Kites Capable of Flying Off-wind?



  • edited October 2010
    The kite I mentioned was a Conyne, not a DC. It never did overfly because it doesn
  • edited October 2010
    fnf - I may have it backwards but I thought fairly recent discussion here stated that the wing spars were to be pushed to the tips of the wings. To allow
    flex at the front....someone please correct if I've got it wrong.

    FF -won't cotton " breathe " too much, be too permeable, not " hold " the wind....?

    PS - check under " Kites - delta wing flutter ". Just looked back.

    Brooks: Thanks for the link tips. Will try next time. Too early on a Sunday morning....
  • edited October 2010
    @ Paul: It's a very tight woven, thick cotton. As I intend to use it from 5 Beaufort up I think a little 'breath' won't be a problem. I figure what was good enough for George Lawrence should do me fine too. I'm not sure yet I'll ever put a camera on the string though, it'll have to prove itself first.
  • edited November 2010
    Hi all,

    Great subject!

    I haven't read all comments here, but I once used my 8' Rokkaku to KAP a specific subject. The wind and the launch site were not in my favour so the only way I could get my kite where I wanted it was either wait for better conditions or make it getting there by making the the upper bridle asymmetrical. Worked just fine.

    The only person I've ever seen using the Skyhook is Gerrit Bart. He used it together with a PFK delta. This way he shot all material for his 1st KAP book over his island Terschelling. Indeed, it only adds lifting power. It cannot be tuned to get the kite somewhere else.

    You can see the PFK delta/Skyhook in action in this page: Scroll down halfways. There are two pics.

  • As far as I can tell tacking off wind can be controlled by having an asymmetric bridle, creating drag on one wing, adding weight to one wing, etc.

    As you get further off wind you loose lifting power and tension. I think this is where people argue that the Skyhook becomes useful for tacking. Keeps your line useful for lifting and your kite out of the water.
  • Paul Costelloe - You might be right about that. I don't remember for sure, but I always make sure to move the spars all the way forward, and that guarantees straight flight for me. At least with the Alpine DC, the spars are slid in from the wing tips. So I find it's easier to find symmetry by sliding the spars all the way forward than trying to match it at the wing tips.
  • @ fnffishcore: I don't have a DC myself but I'm pretty sure the spars should go all the way BACK, like in a delta. There's no need to match anything at the wing-tips, if the kite is symmetrical as it's supposed to be it'll match itself.
  • Correct. Push the spars all the way to the wingtips. There needs to be flexibility at the nose of the kite.

    Regarding cotton, I've read that open weave can provide stability. I've used patterned bedsheets for kites many times -- they fly great, and I recall thinking at the time that indeed they fly better than those made with nylon. D-C or Conyne would both be good in cotton.

    The papagallo fighting kite of Rio de Janeiro is made of a cotton so open it looks like mesh. Flies great!
  • I got out yesterday and flew my rokkaku, but it wasn't a great location for testing something that might cause a kite to go down. (I was flying over private property, and there were protected habitats underneath my kite and rig.) Going out again today in about half an hour, and it looks like I should have at least one spot I can stop and fly a pair of kites. One will be unmodified, one will be modified. I'll try to catch stills and video of the two in action. If fortune smiles, photos to come.


    P.S. The KAP flight yesterday is my first KAP since WWKW 2010, and my first since getting cleared of the pneumonia that wreaked havoc on my WWKW this year. MAN am I out of shape!! I never really thought of KAP as a conditioning sport, but in truth it is. My winding arm is zonked. But the pictures looked good.
  • edited October 2010
    I got out and gave this a try. The results are good!

    Offset Flying

    The first test used a Flow Form 8 as the baseline kite, and a Flow Form 16 as the test kite. I didn't try any tail offsets, but I took up as much as 2.5" of bridle on one side of the Flow Form 16 and it still flew almost right on top of the Flow Form 8. It's nice to see how little the orientation of the FF16 depends on bridle symmetry. (I make sure mine is symmetric, anyway.) I think a tail offset would change this, but it's not something I've tested.

