A WW2 general once said in response to an independent audit of the accuracy of weather forecasting, "Yes I accept that they are no better than random but we still need them for planning purposes".
With similar irrationality, after three good weather kite festivals in a row (Cuxhaven, Lemwerder and Portsmouth) I have this irrepressible sense of foreboding about the next two (Bristol and Dieppe). Of course, the weather at geographically diverse kite events is as little influenced by what was experienced the week before as the next flip of a coin is by the previous one.
But, perhaps some of this foreboding comes from the allusive; "England's green and pleasant land", which seems suspiciously contradictory; doesn't "green" require lots of rain while "pleasant" requires that there isn't? Or maybe this is just a further example of the famous imprecision of the English language - like "road works" (when it obviously doesn't), "this door is alarmed" (I'd never seen a more placid door) and "mind your step" (why can't the social services do this, after all we pay our taxes don't we?).
So, here I am staying with friends in the 700-year-old "New" Forest (there it is again) taking a few days off from the office to visit local places of interest, not all of which are pubs (the Montague historic car collection for example).
Life doesn’t seem to move at a fast pace here - not least because of all the silly horses that stand around on the road cow-eyed (this is fun) holding up traffic. In years past I would be frantically repairing kites in readiness for the next event, but, with their growing reliability, no strong winds this trip yet and the pilot system, big kite flying is getting boringly easy- not that there isn't challenge enough remaining in getting from event to event.
Air travel sectors are OK- provided you can get a ride to the airport, but taking two 30kgm kite bags plus clothes and stuff for 6 weeks on the road in diverse countries by public transport while travelling alone is effectively impossible. Us car-less itinerant large kite fliers are clearly being discriminated against, there ought to be a law!
But then, when having a good moan we should always take a moment to reflect on those less well off than ourselves- like all those who don't get to eat, drink, tell lies, and maybe even fly a few kites with like minded friends, old and new, somewhere different in the world every week. Or like two friends from NZ who are also in England indulging their passion and with whom I will be clanking around for a day or two later this trip- they've bought their steam traction engines over with them. Imagine the porkies they must have to tell at the check-in counter with 25 tons of s.o.e (smelly old engine) apiece.
Our pilot kites- an update:
They are everywhere- I counted 9 of them in the sky at one time in Cuxhaven, only 3 of which were actually made by us. This is exactly as intended for this design and is why we allowed and encouraged plans to be published. A little problem though: variations in fabric weight (the design was developed assuming 45gms/sq.m +/-) and "improvements" added by some makers, can make them fly badly- and I tend to then get blamed for this!
Pilot stability is not much affected by overall angle of attack- although bridling for high angle of attack will generate more lift at the expense of light wind performance.
The fundamental way to tune these pilots for the required fine balance between volatile instability (the tendency for lateral oscillations to build up until a kite loops out as the wind rises) and super stability (the tendency for a kite to gradually lean over to one side as the wind rises, until it's on the ground) is to change the height of the front of the ribs. Less will cause volatile instability, more will cause superstability.
This is not so easy on an existing kite however, so there is a bridle adjustment that can accomplish the same result if instability is not too extreme.
Contrary to most expectations it's the middle bridles, not the front or rear, that control stability. Shortening the middle bridles de-cambers the kite and will reduce volatile instability. Lengthening the middle bridles (or shortening both front and back bridles by an equal amount) will reduce superstability.
Incidentally, by changing only one side, this can also be used to correct asymmetric flying or to pull a kite to the side where there is more clear sky.
We have also taken to adding an extra bridle set to the leading edge - this makes for much easier launching, especially for larger sizes, and facilitates reliable re-inflation whenever turbulence causes a collapse. However, it can also cause self-launching when on the ground- which can be a safety concern if not controlled.
From above, it may seems that we are currently focusing only on single line kites but this is not so- we have a VERY big push coming up on the kitesurfing side.
With the fundamentals for this largely in place but a huge amount of detail stuff to get organised, I've just been sent out to play (up on the downs) for a while so that everyone else can get on with the real work.
Watch this space!
Peter Lynn, the Funny Farm, East Wellow, Hampshire
28 August 2002.