Flying the ITW Triton on the beach (nice on-shore wind)
An interesting experience this evening in the Old Deer Park, with the wind being very variable and the rokkaku refusing to come down.
As I am learning with my urban parks, a typical experience really – the forecast was for 9mph winds, with no gusting; at ground level the anemometer showed 6pm, however, when I put the Triton up with the anemometer attached it came down reporting 18mph ! Which explained why it was unhappy and tried to pull my hands off – the first time I have ever had that with the normally mild Triton. Tried to put the camera up on it, but the winds then died and it dumped the camera (thankfully gently). Not going to complain too much, given the Triton held itself together well outside its comfort zone.
As the winds picked up again I tried the UtraFoil15; but, in big contrast to the weekend by the sea, it was not having any of it. It either did not want to fly in protest or just wanted to go sideways ground skimming. This is a kite that just does not like anything urban or anything other than constant clean wind. Wrapped it up and put it back in the bag, in the naughty corner.
Finally put the temperamental rokkaku up and it love it, straight up, nailed up there in the sky. Camera clicked merrily away. Trouble was the rokkaku loved it too much and decided to stay up and pull my arms out of their sockets for fun. A right old power battle. Thankfully there are some rugby posts in the park and I was able to tie off the line and walk the camera down.
Of all my kites the rokkaku is the one that can be the biggest battle and create the tautest singing line (Dacron Black 110daN). Great lifting in medium winds, but winding it in can sometimes be a lot of stress on the line, reel and my arms. Time for a better walk it down technique. Time to dig out the old Mini Eight, from Rock Exotica (which is hiding somewhere in the house or storage) and allow me to easily tie off the taut line and fasten it down to some fixed park item and then walk the kite, and camera, down. Not sure about wearing a climbing harness in a park, but it might come to that.
I am getting better at reading the wind, but it is not easy and always open to weather changes and the dynamics of the locality.
My first point of assessment is usually the weather apps on my iPhone to see how the weather will work out over the days ahead, the Met Office one being the one I use first, followed by Windfinder. One the day I then look for the usual tell-tale signs, tree tops etc, and finally on the site I use my little cheap anemometer (wind meter). And often, all that is wrong and not what is actually happening at the site and a few meters above me.
One of the things I have learnt that is important… the hard way… is the forecast on gusting, as well as the general wind speed. A big gap between the two numbers, to me, means potential trouble if a kite is initially on the edge of its wind range or an increased risk of the kite doing something fatal.
As said, even with the wind forecast and the signs for the trees, my experience is that many locations can be very different; usually with less wind than forecast, but occasionally the opposite and much stronger. Consequently, I usually take 2-4 kites with me to cover any variation at the location.
I generally use the chart above on choosing the kites to take with me, based on a mix of manufacturers recommendations and my experience. For example, my Didakite’s Rainbow Rokkaku list as flying in Bft 1, but I have never managed it. Plus “flying” is different to “lifting” – a kite may fly, but it won’t always lift. The colour bars, for each kite, are the range I normally fly it in looking for lifting capability; the outline blocks are the manufacturers quoted recommendations for just flying (not lifting).
My general approach, when I get the chance to head out, is to grab:
Light wind, Bft1-2 – The Triton. The Carbon Whirlwind comes out if it looks like no wind at all and I am going out anyway, plus only to lift the GoPro.
Medium wind, Bft 2-4 – The temperamental Rokkaku. Occasionally, if there are two of us, the majestic Cody comes along to look good (the Wildcard has not yet arrived, so not had chance to evaluate).
Strong winds, Bft 4+ – The Trooper, unless I am the coast or somewhere with good constant wind, and then the UltraFoil 15 has a flight.
So, most of the time, I walk out the door, with either a Triton & Rokkaku or a Trooper & Rokkaku in my hand.
The other kites come along for the ride, depending on what takes my fancy and if I am solo or have the support of someone else (usually the press-ganged family).
I have also learnt, from butt-clinching experience, that getting up might be easy, but coming down is less so. This is especially important when I am flying solo. Having now played with these kites in various conditions, I can appreciate the war testimonials from people talking about the difficulty with getting big kites down in strong winds, especially when there is expensive camera gear attached to the line. I now appreciate even more the Trooper (with a tail) in strong winds, which is never a problem hauling down.
I am happy with my kite options for medium and strong winds, it is at the low end where I feel I am missing an option in the stable, especially if I travel. A Dopero seems the answer generally, however, not a great option for travel, where I would look for something to augment the, pack down small, Rokkaku and UltraFoil15. A Fled seems a good option for this, so may look to try one over the next month.
I was musing on my progress with getting IR cameras up in the air and that I haven’t so far. More through choice, than technical challenge, but it has still been an interesting learning experience so far. I have held back putting anything other than my well protected GoPro up as it has taken some time to get the hang of the kites and understand the conditions well enough so that the expensive cameras don’t end up quickly in bits.
Initially, primarily with my poor mistreated delta (the Dan Leigh Trooper) the crashes were frequent, especially flying without a tail; however, now my success rate is pretty crash free, which has been more about judging the conditions correctly (and learning to walk away), than expert kite control.
So, some things learnt so far:
- Getting used the kites and conditions has been invaluable,
- Gloves are essential with handling the line – one friction line burn was enough to get it.