    Next I put the FF16 up as the baseline kite and tried using Ramon's trick on my rokkaku. Before doing offsets I flew it in "normal" mode and found it flew just slightly to the right of the FF16. Then I did a 2" offset to the left of center on the upper bridle Y, then a 2" offset to the right of center on the upper bridle Y. Those two pictures are shown above. In all cases all kites were flying on 200' of line. The dimensions of the rokkaku are 5'x6'. Popping all this into CAD, I got an offset of 20.7 degrees to the left, and 24.8 degrees to the right. I'm taking this as a more or less 20 degree offset for a 2" change on the bridle.

    I haven't had a chance to test this in any sort of rigorous way, or to get any kind of scaling for how much offset on the bridle gives you how much offset on the sky. But I'd say the rokkaku falls solidly into the category of kites that can fly off the wind.

  • Very nice work,Tom! This knowledge should come in handy down the road.
  • edited October 2010
    Tom - That is simply FANTASTIC! Much praise and commendation for your efforts to set this up, especially after being ill, waiting for tradewinds to die down, etc. I'm willing to bet that everyone -- not just me -- appreciates this. It appears this is new territory which I know will be useful in situations related to this topic. Great job!

    I'm sure a well known North Carolina kite maker does not mind me sharing his opinion that a Rokkaku is a "Swiss Army Knife" of KAP kites. This evidence certainly appears to shape up in that direction.
  • A South African kite company that claims to be able to get 70 degrees off wind either direction:

    They don't really describe the tacking adjustment and I suppose the kite must fly quite low if it's 70 degrees off wind, but it would be interesting to hear more details.
  • @Benedict: Great results so far, Tom!

    An option you might want to try is to shorten BOTH bridles on ONE side. It should translate the Rok to that side. I tried this myself Saturday, but got no clear results (week wind, bad location, no reference kite). After all that's how you would steer the kite if it had two lines... This way of trimming might give less reason for looping than changing just one bridle (less asymmetry)? At least, thats how I would feel about it if I was a kite ;-)

    I'm just guessing, of course... Thank you for your field tests!
  • Tgran, thats an interesting link to the fishing kite, as you say not enough details even as a sales website. I would guess that its not height but distance down wind thats important with kite fishing. Read low angle. As an occasional surf casting fisherman, 300m plus is impressive. To be able to control a kite that far from directly down wind could also be useful at times, 70 degrees either side seems a lot? Could a kite maintain enough lift to KAP at those angles?
  • The "Muller's Seagull Kite" is interesting, but you are right about the website - needs some work for sure.

    I DID find a fellow's comment on the kite with some very revealing photos, however. It appears from the first photo that a line along the side of this kite may have something to do with its tacking setup. (See the photos at Still a lot of unknowns of course.

    This is getting even more interesting.
  • Arrrr! It looks like it tackes to the side as the flier pulls the line. It does not stay there as as soon as you release the fishing line the kite moves back to the down wind position. So its a bit like a stunt kite, tacking from side to side but not sitting still enough to KAP????
  • edited November 2010
    If found a tip we might use IF we ever find out how to 'tack' these kiwi delta's ;-)

    "Kitefishers can really benefit from practising tacking in good clear air in a park. By doing this you can wind up with a variety of tack ropes, tested and labelled for different tacks and wind speeds. This can make life so much easier when you get to the beach. You simply put the kite up with the appropriate tacking rope for the conditions and away you go!"

    Edit: @Puffin: I think the tacking line goes from the wingtip to an attachment point a bit lower on the line, and that you have to attach something to to that line to cause drag? I'll experiment with this on my PFK when weather and time allow...
  • Came across this on Youtube from PFK. Video shows kite fishing up close. Near the end of the video it shows a Nighthawk kite with a weight attached to the right wing tip to tack the kite off the wind center line. Simple and easy. I have done similar tricks with my PFK deltas. Works well.

  • edited November 2010
    Thanks WW - that is really cool. Man, the fishermen can get into some intense conditions. Admirable.

    After seeing Tom's great success, I was definately intrigued that to set up a Rok the kiteflyer could simply mark the bridle for the flight needed and quickly set up for tack that way. Then, I got to wondering if there were other ways as well to do the same sort of thing with a quick setup, and came up with a possibly goofy idea of adding 2 lose dangling lines where the spars cross at the center (tied to center on one end only until needed) and then securing these only as needed on either side to set more of bow/bend into the spars on the right or the left.


