Reverse Launch Or Kiting

© Jeff Greenbaum

Here's how to lift the wing while performing a reverse launch. Or you might just be doing some kiting or ground handling.

The advantage of the reverse launch is that the wing’s ascent to overhead can both be observed and adjusted during the process. There are several variations of this launch. This article deals with what I call the preset hands method.

The brakes for this method are preset in the pilot’s hands so that when the pilot turns to forward, the brakes will be in the correct hands without any extra steps.

The risers are crossed and as the pilot faces the wing, the left hand will be lifting the left side of the wing (as he faces it) and the right hand will lift the right side of the wing. The lifting of the wing is done through the A risers.

Reverse launch layout.

The Layout prior to raising the wing...

The lifting process is done as a combination of using the hips to pull backward and power the wing. While the hips are pulling, the hands lift the A risers upward. This helps the wing ascend upwards and overhead. As the wing ascends the pilot can steer and guide the wing's ascent by lifting or not lifting either A riser.

There's a variation of this called the A/B lift and it's done by adding the B risers to each hand. Wings that tend to come up fast with just the A risers will come up slower by adding the B risers to the hands. If the winds are very light, it is best to get the wing overhead quickly. If the wing comes up quickly when the wind is light, it becomes necessary to pull the brakes to stop the wing from overflying you and collapsing.

When the wing has some extra pace, a chest or so pull of both brakes just before it comes overhead will stop it overhead while you turn. By using the A/B lift, the pacing will be minimized and can eliminate the need to stop the wing with the brakes. Playing with all variations will lead to the best understanding of all of the variations.

Lifting the paraglider directly overhead, evenly and with the center overhead, is the key to a successful reverse launch. This should be your focus when you are learning a reverse launch until you can lift the wing overhead consistently. Trying to get a wing to kite without it starting close to straight overhead will lead to frustration.

There are several phases during the ascent of the wing:

  • The Initial (lifting initiation)
  • The Middle (ascent)
  • The Finish (completion and release of A risers)

Initial Phase

Initial phase of a reverse launch.

Notice that the pilots legs are slightly bent
so that the legs can power the wing overhead.

The first phase of lifting the wing begins with the initial backing up and deflection of the risers. The most important lifting adjustments are made during this part of the wing’s ascent. If the wing is not ascending quickly enough, the body can pull more and the hands can deflect more. Or, if the wing is ascending too quickly, the hands can deflect the risers less.

The lifting from the hands and the amount of pull from the hips need to be in balance during this and the remaining phases. If the hands do a ton of lifting and there is not enough pull from the hips, the wing will not come up or come up incorrectly. A ton of lift on the risers is less like deflection and more like pulling on the risers. This often collapses the leading edge of the wing.

The body position for this phase needs to provide power to the hips. To do this, squat down slightly so that the legs can power the hips backward. Don't lean backward, just sit down in the harness low enough to use the legs for power. Another key to balance is to stay on the balls of the feet. When you stay on the balls of your feet, you are forced to stay balanced. If you dig your heels in to get power to the hips, you will be falling backwards and out of balance.

The arms need to lift strongly, but remain supple so they can sense feedback that the wing is providing. If one side of the wing comes up quickly and the other doesn't, the hands should immediately stop lifting the rising side and try to help the side that is not yet ascending. If this type of adjustment is made quickly the wing will have a chance to come up enough overhead for kiting.

Throughout all three phases of the reverse launch, tuning via asymmetrical lifting can be used to help the wing rise as directly overhead as possible. On the other hand, if the wing begins coming up straight from the start, the hands can simply lift symmetrically.

Middle Phase

Middle phase of a reverse launch.

At this phase, you can arch your back to gain more power
to the arms. This pilot is about to arch his back.

The initial phase ends and the middle phase begins when the trailing edge of the wing leaves the ground. The wing will stop the pilot from backing up at this point of the ascent even in light or no wind. This is because the wing is like a wall to the air in the direction the pilot is pulling it. It is ascending vertically, but prevents horizontal movement because it cannot go through the air horizontally while in this position. Sitting back and down a little in the seat will make the power easier to manage when the wing stops your backward motion.

During this phase of a reverse launch the pace of ascent gets primary focus. If the wing is ascending at the correct pace, continue with the same amount of riser deflection. If the wing is not coming up fast enough, try to back up a bit harder and deflect the extra tension in the risers to help the wing ascend quicker.

If the wing needs asymmetrical lifting help, you'll need to adjust this or continue to adjust this at this point. If the asymmetry is far enough gone that you will not be able to get the wing mostly overhead, it is better to simply abort the launch. To abort a launch, let go of the A risers and pull the brake on the side of the wing that is low.

The body position during this phase changes. It begins with the same position as the initial phase but changes as the wing moves towards overhead. The back arches to give the shoulders power to deflect the risers. The shoulders need to arch because as the wing rises, the arms need the arch to remain in a more powerful angle for your shoulder muscles. This arched position is kept through this phase and into the final phase of the reverse launch.

Final Phase

Final phase of a reverse launch.

When the wing begins getting overhead, this is the final phase of the ascent. If the tempo and pace of the ascent are good, the lifting of the risers needs to lighten just enough to help the wing finish its ascent into the kiting position. If, however the wing has extra pace to it, stop lifting sooner and prepare to apply both brakes to stop the wing from getting in front. If the wing is rising too slowly, you will need continued power from the hips and some deflection of the A risers.

Even at the final phase, you can continue to lift the wing asymmetrically if it is slightly off from center. For example, if during the initial phase, the wing came up strongly on the left side and you began lifting the right and put no power to the left side, you could lift the wing all the way overhead with just the right hand deflecting the right A riser. This correction might have persisted through all three phases of the launch to get the wing correctly centered in the final phase.

The point is, you need to continuously adjust your lifting throughout the reverse inflation to steer the wing overhead. Managing how the A risers are lifted is certainly one of the keys to getting the wing straight overhead in a reverse launch.

When the wind is more than 13 kph (8 mph or so) you may not need to return to backing up after the wing enters the final phase. In lighter winds, during the final phase, the wing will allow you to begin backing up again as it nears the full overhead position. To keep the power on and continue with the launch, you will have to return to backing up and accelerating as the wing moves over you.

'Reverse Launch Or Kiting' was reproduced from the original article 'Lifting the Wing for Kiting or Reverse Launches' by Jeff Greenbaum, with permission. Jeff is the paragliding instructor behind Airtime of San Francisco.


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