LITTLE CLOUD Gracchio, the ultimate versatile wing (by Martin Harris)
My activity leads me to follow virtually hundreds of pilots including the British pilot Martin Harris (2 articles already made with him). For ten years, he flew with all kinds of wings (NIVIUK IP6, OZONE ENZO, ADVANCE Omega X-Alps, …), but since then, he sold them all keeping only his LITTLE CLOUD! So I contacted him to get his opinion on the Gracchio he has for a few weeks …
1- The Little Story LITTLE CLOUD by Martin Harris
I am a pilot whose main aim is to enjoy whatever air I find myself in. I discovered quite early on that XC is not my primary interest as flying in the UK you have to be very aware of the huge limitations/workload imposed by airspace restrictions and the hassle of retrieves. Flying with my face in my instruments and worrying about retrieves kind of defeated the point of what I really do like.
My personal best is 185km downwind on a Little Cloud Gyps 24…..not in the UK! My preferences I suppose are out and returns and triangles but right at the top of the list would be finding and revelling in ANY climb rough or smooth. Gliding is a necessary evil to find those magic climbs. I have exclusively flown EN D gliders (Niviuk, Advance and Ozone) for the last 9 years.
LITTLE CLOUD ZunZun 21
My first taste of a Little Cloud wing was in 2011, a ZunZun 21 marketed Bertie at Axess which I purchased primarily for high wind soaring, I think it was the equivalent to the LC GT at the time but could be wrong.
I then got a LC Goose MK1 xl which at the time I flew at 112kg ptv, it was way more performant than the ZunZun, extra light brakes, was super sweet on the ground, launch and in the air but at my ptv needed pretty strong conditions to stay up so didn’t get a lot of use although it gave me more pleasure and laughs than any other wing at that time.
Goose Mk2, a wing that looks more like a paraglider
When the Goose2 came on the market I got a 22m version which I started flying at 105kg ptv. The Mk2 was more paraglider like in the sense that I could in stay in the air in the same conditions as a full size pg although lower due to wing loading. This wing was a big improvement in some ways over the MK1 as it was easier to feel comfortable on in UK conditions and just totally fantastic in the Dolomites and Alps when it all got a bit too fruity for my Omega XAlps or IP6. After 60 or 70 hours on the MK2 I started wondering why I had my other wings (IP6, 2x Peak 2, Omega X Alps, Enzo1) which I enjoyed but were a bit too serious and committed for me, I just don’t have the head to be “on point” all the time and a couple of those aforementioned wings did require you to be just that.
Gyps, the best versatile fun flying machine on the market
The Gyps came on the market and I brought a beautiful red 24 which I flew at +/- 108 kg. It was true love at first flight. This was what I was looking for all along, a true “super Goose”, very familiar handling, the lovely slightly “loose” feel and light brakes of the Goose1 but with a proper glide when it got light and just as benign during inflight real world SIV. I started getting rid of my other wings after the Gyps, I had found a manufacturer who produced the kind of wing I wanted to fly, anytime any place anywhere. The Gyps is an absolute peach with one caveat, at that PTV landings HAD to be fast as the “flare” to stall window was quite small. Due to illness I lost quite a lot of weight and I now fly @ +/- 90kg I don’t feel I have lost anything in handling, probably a bit of speed but the biggest bonus is that the landing flare window is now huge.
Goose Mk3, not a Gyps but a wing that holds even in light winds
I wanted a Goose3 23.5m to replace my Goose 2 22m but was unfortunately too late as production had ceased. In my opinion the Goose was the best all round general purpose fun flying machine in the market, you could confidently take it anywhere and fly with the massive confidence that you would go home with a smile on your face….I was very disappointed and I mean very. I looked around for 2nd hand ones but found nothing or was too late when I did.
Tom told me the Gracchio was the new wing that basically did everything as good as or better than the Goose…..to be absolutely honest I found it hard to believe….how could you better the best, he had a Goose3 25 in stock (last one) and offered it to me at a price I couldn’t refuse….I bit his arm off. I fly the Goose 3 25m at +/- 91kg ptv and it is fabulous at that ptv, it’s no Gyps but it is a super Goose and will stay up in even the lightest zephyrs as well as the Gyps but the handling is still Goose special.
2- Martin decides to buy a Gracchio
Why did I want a Gracchio, I have 22m2 and 25m2 geese? Well those are 2 extremes for me, one small and one large, I wanted something in between and that’s all.