    While kites are more dependent on drag and the way wind is spilled from he sails, maybe this would also work to shift the kite off wind. Ahhh, more experiments. I know, maybe thinking TOO far outside of the box.
  • I don't think you're too far outside the box. I figure if you come up with an idea, can demonstrate that it works and that it creates stable flying conditions for the kite, it's fair game. Every new tool or technique we can stash away in our KAP bags or our KAP brains is a new tool we can employ in the field when conditions warrant it. It makes KAP more versatile. Fair game.

    For my part, I'd like to play with offsetting the FF16's tail as Brooks did, and I'd like a good two hour session with my rokkaku to try to calibrate a scale of bridle offsets and sky offsets. I get the feeling it won't necessarily translate to other rokkakus unless they're bridled identically to mine. But if that means I can stick a little laminated card in my bag with a table of offsets, that's pretty darned sweet. This weekend is looking good for more tests.

    There are two flying conditions here where having this available would be a boon: A common coastal condition is to have the wind blowing straight down the coast, especially between Kiholo Bay and Kua Bay. Being able to offset the camera out over the water and aim back toward shore makes for a whole set of nice photographs I'd like to make. The second is my as yet unrealized dream of flying a camera over the active vent in the Halemaumau Crater on Kilauea. With even a 15 degree offset, it can be done on 1000' of line, and with some finagling and a little more offset it can happen well under 500' of altitude. Without offsets the prevailing winds make it so the KAPer needs to be about 2500' upwind. I've got 3000' of line available, but this is not my idea of a good time. Not that I have permission to do this yet, but I'd hate for that to come through and be unable to take advantage of it.

    So thanks again for starting this thread and exploring well outside the box. Seriously cool stuff.

  • edited November 2010
    Really looking forward to hearing what happens on the Flowform.

    Here is a dumb question - Why do you need permission regarding the kite at Halemaumau Crater? I am guessing tour helicopter safety???

    Anyway, I am really now leaning toward the Rokkaku, but waiting to see if you can go even further off-wind. Thanks for all your input -- it is an education.
  • Sorry, I didn't get to fly over the weekend. Combination of lousy winds and lots of laundry and house cleaning to be done. Here's hoping for later in the week.

    Halemaumau Crater is inside Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. As far as I've been able to tell, the right to fly kites in a national park is entirely at the discretion of the park's director. The director at Volcanoes has told me I am not to fly kites in the park. But I've had a couple of leads on getting permission to fly since then. Unfortunately nothing solid enough to fly with, so to speak. I get the feeling it's partly helicopter safety, and partly that if a kite goes down it can't be retrieved. So it becomes litter. Big fines for littering in the national parks.

    The only other national park on the island is Puuhonua o Honaunau National Historical Park, or Place of Refuge. I asked there, too, and the answer is also no. In this case the reason is a lot more direct: the entire park is a historically sensitive site. Damage done to structures in the park is permanent, and the structures are irreplaceable. So this makes perfect sense to me. Of course I found you could fly from a boat dock about a hundred yards from the park, get a great angle on the park itself, and never put kite or rig over park land at all. So no risk to the structures and you can still get oblique angles on it. The one time I tried, though, the wind was too light to pull it off. Ah well.

    I'll let you know as soon as I can do the tail tests with the Flow Form, and as soon as I find the limits of how far the rokkaku can go off-wind.

  • edited November 2010
    I wonder if kite mods are really the way to go? Introducing asymmetry into the kite or tail arrangement will certainly make it fly to one side, but it will also push it closer to the edge of it's stable envelope, degrading it's performance and making it more likely to fall off the wind and power dive down.

    To my simple mind, the only right way to do this for KAP is to deflect the line with a sail part way down the line as described earlier. At least doing this does nothing to degrade the performance, and more importantly, the recovery capacity of the kite. It dog-legs the line in the sky but the kite flies and feels the wind unencumbered.

  • I don't think any of these techniques come for free. It's kind of like driving a car. You've got X amount of acceleration the car can take before the tires lose traction. You can spend that cornering, or braking, or accelerating, or some combination of the three. But everything you do to the car reduces its safe window of operation. Push beyond that and you're in a skid.

