Hope you all enjoyed a great Xmas; ours was:
We had Peter and Anne Whitehead for Xmas dinner - garnished with one or two baby grange's - very tasty.
Now it's new year's resolution time.
One of mine is not to whinge and moan so much this year. So here's a whinge that needs to get out of the way now so that I can start clean.
It's the ongoing unsatisfactory nature of wind here; U.M.W's to be precise. Useable Midrange Winds: that is. On average more than 10kph, less than 40kph and not varying by a factor of more than, say, 4X in any 5 minute period.
Not a lot to ask?
My estimate for Ashburton is that we have UMW's here 5% of the time on average - perhaps 8% in summer, and 2% in winter. Bugger me it's a frustrating place to do kite development from.
So what's up here? Kitesailing!
The combination of the KiteCat and the Venoms work so well now that no more technical development seems necessary for kitesailing to become an established niche in the world of sailing. It even seems the package may only require one kite, a 19m2 Venom.
Kitesailing is possible in less wind than for kitesurfing, so the largest kite has to fly in as near to zero wind as possible. Kites larger than 20m2 can easily be built but they are sluggish. The 19m2 Venom gives the best balance of power and control there is in light wind. I would almost say, the best there can be. At the upper wind end, because the KiteCat generates much more lateral resistance than kiteboards can, it's possible to use at least one size bigger kite in a given wind than for kitesurfing. Above 50kph true wind, when things start to get to the limit for a 19m2 Venom on a KiteCat, most small boat sailors will be heading for the clubhouse anyway.
The KiteCat/19m2 Venom combination has:
- Roof rack transportability (I can get the KiteCat on and off, and to the water and back without help).
- Wind range from 10kph to 50kph - and much more when smaller kites are available.
- Better stability in heeling and in surf than for any comparable size sailboat.
- Upwind performance matching most sailing craft.
- Reaching and downwind sailing faster than all other general purpose sailing craft (more than 50kph).
- Requirement for only moderate skill and athleticism. (not particularly age or gender limited).
- Currently lower set up cost than for other sailing options relative to speed and performance.
So why hasn't kitesailing taken off already? It's been around for a very long time and has notched up some significant publicity...
- like George Pocock's seminal treatise of 1827
- like S F Cody crossing the English Channel in 1901
- like Ian Day taking the world C class sailing speed record in 1978
- like AAPT nearly winning the 2004 Sydney Hobart (was 2nd) and nearly using a kite to do it.
Ahh, that would have been a thing. On boxing day I was mentally and organisationally preparing for the explosion in kitesailing that a kite powered AAPT success would have generated. But it didn't happen, as the winds were gale force and on-the-nose for the entire 3 days.
I've been waiting around for Dave (Culp) and Dean (Jordan)'s Outleader spinnaker replacement kite to take over blue water sailing like a virus so that our purpose built KiteCat can ride to prominence on the spinoff publicity, but it's taking too damned long. Looks like I'll have to get off my chuff then.
For the commercialisation of kitesailing what is needed is a cunning plan.
The alternatives seem to be:
- Develop from established kite traction sports. That is, out of kitebuggying, kiteskiing and kitesurfing.
- Develop all course kites that can be retro-fitted to existing medium and larger size sailboats.
- Use big bang publicity - like an epic transpolar kite traction journey using skis, buggies and boats maybe.
- Or setting a new world sailing speed record, for which planing kiteboats have unmatchable advantages.
- Catch some stars and wait for the rest of the world to follow like reef fish.
- Work to introduce single design kitesailing as a class within existing yacht club programs.
I don't think kitesailing can grow from existing kite traction sports. Maybe
there were two chances for this, but I blew both:
- The first in the early '90's with the buggy boats. In retrospect while hulls that make a buggy into a useable kiteboat was a good enough entry strategy, the stability and performance disadvantages from using three short water line length hulls wasjust too great.
- The second- our monohull kitesailing boat of 1997 was purpose built,
transportable, cheap enough, and easy to use, but it was easy to fall off
too, by kite pull or wave action.
Personally I don't believe that kites capable of all course sailing can be satisfactorily applied to existing sailboats, mono or multihull, especially larger ones. It's like using a yacht as a power boat - it can work, but not well. Also, safety becomes a nightmare with large high performance kites because of the huge over-pull they develop as apparent wind builds.
This leaves publicity from journeys, records and high profile users and single design class sailing introduced through established yacht clubs. Can it be done?
It's time to find out.
1 Jan '05
Finally, we're getting a new kite workshop here- see photo.
We've had plans, permits and planning permission since 2001, but on account of Ashburton having had a sustained economic boom with unemployment at 0.1% +/-, only in the last 3 months have we finally been able to find a builder, part time, but progress is happening!
And, since Arcs came of age last year with the arrival of the Venoms, those of us at the development end of things have had some time to consider new directions.
A major and as yet under-exploited advantage that Arcs have over tube (LEI) kites is their ability to fly stable, hands-off, over a broad wind range and with minimum pull. Developing this facility further, I envisage that some future Arc designs may be launchable on a single line, will not require any control inputs to keep up in minimum wind, will automatically station themselves at their apex with minimal pull when left alone, could be stacked, could be subject to radio control rather than multi-line control, (and therefore will fly higher without loss of efficiency through line drag).
We already have Arcs that have comparable reliability in single line mode to that of our single line parafoil style Pilot kites, which are the world standard in this respect, so this is indeed a hopeful developmental direction.
Watch this space.