Anyhow, I was still intrigued by the Gracchio and after many discussions (read arguments) with my old lady I finally squeezed the money out of her to buy a 23m in Green, it was that or pink. I would have liked a red or Purple but wasn’t prepared to wait in case I lost the opportunity. The wing arrived and I got sick again losing even more weight so now fly at between 88 and 90kg ptv dependent on clothing/harness.
My first flights with Gracchio: the settings
My first flight was a fast sled ride but it felt just like a Goose with heavier brakes plus loads of power for a landing flare…..nice, just like the 25m2 Goose. My second flight was with a New harness (Skywalk X Alps2) in very light conditions (10 to 14 kmh) On my first flight I found the brakes too short for my taste so landed and lengthened them by 60mm took off and scratched with full sized pg’s for the next couple of hours trying to tune into the new harness and wing. The wing felt great but I need to set up the harness a bit better so after landing a flying buddy took it for a ride. His PTV was +/-75 kg he LOVED it, fast and floaty with handling that blew him away….he would have one instantly if he had the money. His normal wing is a Sigma8.
Flight with a lot of wind: perfect control and very relaxed
My next flight the next day in completely different conditions, blowing 30 to 35 kmh on take off and more in the air. I decided to fly with my familiar old Advance Lightness 1 harness so I could just concentrate on the wing and its feel. No one else felt it was ok to fly their fulls size pg’s except one very experienced flying buddy on an overloaded Sigma 10…even he didn’t stay in the boiling air for long.
WOW I tripped on my first launch and fell onto my back, the wing took a 50% asymmetric which I managed to control whilst still on my back, I getting up of the ground with a 30% cravat which worked out easily and I took to the air. It was honking and turbulent as the wind was smashing any thermals and switching from on slope to across slope but I felt completely in control and very relaxed.
First impressions of Martin on the Gracchio
What did I learn in that 2 hours? Firstly the Gracchio is 2 different wings in one. Flying using brakes it is as dynamic as you want it to be, once you have the bank angle you want you need to get off the inside brake quickly or it will tend to dive picking up lots of energy on the way to be converted to speedy lift once released. The air was very rough and at times I was going backwards and bouncing but still I felt relaxed and entertained. I had no choice but to use up to 3/4 bar to penetrate but the wing stayed solid and the rear riser control is so confidence inspiring that I stopped using the brakes and flew at trim just on the back risers. This when I really noticed the wing has a completely different feel, suddenly everything becomes smoooooth and fast and lovely.
Combined with weight shift, turning was a delight and I actually feel the wing climbed better too…extraordinary! It’s a super controllable canopy when on the brakes which could lead to possible “POI” (Pilot induced oscillations) but fly on the back risers and it feels like a very sharp smooth blade, fantastic, almost like a 2 liner! Bar pressure was nice, not heavy and very smooth, speed increase at half bar was +/- 12kmh with possibly a little degradation in glide but the conditions kind of make it hard to make a judgement however at 3/4 bar increased the speed by +/-17kmh but the glide I am pretty sure did degrade, my harness speed bar set up didn’t give me the range to get full bar.
7 minutes of climbing on my new Gracchio23 at +/- 92 kg ptv in light thermic UK conditions. I will let the vario and video do the talking and you can draw your own conclusions Having flown in extra light slope lift, 10 to 14kmh to very strong conditions 30 to 35 kmh winds it was nice to try it on a light thermic flight. This has to be the best all-round wing I have ever flown, very laid back and “involving”enough, am really impressed. It’s not a Goose but it is a more than worthy successor in my opinion. Nuff said.
Test of the Gracchio by another pilot
After landing I asked my buddy who had been on his Sigma 10 earlier to take it for a ride. the conditions had dropped marginally to 25 to 30 kmh. His ptv was +/-96kg he blasted around amazed at the speed and control, upon landing I told him to go again but this time to fly on the back risers not the brakes and he confirmed what I felt. At the same time he shared the air with another buddy on a Goose3 23.5 PTV +/-85kg and it was very evident who was having the smoother ride, the Gracchio was noticeably faster and less twitchy, I do think however this is mainly down to wing loading.
Do I have any reservations?
At the moment absolutely none and due the the completely different conditions I have so far flown in I cannot think of anything that would change my mind. Everything Tom has said about this wing is true in my opinion, what a fantastic all rounder for anyone, a brilliant balance between serious and fun, performance and safety…….feeling stoked and gagging for more airtime.