EN-B, Reviews

Little Cloud Gracchio review

Thursday 20 October, 2022

Little Cloud’s intermediate has matured into a very interesting glider, says Marcus King.

This is the second incarnation of the Gracchio, an intermediate wing that is aimed at, “pilots looking to start cross-country. It’s not for pilots straight out of school, but those with 200 or so flights. Like a pure B wing.” A quick look at the specs shows this is a complete redesign rather than a slightly reworked version of the original. Little Cloud designer Tom Bordeau sent us two wings to try in the southern French Alps.

Like a B, but not a B

As with all Little Cloud wings the Gracchio Mk 2 only has a load test. Tom doesn’t feel the need to certify his wings, in fact he deliberately chooses not to. “In my opinion [certification] does not reveal the whole real-life situation,” he told us in Stubai last year. “When you have a collapse in turbulent conditions you get something very different from an induced collapse.”

Rather than design to a set of certification tests, Tom instead designs and tests in “real air” to make wings that he is personally happy to sell to his customers. With an office in Briançon, in the heart of the southern French Alps, you can be assured the wing has been thoroughly tested in some big air. “I spend a lot of time testing and flying the gliders in real conditions, to make sure they are very safe for real life,” Tom said.

Little Cloud Gracchio 2

Brake handles are attached with strong cloth-covered coloured magnets. There are plastic T-bars on the C’s to rest your hands on and all the lines are sheathed

Design and materials

It’s noticeable that the Gracchio 2 has a lower aspect ratio than the first version – reduced from 5.6 to 5.3 – as well as a reduced cell count down to 49 from 57. These changes seem to suggest a lower-level wing. Tom explained: “I wanted to reposition the wing more evenly between the GT and the Urubu. The original was easy to use and safe, but the feedback was that it pulled a bit too powerfully into thermals for the level of pilot it was aimed at.

“By using an aerofoil from the Urubu we have been able to keep similar performance in a package that is even easier to fly. Reducing the cell count optimises the weight and packing size as well as keeping down the cost.”

The Gracchio 2 brings over the small cell openings from the Little Cloud Urubu, noticeable on a wing of this class. There are nylon rods in the cell walls to maintain the shape: these are the fairly soft type and with none elsewhere this makes it easy to pack the wing down small.

You won’t find a sharknose or 3D shaping either. “There are two reasons I haven’t used it. First, the way I design for the ballooning gives good results with a simple construction, and while 3D shaping would give more performance it would not be a lot and at the cost of weight and complexity, which equals manufacturing cost.

“Second, I like to keep the nose reasonably soft as it controls collapses. With too stiff a nose a collapse is propagated across the leading edge, which can cause bigger collapses when they happen.”

Little Cloud Gracchio 2

Ronstan pulleys, an unusually thin speed system line and a popper to clip the risers together for storage

The wing itself is made from Dominico Dokdo 20D cloth. This is a lightweight cloth that feels quite slippery in the hand but Little Cloud have used it for a while and have found it to be durable. The size 25 I flew (85-105kg) weighs 4.4kg and that is with a fully-sheathed line-set. This is not a superlight wing then, but it is noticeably lighter than some of the full-fat wings. It makes it a good option for vol-biv adventures and travelling.

The line geometry is pure three-liner, with split-A risers for easy big-ears. The Edelrid lines are all sheathed, making handling on the ground simple. The riser set-up will be familiar to pilots who have previously flown Little Cloud wings. Made from black webbing they are well finished with good quality pulleys. The brake handles are attached with cloth-covered magnets; maybe some sort of locking mechanism would be better but they generally stayed in place. The handles are soft with no stiffeners and are very comfortable. A plastic T-bar on the C-riser can be used to rest your hand when controlling the wing with the rear risers, although there is no connection to the B’s as we have seen on many of the B-class wings recently.


The wing rises easily in all conditions from light wind to stronger. It requires a little pressure throughout the rise, but there is no tendency to overshoot. You need to keep contact with the wing, but it doesn’t stick and is nicely controllable through the risers. Even in strong gusty conditions the wing still rose smoothly with no sudden acceleration. The couple of forward launches I did were equally easy.

Climbing out

Once in the air the wing feels nicely responsive, turning easily and immediately when brakes are applied. Roll feels a bit more controlled than on the original and, while it will happily flick up on a wing-tip, it is a little easier to keep flat when you need it.

The wing doesn’t get pitched back at all entering thermals or when circling. Instead it pulls forward nicely but without any sudden acceleration that might be unnerving to lower airtime pilots. The brakes have long travel – Little Cloud quote 80cm for the 27 – but are nicely reactive in the first part. This, combined with the compact feel, makes it great at working small bits of lift close to the terrain. If you go deep in the brakes the pressure ramps up massively, and trying to spin the wing proved harder than some EN-A’s I have flown in the last year.

The wing communicates what the air is doing well but not aggressively, so it feels comfortable without feeling like a big solid mass. Some will prefer a more solid-feeling wing, but I liked the feel. The information you get isn’t distracting but is useful and will help you climb quickly.

Little Cloud Gracchio 2

Flying XC the glider has impressive into-wind performance and an easy-to-use speed bar which is comfortable throughout the whole range. Photo: Marcus King

Going XC

This wing is aimed at new cross-country pilots, and my first flight on it was our local ridge run. Having climbed quickly to the top of the mountain I set off in the company of others. Going on bar the wing accelerates smoothly with no massive increase in sink rate. At trim speed it’s maybe not as fast as the latest high-B wings but was in line with other mid-B wings I was flying with. The bar gave a good 12km/h extra when going pulley-to-pulley and I felt comfortable using the whole range.

