Peter Lynn

March 2007

Firstly, Congratulations to Aaron Jarman who's just won the Australian Wave riding nationals for the second year running!! The strong side shore wind was up for his 16m Venom II with 2m swell on the east coast of Australia.

LAHORE, Pakistan, Feb. 26, 2007;

“---At least 11 people died and more than 100 people were injured at an annual spring festival in eastern Pakistan celebrated with the flying of thousands of colorful kites, officials said Monday.

The deaths and injuries were caused by stray bullets, sharpened kite-strings, electrocution and people falling off rooftops on Sunday at the conclusion of the two-day Basant festival, said Ruqia Bano, spokeswoman for the emergency services in the city of Lahore.

The festival is regularly marred by casualties caused by sharp kite strings or celebratory gunshots fired into the air. Kite flyers often use strings made of wire or coated with ground glass to try to cross and cut a rival's string or damage the other kite, often after betting on the outcome.

Authorities temporarily lifted a ban on kite flying that was imposed following a string of deaths at the festival last year. Lahore Mayor Mian Amier Mahmood said the two-day permission to fly kites ended Sunday and that the ban has been re-imposed.

Police arrested more than 700 people for using sharpened kite strings or firing guns, and seized 282 illegally held weapons during this year's festival, said Aftab Cheema, a senior Lahore police officer.

Five of those who died on Sunday were hit by stray bullets, including a 6-year-school boy who was struck in the head near his home in the city's Mazang area, Bano said.

A 16-year-old girl and a school boy, 12, died after their throats were slashed by metal kite strings in separate incidents.

Two people were electrocuted while they tried to recover kites tangled in overhead power cables, Bano said.

A 13-year-old boy fell to his death from the roof of his home as he tried to catch a stray kite, and a 35-year-old woman fell off the roof of her home trying to stop her son from running after a stray kite, Bano said.---“ Kuwait times.

Which rather suggests that my concern about the resurgent use of Kevlar lines by single line kite fliers at western style kite festivals is much ado about nothing much.

Nevertheless, trivial though the consequences may be by comparison to Basant, Kevlar should not generally be used at our increasingly crowded kite events.

Kevlar has legitimate virtues; it’s very strong -less weight for the kite to lift and less line drag than for alternatives- and it’s inexpensive.

However, the main reason that fliers use Kevlar is because it’s both more abrasive and has a higher melting point than other kite line materials so prevails when their line crosses someone else’s. This is usually put as; “I have to use Kevlar because otherwise someone will cut my kite out of the sky and I can’t afford this to happen.” Note the “can’t afford” with its implication that fliers using less antisocial line can afford to lose their kites- rather than a more neutral “don’t want”.

Theirs is a similar rationale to that used by the US gun lobby.

And, like for handgun ownership, Kevlar use just fuels an arms race in which everyone loses.

Fortunately, at organised kite events, the entrenched constitutional “right to bear Kevlar” that some kitefliers might believe they have are subordinate to the organiser’s wishes.

By theory and practice, the materials hierarchy in the cutter/cuttee pantheon is: Kevlar/natural fibres/polyester/nylon/Spectra- leaving out wire and glass coatings as completely beyond the pale. And of course, for lines made of the same material and under equal tension: thin cuts thick, and a moving line will saw through a static one.

But even this is not yet the complete story because Spectra (Dyneema) while generally being the loser in any cross, is slipperier than other materials so is more resistant to being cut than it’s particularly low melting point would predict.

Which leads to the other hierarchy that matters here, which is how resistant a line is to being cut by an identical line.

In this list Kevlar is at the bottom and Spectra/Dyneema is by far the best.

A Spectra/Spectra line wrap can be left to saw away for a reasonable time with no damage resulting, whereas any other combination demands prompt attention if a long chase is to be avoided.

The conclusion is obvious; Kevlar lines should not be used by kitefliers while flying their kites close to others. Actually, this is not a new conclusion- I can well recall Kevlar line being a hot issue more than 15 years ago, and the event organiser initiated code banning it’s use which took root at that time. This code has held relatively well until quite recently when there has been a noticeable resurgence of Kevlar use.

Now with the general availability of non-abrasive high strength Spectra/Dyneema lines at ever more competitive prices as an alternative, kite event organisers have even stronger reasons for stamping down on Kevlar use- and I am pleased to see that they are doing so.

The result will be fuller skies and happier organizers plus fewer crashes and happier fliers: about as win-win as it gets.

Which might offset a tiny bit of the gloom that has settled over kite flying from the tragedies in Basant.

Peter Lynn,

Ashburton, March 1 ‘07

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