How To Fly – Part 3 : Flying
Getting the Kite Out
Once the lines are correctly attached to both handles, stake out the handles as previously described by inserting your stake though the loops on the brake lines. Make sure that the stake is secure. If its not, your kite will not be stable and will be likely to fly away.
Head off to the other end of the lines and unpack the kite from its bag and lay it on the ground so the bridle is facing upwards and the front of the kite is furthest away from the handles. The leading edge should be further away from you than the trailing edge. Weight the kite down to stop it from flying away. You should now observe that there are four bridle attachment points, two power and two brakes. The power will have lots attachment points all over the kite. The brake bridle will only attach to the trailing edge.
You should now be in a position to attach the right hand lines you have previously laid out to the right hand bridle. Again, using the Lark’s Head knot, attach the power line to the power bridle lead and the brake line to the brake line lead. Repeat this with the other two lines.
Important : Make sure you have connected the correct lines to the correct bridle attachment points. Your kite will not fly if you have got it wrong and will be potentially dangerous. When you have checked it, check it again. If in doubt ask someone who will know.
With your kite still weighted down, walk back along the lines to the handles. Check that there are no twists or knots. If there is you need to remove them.
Ready to go…
Finally you are almost ready to go. If you have done everything correctly, the lines should be attached to both the kite and the handles (this does help during flying), there are no twists or tangles and everything looks as its meant to. If in doubt ask someone who will know. They will be very happy to help you. Don’t struggle and don’t be too proud to ask for assistance.
After staking out the handles, go and stand behind the kite. You should now be looking over the kite, down the lines to the handles in the distance. Hold the kite with one hand and remove whatever you used to weight the kite down. Gently lift the leading edge (the front of the kite, or the end closet to you at this point). Don’t lift it so much as to make the kite leave the ground.
The kite should now gently inflate. Ideally, the kite will sit on the ground without trying to climb into the air and the brake lines should be taught. The amount of strain will depend on how windy it is. If the kite does try to take off by itself, then the brake lines are too long and you need to shorten them both by the same amount. Weight down the kite again and shorten the brake lines.
There are several ways to shorten lines but the best way is NOT to tie additional knots in the handle leaders, but to adjust the length of the lines themselves. Be patient when doing any adjustment to the lines. Shorten a little at a time. Don’t cut the line until you are sure that you have it right.
If the brake lines are too short, the kite will not sit in an upright position and you will find it hard to launch. If this is the case then shorten the power lines until you are in a position where the kite will happily sit on the ground when the handles are staked, not trying to take off and not blowing around. When the lines are correctly setup you are ready to launch.
Note : it can be very frustrating to find that you have to set the lines, sometimes it can take a long time. All you want to do is play with your new toy. However, this is something you must do. If you spend time and care doing it correctly you kite will fly perfectly. If you don’t bother your kite will not fly properly and will be potentially dangerous. Take the time to do it properly. If possible ask for help from someone who knows what they are doing.
Carefully pick up the handles and keep the tops of the handles pointing towards the kite. This keeps the brakes on and prevents the kite taking off before you are ready. Ensure that you have the handles the correct way around. The handle who’s lines connect to the right hand side of the kite should be held in your right hand. Make sure that the lines are not twisted or crossed. If they are, replace the handles to the stake and fix the problem.
You are now ready to launch. With the handles in your hands, make sure you are holding them correctly. The main power line attachment cord should be between your index and middle finger.
Check that you still have plenty of space and that no one is down wind of you. Gently rotate the handles so the tops tilt towards you. As you rotate the handles, you will see the kite inflate and begin to lift. Before the kite leaves the ground apply the brakes by rotating the handles the opposite way and see how the kite settles back.
This time you are going to launch properly. Before you launch the kite, try and understand what it is going to do. When the kite takes off, it will head to the top of the wind window. Do your best to keep it there, don’t try to steer it or move it around too much at the moment.
Rotate the handles so the tops move closer towards you and the bottoms move towards the kite. Again and you will see the kite start to lift. You may need to walk backwards and pull gently depending on the wind conditions. Continue this rotation until the kite lifts. As the kite lifts it will quickly accelerate and generate a large amount of power. Be prepared for this.
Try to lean backwards and away from the kite to counter the forwards pull. Try not to learn forward and go with the kite as you will be off balance and will likely be pulled over. Try to keep the kite at the top of the window, you will probably need to provide small inputs to the handles – pull the right handle to move the kite to the right, the left handle to move the kite to the left.
