light wind performance. My mouth waters at the prospect of flying a smaller size in stronger wind on a foil / surfboard...”
SHORT SUMMARY: Summing up my experience to that point, versus the Moto: the Contra definitely delivers more driving power at the bar with less need for technical kite movement to ride comfortably in light winds. I have to say the Contra made light wind waves not just workable, but fun. CONTRA OR MOTO? These are Cabrinha’s two most all-round kites in the range. The Drifter (wave kite) has always been user-friendly for general freeriding because of its soft nature and excellent stability in the window, but if you’re mixing up your riding with foils, surfboards and twin-tips too, the Contra and the Moto are likely to be the picks of the bunch – the Contra for the lower end of the wind spectrum and the Moto for the top end, or more specifically for unhooking and proper kite loops. The Contra’s awesome stability and stunning steering connection at all times makes for excellent light wind performance. My mouth waters at the prospect of flying a smaller size in stronger wind on a foil / surfboard... The Contra is going to bring about an interesting question for riders looking at Cabrinha products: “Could I be making more of the opportunities in lighter winds – be it on a foil or surfboard (or even twin-tip) by switching away from a trusted three strut set-up?” If you’re a dedicated performance twin-tip rider, your solutions are easy – Switchblade or Moto; the Moto being the more all-round and sportier handling option. The Switchblade has always offered dependable stability, lift and, when it comes to hangtime and strong wind stability, it’s more or less unmatched. The Moto loves to be thrown around more. If you’re a foiler and you have a surfboard for the windier / wavier days, then you really need to question how often the conditions that you ride in will be over 25 knots, because I’d bet the smaller sizes of Contra are going to perform really well for you. CABRINHA QUIVER BUILDING I think if I was building a three kite quiver for my local conditions and the boards I ride in winds between 12 and 35 knots, I’d go: 11 or 9m Contra (foiling and the general lighter wind twin-tip / surfboard days) 8m Moto (for waves / foiling and strong wind twin-tip boosting) 6m Drifter for the dedicated wave days and stronger wind foiling sessions
CONTRA BALANCE POINTS: Build quality: 9 Full package: 9.5 Low end: 9.5 Top end: 7 Steering speed: 7 Turning circle: 3.5 Bar pressure: 5 Water relaunch: 9 Drift: 8 Boost: 6 Hang-time: 6 Unhooked: 4 Crossover: 9 Ease of use: 9
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