Yes, it's true, I fell off a buggy.
Not some conventional buggy either but THE MAN'S BUGGY. Built by Dave
Kennedy and cohorts for the Burning Man Festival (Nevada) later this year
(when it's to go up in flames), it's around 5m wide and 7m long with 1.5m
diameter cable drums for wheels (see photo).
I recall clambering up on it and trying to generate enough kite pull to get
moving and then the next thing I remember is a face looming through some
sort of fog asking me to name the US president. George Washington came to mind but apparently this was the wrong answer.*
This was during the SBBB (Spring Break Buggy Blast) on dry lakes in
California and Nevada.
A wonderful event that attracts far wider kiteflier attendance than just
And at which I met Dave Culp and Joe Kool in person for the first time.
Dave, Joe and myself are arguably the world's three most obsessional extant proponents of kitesailing. In our different styles we've all been pushing away for 20 years or more, and all of us sense that kitesailing is close to taking off.
Of course, none of us are what you would call objective about this. There
have been many times in the 175 years since George Pocock gave kite traction it's modern foundation that kitesailing has seemed about to become mainstream- but maybe it really is going to happen this time.
Currently generating impetus is the work that Dean Jordan and Dave Culp did for the Oracle syndicate in the recent America's Cup challenge. Time was ultimately against them for this regatta but they were successful in
developing a kite that qualified under the rules as a spinnaker and that
many believe was faster. The publicity that this generated has
significantly raised kitesailing's profile with mainstream sailors.
Coincidentally, we (Peter Lynn Ltd) also put some development work in on
kites for America's Cup boats (for Team NZ naturally) and it was
fascinating, now that the need for secrecy is passed, to compare experiences with Dave and Dean.
Ironically, early in the process, I had received a suspicious phone call, in
a west coast American accent, obviously pumping for information as to
whether we were working on kites for Team NZ. My natural reaction was to
mislead - successfully so we have since been told.
Possibly this was the biggest mistake I could have made (head butting the
Nevada desert being but a distant second) as if I had left the impression
that we were on the case, the accelerator would have been pushed to the
floor on Oracle's efforts and kitesailing might even now be a mainstream
Oh well, at worst just another lost opportunity.
We (Dave, Joe, myself and other enthusiasts) are thinking to have a
kitesailing meeting, hopefully later this year, at which we can all share,
compare and generate some mainstream interest. The venue is not yet
settled- maybe San Francisco, maybe Kittyhawk, maybe wherever the next
Amerca's Cup regatta is to be.
And, in support of the above, Chris, Pete and myself have just taken a bit
of time out from the serious work of developing better kitesurfing kites and
new buggy kites to see just how much performance can be extracted from the ram air bridleless Arc concept when no compromises are made.
For kitesailing to compete upwind against existing conventional sailboats,
kite lift/drag ratio (aerodynamic efficiency) needs to improve to 10 or
better. With the exception of F Arcs which can manage 7, no current
traction kites (of any design) do better than about 6 and the average is
nearer to 5.
We've just built a wild looking prototype Arc; 16m span with a chord of just
1.3m (aspect ratio 12). It flies, well actually, though the steering is too
slow for kitesurfers (slow steering is highly desirable for kitesailing
Hasn't been formally tested yet, but I'm hopeful that it's L/D is 10 or
more. See attached photo.
Just off to Italy and Japan,
Ashburton, 20 April 2003.
*Politics getting mixed up in sport again.