Rankings, Ratings and (the usual) Rantings.
I’ve just been at two of the most successful kite festivals there can ever have been.
Cervia (Adriatic coast of Italy) was at it’s very best. For the 7 days I was there, the wind arrived smooth and perfect from off the sea every day by 1pm at the latest and was then never too light or too strong. The organisation, public, kiteflier comradeship, and local hospitality were all also characteristically superb.
Berck (channel coast of France) this year was the best kite festival I’ve ever been to.
There were no bad days, and the final Saturday produced perfect wind off the sea, perhaps as many as 200 large kites (and thousands of smaller ones) flying simultaneously, a reported 70 thousand spectators on the boardwalk and 300,000 in the town. A record 19 maxi and larger Octopus were flown together (see photo). One restaurant served 600 meals on Saturday evening alone (usually 120 for an entire weekend) and ran out of food.
Just before leaving for this trip I was looking at video of the James White organised 1990 New Zealand International Kite Festival and thinking that maybe single line flying hasn’t made much progress in 17 years.
But it has. As I see it there have been three fundamental changes: though all are things that were discernable in embryonic form even at Napier in 1990.
The first is the proliferation of large ram air inflated theme kites. These kites are interesting for spectators, are intrinsically safer than large framed kites, are more easily transported, damage less often (allowing their flight envelope to be pushed out) and, as a consequence of all the above, more of them can be flown in a smaller space.
The second is the use of pilot kites. These provide automatic launching and relaunching of the show kites, make it possible to fly styles that otherwise wouldn’t, extend the stability range of all kites, and allow them to be flown closer to the ground (where they look larger and hence more impressive).
The third is that kite fliers have become much more professional. 15 years ago, even 10 years ago, angry territorial disputes between kitefliers on the kite field were common. I can recall knives being brandished on more than one occasion. The tensions and competition for space remain of course, but disputes are now generally resolved amicably and by the underlying principle that the goal is to arrange the field so that as many kites as possible can be kept in the air. Fliers who are difficult to fly beside (usually new entrants) soon get the message.
So it’s all working perfectly, no more improvements are possible or necessary then?
Not so, there are at least three steps forward that are worth pushing.
The first two are technical.
We need pilot kites that are remote (radio) controlled. With this facility we could space our large kites even closer- and we could get out of those few entanglements that may still occur without having to pull entire large kite trains back to the ground. Also steerable pilots would reduce the need to be forever shifting kite anchors to optimise position- and indeed the need to have as many anchors.
And, for more safety, we also need to have radio controlled release systems on all large kites arranged to de-power and collapse them on command. This is a simple thing to design and make, it just needs for someone to actually do it.
The third thing is that we need to have a way to more objectively measure kite flying performances- a rating and ranking system that will provide an incentive for lazy kite fliers to shape up and which provides some useful measure by which kite event organisers can allocate their invitation budgets.
The AWITA team (France) and I have been running an informal competition between us for some time that uses such a measure. We count the kilogram- hours of fabric that each person can keep in the sky. A 20kgm kite kept up for 8 hours counts for 160. 500 is a good day’s individual score. There are six of them, just one of me but they won at Valencia (almost no wind), revenging my victory at Berck.
And at Cervia?- well they weren’t there, so, well, the photo tells the story!
San Francisco, 3 May ‘07
- Craig takes Gold at Weifang!
- Also check out our Festival/Show Kites. We have posted line drawings to make it easy for you to colour your own kites.
- Thanks to Leong Chee Wan in Malaysia for his help with these drawings.