- Parks, with close trees, make for difficult places to fly.
- Unless I have constant clean wind, I would rather use a frame/sparred kite than a soft foil. You only have to watch a foil collapse mid-air once to appreciate the issue.
- All my kites seem to be better with a tail – I now always have a 16ft tail in my field bag.
- I prefer using my homemade pendulum, to my pivacat. The picavet gets fiddly to attach when I am on my own and gets flayed around too much in difficult wind situations.
- I generally take at least two kites with me now, when I go out. I take the general wind/weather forecast as rough estimate, which is often wrong for the actual location – with two kites of different wind-range, I can usually cover the actual location.
- My rokkaku (or rather my skill with it) has been a real PITA – it has been like dealing with a diva opera singer – when it hit the right note, it knocks your socks off (pulls like a freight train), but more often than not, it chooses not to sing ! They may not lift as much, but starting with deltas is much easier.
- With trips away, and less predictability, three kites has been sufficient to cover potential wind ranges.
- I am still undecided on the use of swivels – I can the argument not to, but can also see the potential benefit of less impact on the line holding the camera.
Re the KAP kites I have to play with (borrowed or owned):
- The ITW Triton, which came to me secondhand, demands a tail otherwise it overflies; however, with one on it is a good light wind lifter. My first choice for light winds. Packs down well and easy to transport, which is a bonus.
- The Dan Leigh Trooper, like the Triton, also demands a tail but more for stability and slowing the aerial sports down. Great for good to strong winds and my go-to when the wind picks up. Easy to assemble and handle on my own; however, a big (long) kite to transport and not easy to travel with.
- The ITW UltraFoil 15 has not been flown much, as I have not had much strong clean wind to work with. Like all foils, it is easy to fold down and travel with so hope to use it more over the summer when away.
- The Didakite’s Cody 30 looks very majestic and is a very stable mid-wind flier. Fits nicely between the ranges of the Triton and Trooper, but does not lift as strong as the Rokkaku. Assembling it initially was tricky, but the elastic band trick (see previous post) has made it now a doddle; however, it is much easier with two people. I suspect that the Rokkaku will displace it for mid-winds over time.
- The Didakite’s Rainbow Rokakku, which also came to me secondhand, initially would not fly at all. After re-brindling it, which was probably more about me understanding how it worked than how it was initially set-up, has flown well and is a very strong lifter. Can be packed down small, if all the spars are take apart, which makes travelling with it easier.
- The Dan Leigh Lightweight Carbon Whirlwind has not been flown much as it is a very light wind kite with a small wind-range. When the conditions are right it is lovely to see it fly, however, the Triton has a little more range to work with. I will probably keep the Whirlwind more for fun, than KAP.
- On order is a Dan Leigh Wildcard (yes, I like Deltas)
It is very early days, and I have a lot still to learn, but if I was to grab just one kite to run out of the house with, for the quick fix, it would be the Dan Leigh Trooper – it may not pull/lift as much as the rokkaku or foil, but it is a darn-sight easier to fly with.
Next, when we have some good wind, the full rig goes up with the 660nm infrared Olympus PM2.
After Bexhill on Sea we moved on to Hastings, which also proved a joy with constant wind off the beach; however, the overlooking West Hill proved more variable, but still good.
Flew the (repaired) Cody off the beach, as the wind had picked up to around a constant 10-12mph. Lifted perfectly and was as usual very steady, again using a shortish (12ft) tail.
With the weather turning the second site was at the top of the West Hill. The quaint victorian cliff railway takes you up the hill to a big open park area, which has the sea wind coming over it.
A lesson to learn for me – on the top of the hill the wind was a light 8mph (checked on the ever helpful anemometer), however, as soon as the kite was 10m up the wind became a lot stronger and the Triton was not happy under the stress. The Cody would have been more in its element and should have been the kite I put up. Quickly hauled the Triton down, not wanting it to break, but did manage to get a few shots from the short time it was up, with the weather turning.
Location: Hastings Beach & West Hill
The first time flying at the beach and, wow, what a difference from learning in difficult parks. Lovely consistent breeze. Flew both the Triton and the Cody straight up out of hand and straight back to hand. Marvelous.
First up was the Triton at Bexhill on Sea beach, by the Sovereign Light cafe in a steady 4-6pmh light breeze. As usual, needed a shortish fuzzy tail to stop it overflying. Lifted the GoPro, on the wire pendulum, with ease. Very stable, a joy to handle.
My son easily holding the Triton (and other members of family in support :-> )
The shadow of the Triton on the beach
Location: Bexhill on Sea (Sovereign Light cafe)
After a few simple no-camera test flights, I got a chance to fly the Triton properly, with a GoPro on my wire pendulum, and am impressed. Flew from Chobham Nature Reserve, not an easy place to fly from, given the wide cover of gorse bush.
I was warned that the Triton is a kite with a tendency to overfly and I can confirm this; however, with a short fuzzy tail on it (as shown), it flies fine. Very stable, with excellent pull in light winds – lifted my GoPro and wire pendulum with no issue in 4pm’ish winds. Straight up out of the hand and easy to reel back to hand.
Tried the Cody in the same wind and got nowhere near the same lift. The Cody needs really Bft 3 to lift well, whereas the Triton is very happy below that.