The mission statement of Clan McLeod, from which I am, in part, descended. Particularly, I suspect, from one aptly named "Rough"Mcleod of the 16th century, who was, hmm, rather a lad. I expect he's down there in the trunk of my family tree somewhere and I've been trying to have some of our grandchildren named in his honour; to no avail so far.
Anyway, the Mcleods were originally vikings, claiming the 12th century Black King of Mann (Island of) as their progenitor, who then disputed ownership of bits of the Western Isles (of Scotland) with everyone they didn't like the look of -which was basically everyone, relatives not excepted. In the 18th century my branch backed the loser (Bonny Prince Charlie) in the battle of Culloden (against the perfidious English) and the rest, as they say, is history; a diaspora that has spread Siol (seed of) McLeod to every corner of the world.
Which is not all entirely irelevant, but we'll get to that later.
During the 1950s a second type of kite appeared, courtesy of Jalbert et al; the ram air inflated 'parafoil'. Ram air inflation as the structural element has the virtues of scalability (can be made much bigger than framed kites) and providing new graphical opportunities (3 dimensional form), but is a difficult form to master because the centre of gravity position is mainly a function of shape; cannot be moved around to suit stabilty requirements as is possible with framed structures. The first successful ram air inflated kites were purely functional (generally of rectangular form) and early decorative forms (Martin Lester's Shark, my Centipede for example) were hybrids- they included some rigid struts. From the 1980s, pure ram air show kites began to appear (Ray and Octopus for example). Ram air inflated kites are the second leg.
Now, to remind you all of something that may have been forgotten; early ram air show kites were
BEASTS to fly: Too much pull and unstable in just about every wind. And they flew at villanously low angles too (many still do), which led to angry (and occasionally violent) disputes with framed kite fliers who had owned the sky until then. That ram air inflated show kites now dominate at events is only partly because 30 years of development has improved their behaviour somewhat (better stability, less pull). Mainly it's because they provide a visual spectacle that framed kites are unable to match.
And now we're seeing the genesis of a third type of kite; single skins. These have no rigid members, and no ram air elements; are basically just a piece of fabric held in shape solely by bridles and the pressure difference between their upper and lower sides while flying. This form is even more difficult to get flying well than ram air types so, characteristically, early attempts sashay all over the sky and have far to much pull. But they also have inherent advantages. They are even more scalable than ram air kites (can't burst), are less than half the weight for the same size (baggage allowance!), launch instantly, and for some unaccountable reason, generally fly at a high angle like framed kites, rather than down towards the horizon with ram air styles. Single skin kites are the third leg of kite flying - though a pretty puny one as yet.
But maybe they are such a tricky form that getting them to fly stably over a wide wind range in festival conditions (typically; crowded skies, bad wind, kite eating obstructions and no good anchors) will never be possible though?
I'm reasonably sure that at least some types of single skin show kites will become generally useful because I have already had some combinations of bridling and skin shape which fly superbly in wind conditions that even some framed kites would struggle with- just not yet a single such combination that works across a wide enough range of conditions:
The first 20m SS Octopus flew impressively in very light winds at the Kelatan event last year (and then became generally disfunctional again as various "improvements" were tried).
A 34m Serpent was almost faultless at Nelson in January this year (and has been left unchanged as a standard).
The most recent 20m Octopus (without a ram air leading edge collar) flew as well as any kite I've ever had in a range of gusty norwesters at Ashburton in mid-February.
And both the 34m and 50m Serpents flew adequately in the strong gusty winds at the Pasir Gudang International Kite Festival last week- I thought so anyway. Pasir Gudang is the gold standard for difficult conditions.
But kites are subject to the 90/10 law of development- when they're 90% there, just 10% of the work has been done, so I'm not underestimating how difficult this will yet be.
The path to better performance must now include regular flying at kite festivals. Sure, most kite development is best done alone on a beach (especially the beach I use, which has resident dolphins, occasional seals and penguins, and perfect smooth wind more often than not), but it's very much the same as developing racing cars - test track work is useful and essential , but the only true measure of success comes on race day.
So, many apologies if I get in your way- I'm doing this as quickly and painlessly as I can, see it as worthy of a serious effort- and as an opportunity for kiteflying not to get stuck in a rut.
So, a call to arms!- but know that it will be hard going and that eventual success is not assured. To get single skin kites to a level of reliability that will make them suitable for general use is going to be a huge challenge. Even then, most kitefliers will take some convincing- and some never will be. Just in case you do hear the call, there's is a full diary of everything I've tried so far, plus test reports and theories (mostly wrong I expect) at www.peterlynnhimself.com/SSSL.php.
You're welcome there.
Maybe our flag should be the triskelle- the 3 legs of Mann (which are armoured by the way- could be useful).
And, HOLD FAST!- a better motto for kitefliers there never will be.
PETER LYNN, PASIR GUDANG, MARCH 1 '16.
PS. Like during the early days of ram air kite development, hybridisation can provide a lead-in. I've tried ram air inflated leading edge collars on the Octopus and Serpent SS's to widen the wind range and reduce pull. To my very great surprise, last week when I taped off these collars as a final check on whether they were in fact contributing to the improved performance, both these kites flew better without them- in light and strong winds. Collars do improve appearance a lot though, making the leading edges much less notchy, so I've re-instated them for now (the alternative being about a zillion more bridles).