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Ray and Trilobite plus at Guangdong
Not the worst school report- because it implies the possibility of improvement, but not the best either.
After a partial break from kite development getting the Hoberg sawmill up and running, and to step back for a fresh perspective, I'm now back in the sky at four-in-a-row kite events in China. Except that there was no wind at the first one (Guangdong) so I was only barely in the sky there, and the next one (Xiamen) was put off until the 14th and 15th November by government order, when a typhoon threatened.
But the typhoon didn't arrive, so we all sat around in a very pleasant hotel looking out on perfect flying conditions having 'free time" (excellent wine, but rather too much of it). Which is very difficult for the organisers who are now faced with a second round of travel and accomodation costs and the unavailability of many kite fliers.
Seems like it's not just New Zealand authorities who have a fantasy belief in the accuracy of weather forecasts for more than a day or so out.

But I could have done a better job at Guangdong and Chengdu- and at most of the events I've been to during the last year or so that haven't had enough wind- which has been most of them.
Andreas Fischbacher with his pumpable large Mantas, Craig and Simon from PL Kites and some others with light weight Rays, can all keep more big kites up for longer than I've managed in the last 12 months
Am I, horrible thought, "getting past it" maybe?
By fitness, strength and motivation, I reckon I'm still in the game, though chronic back problems are a brake. I'm taking longer to re-set and re-launch every time the wind drops and returns from a different direction, which costs kilogram-hours in the air when the wind never settles in. But back twinges are a pretty minor handicap compared with what a lot of people have to cope with - like being Australian for example.
But most of my inadequate performance in the last year or so has been an own goal.
Two things contribute to optimal light wind flying;
The first is to get out there from the first minute and work at it without ever stopping. Sitting back waiting for wind is a fatal mistake. Quite often, in China especially, the wind never does kick in. Those few teasing morning puffs from every point of the compass are sometimes all there's going to be.

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6sqm 1Skin and ST Ray - Weifang civic square July 2015
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SSSL Octopus with inflated leading edge at Shenzhen 2015
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SSSL Octopus with inflated leading edge at Shenzhen 2015
The second is kite selection:
Setting up extensive trains makes no sense if the wind is never there for long enough to get them off the ground; far better to concentrate on just one kite, get it inflated and up as soon as possible at the onset of every slight breeze, and then keep it up there for as long as possible.
And the kite selected for this effort is critical- it's not much use if it takes 10minutes of wind to inflate before launching is possible, when each puff only lasts for 5.
I don't think I've been failing by not working hard enough, but I am guilty of not packing the best kites for the job.
When any kite type gets close to full development and is flying well, I get bored and start again with a new and disfunctional- but challenging- design.
This is pure willfulness- a serial Lynn family character flaw- not helped at all by sufficient financial independence to support such indulgence.
But, (justifying myself), while variations on a theme and incremental development are what support most kiteflying, it's the breakthrough stuff that feeds our dreams- or mine anyway.
For much of the last 7 years I've been working at getting smooth-tailed rays to fly reliably across the wind range. They are still inclined to falling off to one side or the other in very light winds- but only below 10km/hr now: 7 years ago it was below 15km/hr or even 20km/hr- progress indeed! But every time the wind drops off to nothing (50 times per day at some events), just as it fails completely, these Rays sashay out to one side or the other and turn upside down like the dieing fish that they are (a variety of shark).
It has especially not been a fair-go for event organisers- who should reasonably expect the best possible performance at all times and probably don't see their role as providing a flying site for development work.
I've also been considerably distracted by my recent focus on single skin kites- and at the present stage of their development they are not the best choice when conditions are strong.
Which brings me to the SSSL update;
A few months doing mainly other things has indeed provided a clearer perspective;

Boomers and 1Skins are now highly developed; further improvements will be hard won.
They have the advantages of much more pull, higher flying angle, and lower cost than equivalent ram air inflated pilot kites. But in very light winds they stall and fall back when some ultra-light conventional pilots hang on- though only just. SSSL pilots also dive off to one side or the other at some upper wind speed, usually above 40km/hr. This is caused by indentation of the leading edge, consequence of an adverse pressure differential across the leading edge fabric, that at present can only be mitigated by either higher angle of attack (which costs light-end performance), or stiffening (such as heavier fabric, closer rib spacing or weedwhacker cord inserts).

The single skin Serpent and Octopus both have days when they are the stand-out kites, but collapse their leading edges in mid to strong winds. They also have an uncomfortable amount of pull in even moderate winds. Andrew Beattie reckons the 27m single skin Octopus is 'the most dangerous kite he's ever flown'- someone had to take over the use of hyperbole when Shakespeare left off, but I wouldn't have expected this person to be a porridge wog.

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ST Ray providing shade Vietnam 2009
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ST Ray at Shenzhen 2015
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SSSL Serpent with inflated leading edge at Shenzhen 2015
Rather than use stiffening materials- which doesn't address the fundamental cause, just pushes it a bit further up the range- I am now trying hybridisation; adding some small ram-air inflated elements. These have the advantage of having no upper wind limit- theoretically anyway.
I'd been holding back from this so as to make as much progress as is possible with the pure single skin form first, but had some changes made while at Kaixuan (Weifang) last week .
First tests are promising; For the Octopus and Serpent , pull is decreased, appearance improved, and using narrow crescent-shaped ram air inflated leading edges seems to largely eliminate the leading edge collapses that have plagued them in stronger winds.
A similar ram air tubular leading edge fitted to a 1Skin appears to have fixed the high wind leading edge indentation problem these kites have- but will require a lot more testing.
And yes, it's true that they are not "pure" SSSLs anymore- but hey, "whatever works"!

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ST Ray at Shenzhen 2015
And they are allowing me to continue developing SSSLs while at kite events without now compromising performance, not that I need to make many apologies for the 1Skins now:
At Guangdong 2 weeks ago, changing to 1 Skins from conventional pilots enabled a Ray and Trilobite to be lifted up enough to be seen even in momentary breezes. And they weigh so little that having a few with me doesn't break my baggage allowance if the wind is super strong and they have to stay in the bag.

Even the smooth-tailed rays are now to where their remaining light wind peculiarity can be mainly mitigated by extra effort on my part. They still do annoy they hell out of adjacent fliers though, and the only apology I can really offer for this is to say; "Thank for your contribution to kite development".



Peter Lynn Kites Ltd
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