My guess – and this is just a guess - is that the performance advantages of the kite over a conventional spinnaker
, if any, were not sufficient to generate a viable market for the product. A really big kite would be hard to handle and a modest sized kite wouldn’t attract the racing
crowd. However, what has changed in the past decade is the emergence of long range power catamarans.
I am doing a feasibility study on making a Pacific crossing with a 47 foot motor
cat. (BTW, my wife and I have circumnavigated with a 53 foot ketch
2003-2009 so we are not entirely “armchair sailors”). The range of the Fountaine-Pajot and Leopard
/ Moorings boats is about 1,000 NM and these vessels have crossed the Atlantic making 2,000 NM mile jumps between fuel
stops by carrying extra fuel
and running on a single engine
at half throttle. If a kite were used, for even part of the down-wind leg, the safety
margin increases dramatically, particularly in a South Pacific route
where the jumps might be Panama-Galapagos-Easter Island-Pitcairn (?). You don’t need a high performance kite, just something that might get you 4 knots boat speed in a trade-wind within 30 or 40 degrees of your desired course. The cost of the kite is probably peanuts versus the cost of freighting a boat.