    I agree that deflecting a kite by making it asymmetric carries with it penalties. While I was still having issues with my Dopero, I often saw it 75-80 degrees off the wind. It had practically no surplus lift, and I doubt it would've survived a change in wind direction. I'd like to test the rokkaku and the Flow Form and see how far off the wind I can push them before they simply won't fly any more. It lets me know how wide that envelope actually is. My guess is the Flow Form won't tolerate being pushed more than 40-45 degrees off wind, and the rokkaku will take up to about 70-75 degrees. Which tells me 10 degrees may not be too bad for the Flow Form, and 20 might not be too bad for the rokkaku. But I won't know until I try, and I certainly won't hang a camera from either one until I do.

    Deflecting using a sail will still carry with it penalties. If nothing else, you're carrying additional weight on the line. That's pushing the envelope in a different axis, but it's still pushing it. You're applying lateral forces to the line by adding a second aerodynamic device to it. Recovery may be more complicated in case the kite does go off in a strange direction since you're flying two sails instead of one. And line forces will still add. I'd like to see this technique tested to the point where the kite/sail combination won't fly any more, just so we know what the limits are.

    I don't think either of these methods is as simple and straightforward as it seems at first glance. I expect there will be gotchas with each of them. The safest path would be to fly the kite directly downwind at all times. But then again, the safest path would be to fly the kite at the center of its wind range and not go too high or too low, even if it will still lift a camera. Flying toward the edge of a kite's wind speed range puts it closer to the edge of its stable envelope, after all. Come to think of it, the safest path wouldn't be to hang a camera on the line because even that will degrade the performance of the kite. We're always pushing the envelope every time we hang a camera on a kite line. The question is how much we can push it and still bring everything down safely at the end of the flight.

  • This whole subject, as a subset of KAP and kiteflying in general, has become extremely interesting -- much more than I ever anticipated. Tom, your efforts and explanations would no doubt inspire both Mario Andretti and Leonardo Davinci. So would others'. You guys are the greatest.

    I cannot wait for whatever comes next from each contributor. Many thanks for all the input!
  • edited November 2010
    My understanding of the skyhook is that it is the inverse of what Simon is suggesting. A stable sail part way down the line that helps keep the main tacking kite up in the air where it can recover from small dives and wobbles without hitting the ocean.

    I have limited experience with kite trains so I don't have a great feel for which is better. My instinct is that Simon's train of thought is going to lead to more stability under gusty conditions.
  • Just to be clear, I'm really not advocating any one method over another. I just think it's cool that it's possible to tack a kite off wind! Simon, I am interested in the tacking sail on the line, the way you described. I don't have a way to play with this myself, so I'm curious to see what results can be had with it. Every trick in the bag is a solution for a roadblock that might come up down the road. It's all fair game.

  • I tried to fly my fled yesterday and it worked to some degree. By that, I mean it was still very stable with the simple bridle on one side taken up - to about 4 inches - but continued to fly at such a high angle that the off-wind angle did not net out to more than, say 15 degrees.

    Wind was smooth and 10mph+ and height was perhaps 300 ft (yipes! it does pull pretty hard). Sorry I was not being nearly as scientific as I should. Still have high hopes for the Rokkaku and the Flowform.
  • I had a flight yesterday, too. It was urban KAP with more ground hazards than I like to work with. The wind direction just barely let me get the angle I needed to get over the subject. Simon, just for the sake of argument I did the mental exercise of asking myself if I'd put up my rokkaku with an offset bridle to tack it into an angle that gave me more room to work.

    In short, the answer was no. Like you said, offsetting the bridle like that does compress the flight envelope of the kite. The camera was over a playground, and the kite was out over a street. I knew it was safe for the kite I chose (Fled) and the conditions (dead smack in the middle of its wind range, and a nice steady wind) as long as I kept the flight short, to the point, and was ready to bail at any time. Everything came off without a hitch. But push comes to shove, I wasn't willing to tack a kite to improve the working conditions. Maybe once I've tried an offset bridle for a couple of years and have seen it work AND seen it fail. Maybe then I'd trust it. But not yet.

    I'm still not convinced the tacking jib downline from the kite is any safer, but I do take your point that this isn't to be taken lightly. Good on ya. Thanks for raising the red flag, Simon.

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