The rear-riser controls give a good feel for what the air is doing and can be used to steer easily on bar. I was concerned that using the rears would deform the profile, but when I queried this with Tom he said although not designed to be controlled with the rears they are useful for course-correction without causing any problems. One thing he suggested was using the C to control the outside wing in thermals, something I have also been doing on my 2.5 liner EN-C wing. It works nicely on the Gracchio and is another technique that you can learn in a safe environment.

On another day I went to one of our local XC launch pads with the hope of a good day out. Arriving we found other pilots waiting with a stable air mass and quite a bit of wind. Reluctance levels rose as we watched some of the local hotshots arrive from another site and fail to get up. Eventually we took to the air. I had thought the low level of the wing wouldn’t be ideal for such a day, but its compact manoeuvrability and great feedback helped me make the most of the tight lift as I worked my way along the ridge.

Two of us pushed on a bit too hard, with my colleague making an early landing while I clung on close in to the rocks, thanks to my trust in the Gracchio 2. Then, with a bit more height and in the company of more pilots, I threw myself over the back to the next ridge line and the promise of better clouds. The wing felt solid throughout and glided well in comparison to the wings around it. The feel through the C’s helped me find a good line and then climb out quickly on the other side and into better air that took us to base.

Heading home later I pushed out under an area of convergence with a long glide back to the front ridge. I was happy to use the full range of the bar even when flying through broken lift, slowing up when I needed then pushing on. I had seen some higher-level wings make the crossing and wondered how easy it would be for me, but the Gracchio handled it well. It was then an into-wind push along the ridges back to the car. Here again the pitch stability showed as the wing smoothly pushed through broken lift. What could have been an uncomfortable glide was marked for its smoothness with the wing neither getting knocked back or surging: this is great behaviour for a wing aimed at pilots starting their cross-country explorations.

Little Cloud Gracchio 2

In the air the wing feels nicely responsive, turning easily and immediately. Photo: Charlie King

Pitch stability

At our local site I explored the range of the brakes more. The pitch stability is really quite remarkable. Going very deep in the brakes the wing will just sit there, and it would take a big push to actually stall. Releasing from deep brakes the wing just flies again – there was so little surge I had to check I hadn’t gone into deep stall, but no, it was flying normally!

Like previous Little Cloud wings you can get dynamic with it and as soon as you stop the input it comes back to level flight without fuss. Wingovers and spirals are fun and easy to control and correct use of the brakes allows you to bleed off the energy. Again, coming out quickly leads to very little pitching, which is almost disconcerting as you expect to have to catch a dive.

I tried a few 50-60% collapses and the wing behaved very well and predictably. Letting it turn, a little opposite brake would flick the collapse out quickly and the wing would fly off smoothly with no massive pitching. I feel like it sits back less when collapsed than some other modern designs. Tom said, “this pitch control means less penduluming, so less height loss.”

Gracchio 2 C-stall

Executing a C-stall descent – the descent rate was -7.8m/s and the glider returned to steady flight with very little pitching

C-stall descent

Little Cloud advise against using a B-stall with the Gracchio, but Tom told me that because of the pitch stability of the wing it makes doing a C-stall as a descent manoeuvre much easier. “You can get 8m/s sink rate in a stable configuration and our wing needs very little pitch control on release,” he said.

I had to go try it, so early one morning I headed up our local hill to test it out. High over the valley I grabbed both C-risers and pulled them down. This takes some force but is not excessive – you have to use the full movement of the rear risers and it feels like they almost click into place. Then you wait. The wing falls back slightly and you can see it is stalled.

I watched the vario displaying  -7.8m/s and then waited until the wing was slightly ahead of me and released, pretty much as you would do for a real stall. The wing slipped back into normal flight with very little pitching just as Tom had promised.

I did several of these and on a couple of occasions I did find myself turning the wing and then over-correcting, but it still exited well. As with all manoeuvres this is definitely something you should try for the first time in a safe environment with plenty of height and space, or under SIV instruction if you have never stalled before.

The huge brake range and the delayed stall point makes landing the wing very easy. Of course, I still preferred to come in with energy to convert where I could but it was good to know you could go deep in the brakes when needed.

The verdict

The Gracchio has matured, and has become less demanding of its pilot, giving the same levels of performance with true B-style demands. Little Cloud’s inherent pitch stability make it an easy wing to fly, even in big air. I was impressed with its into-wind performance: not getting knocked around really seems to help this in real air.

The light weight and good low-speed behaviour also makes it suitable for vol-biv adventures, with more than enough performance for early adventures. If you are not worried about the lack of EN certification, give the wing a try – you might just fall in love


Little Cloud say: “This glider follows the Little Cloud formula with a moderate aspect ratio, very pitch-stable behaviour, and extremely fun to fly!”

Use: Soaring and XC
Pilot level: Intermediate
Sizes: 19, 21, 23, 25, 27
Flat area (m²): 18.75, 21, 23.10, 25.25, 27.00
Take-off weight (kg): 50-70, 55-75, 70-90, 85-105, 100-120
Glider weight (kg): 3.7, 3.9, 4.1, 4.4, 4.6
Cells: 49
Flat aspect ratio: 5.3
Certification: Load test only


Marcus King flew the Gracchio 2 size 25 (85-105kg) in the southern French Alps at around 100kg, paired with a Woody Valley GTO Light 2 and a Gin Genie X Lite.

Published in issue 233 (September 2022)

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