Behind the Design of the NEO

The NEO and NEO SLS are the wave dedicated kites in the Duotone Range. We caught up with designer Ken Winner to find out more about the 2022 Neo. 

Tell us about the design brief and goals set for the new Neo? 

As usual, we were interested in finding ways to make the Neo turn better and feel more intuitive, all while keeping good drift, power, depower, relaunch and feedback for kite location. 

What are the main technical/geometrical changes compared to the previous model? ( Arc, Outline, Sweep, Aspect Ratio, Angle of Attack, Tow Point, Cone, Leading Edge diameter, canopy profile, strut profile.)

We made changes in three cohorts of the Neo range:

1. The cohort of smaller kites, sizes 3 to 9 have the biggest changes. Here we changed:

  • Trailing edge sweep
  • Width of the arc
  • Outline in the forward part of the LE below the tip strut
  • Canopy profiles

2. The cohort of large kites sizes 11 and 12, saw the least amount of change. Here we changed only the outline in the forward part of the LE below the tip strut. 

3. The cohort including only the 10-meter Neo saw changes similar to those of the 3-to-9 cohort but less extreme. 

  • Trailing edge sweep
  • Width of the arc
  • Outline in the forward part of the LE below the tip strut
  • Canopy profiles

How have these changes influenced the performance, handling and feel of the Neo?

Taking each change in turn:

The change in trailing edge sweep meant a slightly shorter centre chord, which tends to give better drift performance, and a slightly longer tip chord, which can give a less aggressive bar feel and quicker turning. 

The change to a slightly narrower arc gave a bit softer feel in the smaller sizes and helped ensure smooth round turning. We didn’t do this (or the change mentioned above) in the biggest sizes because big kites are more prone to feel too soft rather than too aggressive and we felt the big kites we tested with these changes were too mushy and indefinite in feel. This is also the reason we made more modest changes to the 10. 

The change in the outline below the front of the tip strut causes the front of the leading edge to open more under a steering impulse - to assume a higher angle of attack on the side of the kite that is at the inside of the turn - and to thus permitting quicker turning. We did this on all sizes with the bigger change in the bigger sizes. There is the risk with this type of change that the bar feel will become erratic, so we tried different amounts and settled on a change that kept the Neo feeling quick but comfortable. 

The change in profiles applies to sizes 10 and smaller. Here we went a little deeper in the centre and at the tip struts (stations 1 and 6) while going a bit flatter at stations 3 to 5. Keeping or increasing depth in the centre helped to ensure that we would keep power while flattening at stations 3 to5 helped reduce the slightly luffing that accompanies turning the kite. That luffing can slow turn completion, so this change helped improve Neo turning ability. 

Increasing profile at the tip strut while reducing slightly above the tip strut exaggerated the effect of reducing profile above the tip strut while also reducing the potential for luff and flutter below the tip strut. 

What were the design challenges to overcome?

Our biggest challenge was the pandemic. We worked on the new Neo from mid-2019 to early 2020 and we thought we had a really good kite to put into production. COVID put a stop to that as most factories and shops had to close for quite some time. Once we saw that the pandemic would not end the world, we started again refining the Neo. We used what we had learned from Neo SLS development to inform some of the improvements we’ve made to the Classic model. 

Our goal with the Neo SLS vs. the Neo Classic was to keep the SLS version very lively while keeping the Classic version a bit more comfortable and less demanding. 

For people familiar with the previous model, how do the known characteristics of the kite change? 

Riders familiar with the Neo will notice a more refined ride. Smoother, more consistent bar feel, quicker turning. 

What are the flight characteristics and for which rider is the kite developed?
As our dedicated wave kite, the Neo is biased heavily toward intuitive, trackable turning ability - making it easy for the rider to turn and place it exactly where it needs to be, and for the rider to know where it is without looking. 

The Neo also happens to be the favourite of our world champ strapless rider, Airton Cozzolino. Airton has very special needs in a kite - he tends to use an 11 in 20 knots of wind - and for him, we tweaked the Neo with an extra back bridle setting for extremely positive bar feedback. Not for everyone. 

What are the setting options and air pressures?

We pump all Neos to 7 psi.  

Sky, Patri and I use the “medium” setting on the backline bridle. Lighter riders and hydrofoilers may prefer the “soft” setting. And, as I mentioned above, strapless rider Airton uses the “hard” setting. We mostly recommend 22-meter lines, though the smaller sizes for me personally work best on longer lines, like 24s. Using a 4 on 22s gives a very short power stroke and overly-quick turning while using it on 24s gives a noticeably longer power stroke and a more relaxed turning speed.