If your kite doesn’t fly to the top or zenith, your brake lines may be too short. If you pull the brake on by rotating the handles so the bottoms move downwards and the kite doesn’t respond by gently reversing and coming down to the ground your brake lines may be too long. If either are true, land the kite and make small adjustments to rectify the problem. Then launch again and continue adjusting until you are happy that your kite is flying correctly.
When the kite is at the very top of the window or the zenith, move your hands together. Hopefully the handles will be almost horizontal. If the kite moves to the left when your hands are together, the left power line is probably shorter than the right. If the kite pulls towards the right then the right power line is shorter than the left.
Landing your kite is very straight forward, From the top centre of the wind window, gently apply the brakes with equal pressure. The kite will begin to reverse down to the ground. When the kite does land, ensure you keep the brakes on, otherwise the kite may relaunch.
When applying the brakes to land a kite, the majority of kites will become unstable if too much brake is applied. Depending on wind conditions, you may find that you need to make small adjustments to either handle to bring the kite down without it turning. If the kite does begin to turn, gently compensate.
If you are flying in windy conditions, help reduce the apparent wind speed by walking towards the kite (ie. downwind) while applying the brakes will help the kite land.
Once the kite is on the ground, keep the brakes applied and put the handle loops over the ground stake.
Some kites, especially the high performance race kites are prone to overflying the zenith of the windwindow and continue over your head. When this occurs, the kites angle of attack changes so much that it no longer produces enough lift to hold the kite in the air. This is referred to as “luffing” and the kite will start to descend. To counter this, walk backwards (upwind) and gently apply the brakes.
Maneuvering the kite is relatively straight forward, however will required practice. Initially, practice moving the kite while it is at the top of the wind window. If you try to fly the kite through the power zone at the centre of the wind window, then maximum pull is created, so be aware.
With the kite at the top of the wind window, steer it left and right. Practice this until you are confident and you are able to position the kite accurately. Steadily increase the distance by which the kite moves from the centre. You will find that you can steer the kite to each edge of the window until it is almost touching the ground. Practice this and understand how to control the kite in this situation, you will be positioning the kite here when you are in the buggy.
You can also turn the kite using the brake lines. With the kite at the top of the window, pull the brakes on one side only. The kite will now start to turn. A combination of pulling the power line and braking will allow you complete control over your kite. It will enable you to make sharp turns and position the kite anywhere in the wind window.
Quad line traction kites generate huge amounts of pull. If you take all this pull through your arms, they will quickly become tired. A harness is designed to redistribute the forces generated by the kite, while still allowing you full control. A kite harness is a development from the windsurfing harness and is typically worn around the waist with a hook or roller attached to the front.
However, harnesses are not for the beginner and should only be used by the experienced kiter. If things go wrong and you’re wearing a harness you cannot just let go.
There are almost as many harnesses to choose from as kites. Some are designed for buggying, buggying and surfing or surfing only. There is the seat harness, waist harness, back harness, all of which can have either a roller or hook attachment. I currently have two seat harnesses, one with a roller for buggying and one with a hook for kitesurfing. A harness should only be used when the pilot is completely comfortable when flying their kite. They should be proficient, and know how to control their kite at all positions within the wind window.
The handles for the kite usually have two cords coming from the back of the power line connection. An additional piece of cord (usually called strop line) is required to join these together using the Larks Head knot. The length of this cord is down to the personal preference of the pilot, however should not be too long as to stop the pilot having full control of the kite. I have found that a length of around 40cm is good for me. This stop line then loops around the hook or roller and transfers a huge amount of pull from your arms to your lower body, therefore allowing you to fly for much longer periods without becoming tired.
Your choice of harness will ultimately come down to your own personal preference. Try on as many as you can and try them under load. Get someone to hold the roller / hook pull upwards as you lean backwards. A harness will feel very different when there is a kite attached. The most important point when purchasing a new harness is to make sure that the straps which are used for adjusting the harness are secure under load.
I have a harness which is comfy and appears to fasten properly, however when under load the clasps which hold the straps pop open. Not good when you are fully powered up in the buggy only to find your harness is about to come off.
Next time in part four, we’ll be looking at how to pack away : How To Fly – Part 4 : Packing Away
How To Fly – Part 3 : Flying,