How To Fly – Part 2 : Wind and Lines
The Wind :
If you are just starting out with power kites, or are just interested in recreational flying, a basic understanding of the wind and wind speeds may be enough to get by. However, if you’re interested in buggying or landboarding then a little more knowledge will be needed.
Wind strength changes depending on weather conditions, location, direction and time of year. I have flown in conditions ranging from near hurricane to almost dead calm. An unfortunate fact of kiting and buggying is that a single kite will not be appropriate for all conditions.
The majority of people when starting out think that bigger is better. Quite the opposite is true. I have a set of traction kites which range from 2m to 9m. The fastest I have ever been in my buggy is while using my 2m kite. The kite I use the most is probably my 4m. The 9m kite hardly gets used at all.
The size of kite you use on any particular day is determined by your weight and the wind conditions; smaller kites for windy days, larger kites for light winds on lazy summer days. When you’re learning, stick with small kites and light winds.
An important concept that will aid your learning curve is the wind window. The wind window can be imagined to be a virtual region of air space directly in front of the flyer when the flyer has their back to the wind. It extends in front of and to the sides of the flyer and its radius is given by the length of the lines.
Your kite will develop maximum lift at the center of the wind window and minimum lift around its edges. This size of the arrow indicates the power generated by the kite in the diagram below.
If you try and take your kite outside of the wind window, either too far to the side or too far overhead, it will tend to fold and drop out of the sky.
If buggying or boarding, a helmet, eye wear and boots with good ankle support are also required. These items are not negotiable. You need them. Do not go out without them.
A ground stake is the next thing you need to get. This is used to secure your kite while it is on the ground. This is useful while you are setting up, or just having a rest. Your handles should have loops on the opposite side to where the brake lines are attached. Put the stake through these loops and make sure that it is secure. When these loops are staked out, the brakes are applied to the kite. The kite will usually sit on the ground. If it flaps around or tries to take off, you will need to adjust how you are staking it out or weight the bottom of the kite (the trailing edge) with small rounded stones or sand. Make sure you peg out the loops on the brakes.
The majority of handles have a length of cord behind the power lines for connecting a harness strop, don’t attach these to the stake, if you do your kite will launch without warning. Large tent pegs or “dog screwers” can be used as stakes. Tying ribbon to the top of the stake will make it much easier to spot and help stop people from tripping over it.
Kite killers are becoming more common, these are Velcro straps which go around each wrist and have a cord which connects to the brake lines. In the event that you lose control or let go of your kite the brakes will be applied which is meant to bring your kite fluttering down to earth. These are recommended if you are just starting out.
Before you start, make sure that you have chosen a suitable location and that it is not too windy. You will be surprised how many beginners set up in conditions that are not appropriate. On days when they thought it was reasonably windy, many have been pulled into the air or worse. Your kite is very powerful even in light winds. Don’t let this be you.
New kites have not been pre-flown to check that everything is set up correctly. Therefore this is your first task. You need to check that your kite is tuned. Check that the flying lines are of equal length.
The two power lines should be the same and the two brake lines should be the same. Do not be too concerned at this stage if the brake lines and power lines are not the same length, on the majority of kites they will not be. The power lines tend to be heavier and thicker than the brake lines. Some line sets will be colour coded. It is important that you know which are which.
To check the line lengths, securely stake out one end of both power lines and walk downwind, away from the stake while holding the other two ends. Hopefully when taught, both lines are the same length. If not, you will need to adjust them until they are. Do not cut them at this stage, just move the looped knot and the sleving of the longer one until they both match. Then repeat this with the brake lines. Remember, do not cut anything until you are sure that you have matched the lines correctly. When you are sure, you can remove the excess, however it’s a good idea to leave 2 – 3cm of excess.
If not already done, you need to attach your lines to the kite. Attaching lines for the first time can be confusing. Separate all four lines and lay them on the ground in a downwind direction from where you are currently standing. Downwind is the direction in which the wind is blowing. Turn so the wind is blowing directly onto your back and walk forwards until the lines are out. Take a single power line and a single brake line to the right hand side and the other power line and brake line to the left hand side of where you are standing.
Now walk back upwind because we need to attach the handles to the other end of the lines. As you walk back try and separate the lines as to match the way you laid them out with a power and brake line together, one on the right and one on the left. Make sure there are no tangles.
Each handle will have an attachment for a power line and a brake line. The power line attachment is at the top, the brake line at the bottom. You need to attach the right hand handle to the two lines which go off to the right and the left hand handle to the line which go to the left.
Attach the power line first to the power lead, and then attach a brake line to the brake lead on the same handle. To attach the lines use a Larks Head knot.
The Larks Head knot is the single most useful knot in power kiting. The Larks Head is a slip knot, therefore the more you pull the tighter it becomes, so there is no chance of it coming loose while the kite is in the air. As soon as the tension is released (after landing the kite) the knot is easy to pull loose and undo.
You should now be in a situation as shown in the diagram below.
In the next article in this How To series, part three we’ll look at getting the kite out, setting up and the first launch : How To Fly – Part 3 : Flying
How To Fly – Part 2 : Wind and Lines,