It’s an interesting time of the year here:
With Ashburton’s new lake (built especially for us), wind, sunshine and no overseas kite festivals to go to until January, for me, kitesailing comes into even stronger focus than usual.
Last month our new boss and bossess from Holland were over here to check us out, so, of course, we took them out to the lake kitesailing one afternoon, to show them what the next great thing is going to be.
The kite boat was state of the art; a purpose built 6m planing catamaran with all the bells and whistles:- like full winch system for kite launching and retrieval, automatic 2 stage safety release, ,swinging seat, 4 rudder steering and auxiliary outboard motor. Capable of 50km/hr, and with excellent upwind vmg*, it’s robust too-fell off the trailer on the way there without getting seriously injured.
In any sort of reasonable wind it scares me silly.
Groan, the wind was very light, so sailing was dreadfully slow, never more than about 10km/hour through the water (that is, about twice wind speed), and the kite spent much of it’s time swimming rather than flying while waiting for enough of a puff to get up.
B and B-ess are now totally convinced that kitesailing is NOT the next great thing- so much so that their innate politeness was stretched to the point where they almost told me so. But, hey, at least it kept them off the streets and out of range of the speed camera’s for the afternoon, which helps to keep costs down.
My conclusions from the experience were diametrically converse. (Yea yea- that’s just saying the same thing twice- but I mean really different.)
I’m totally convinced from the afternoon at Lake Hood, (and from other recent experience), that kitesailing will take off,- and let me tell you why,- or not, because I’m going to tell you anyway.
There are two key kitesailing developments that have emerged in the last year or so that will, I believe, prove to be the breakthrough elements, both were in evidence that afternoon, if you knew what to look for- and provided you have the faith of course.
Firstly, thanks to developments that kitesurfing has paid for, kites are getting much better. Kitesurfers demand and get performance from kites that seemed to be technically impossible just 5 years ago- like 50% power control and automatic recovery from 30degrees overfly’s and sharp steering from huge kites. Isn’t the market mechanism a wonderful thing!
Secondly-motor launching. That day, in very light wind, by myself (B didn’t want to get his feet wet, and the kitesurfers present aren’t grown up enough for sailing yet) on a 2 person boat that is cleverly designed with the maximum possible number of line catching protuberances, the kite never failed to re-launch promptly on the numerous times it collapsed windlessly to the water. Upside down, twisted, folded, didn’t matter- as soon as a bit of pull came on the lines from the motor idling in reverse, it could soon be sorted out and launched. Once when it was down for ever and ingested 5kgms or so of water in one tip, it still re-launched as soon a I motored back against it-(1.5kw Honda)- and then I just motored around for 5 minutes while the kite dried out.
Oh, and just in case you find the use of an internal combustion engine offensive, electric outboards also do the job** And if even this isn’t pure enough for you, a single line pilot kite can be used to drag the main kite out downwind and hold it nose up until it inflates and starts flying. The pilot kite is then retrieved. This system takes a bit longer but works reliably also.
But, larger kite boats will have motors for getting out of the marina, for no wind periods and for safety, whether they are used for launching or not, so why not!
Bulletproof, the answer(s), 100% reliable, problems solved. Hell’s teeth, what am I going to do with the rest of my life now?!
Well, it’s possible, but it hasn’t been done yet. I’ve started on an 8m monohull, with cabin, which will be the Wright Flier of kitesailing- now all I need is for the world to leave me alone for long enough to get it working.
Which brings me to January and an invitation to a part of the world that travel insurers don’t recognise as part of their world.
I was a fly on the wall while Elwyn was discussing with Katrina (youngest daughter) whether she should accept on my behalf or not. The discussion was not so much about danger to me but the pragmatic consequences here if I didn’t ahem, ‘arrive back’. After some contemplation Elwyn decided she wouldn’t want to lose the benefits of all the training she’d invested in me during the approximately 34 years we’ve been married (I can’t remember names either). Katrina said-“you mean he’s trained?- what was he like to start with then”?!
Oh well, it’s useful to see ourselves as others see us- but I’m going to go anyway- on the theory that we need to take every opportunity to engage in a positive way with the Arab world that is offered.
Peter Lynn, Ashburton
1 Dec 2002
*vmg: Velocity Made Good, a technical term from yachting that I’m sure it isn’t necessary to spell out for you, immersed as we all are in the drama of the America’s Cup.
** But of course, like electric cars, battery electric outboard motors are more polluting than the real thing when you take in to account that electricity is generated from nukes or fossil fuel in the first place, then add in the line, charging, discharging, motor and mechanical inefficiencies- plus someday having to dispose of the nasty heavy metals that batteries are made from.
Other new things:
The 4 sizes of G Arc (10, 13, 15, and18) are officially available now- Performance is excellent, best we’ve seen and wow, wait ‘till you see the graphics:-
Congratulations from all of us in NZ are due to Dominique and the rest of the team in Holland for the work they do transforming Chris’ and Pete’s designs into complete packages with bags, graphics, literature and accessories.
Volker and Pepijn, two of this years crop of visiting European kite fliers are doing a major re-build of the Mega-Ray for us, ready for a number of events next year. The current intention is to scale the bridling off the latest version of our Maxi Ray so that, when space permits, the Mega can be flown at altitude as a pure single line kite.- Does anyone have 1000m* of 25 tonne Spectra?
Or, in case Andrew Beattie considers answering in the affirmative, for his style of flying it will need, proportionally, 13, 000m.