Kites Capable of Flying Off-wind?

edited October 2010 in Technique
Hi folks -

For some time now, I have been searching the discussions to glean information on kite flying characteristics and capabilities. This blog is a Treasure Chest of information, and knowledge abounds here! The discussions led me to my first purchase for a strong, stable, LOW wind KAP rig platform: my Fled. A terrific choice for where I live (South Carolina) and for my generally confined spaces. But now I need to get my next kite, and it has to do something speacial in addition to being a strong, stable, relatively high angle flyer: IT SHOULD BE CAPABLE OF FLYING IN AN OFF-WIND DIRECTION, somewhat like a sailboat that tacks.

Like many folks in these discussions, I have walked along a shore with the wind blowing parallel to the water's edge, and there is something like an old fort that I want to shoot from an over-the-water point of view. The Nighthawk from is a delta that can do that to the extreme - like 40 degrees off-wind.

So here is my discussion point: Which kites are stable enough for KAP and can be adjusted at times to fly at something of an angle to the wind direction by adjusting balance, weight, bridle or ... ? Does anyone have experience or success trying this challenge in moderate wind, Bft 3 to 5 ... or more...or less?

Thanks for any comments - Phil


  • I've flown the Flow Form 16 off wind by tweaking the bridles and moving the tail to the side, but nothing like 40 degrees.
  • edited November 2010

    While not that common with Kapers, tacking is commonly used with fishing kites to place long lines over selected reefs for fishing.

    A Skyhook Kite Sail is attached to the line below the kite to direct (pull) the kite line up wind.

    See link and information here.


  • anyone played with trimming kite position using RC? for instance moving the tail or even adjusting bridle while maintaining the simplicity of the single line operation?
  • The instructions for the Paul's Fishing Kite suggest that you can "tie a screwed up plastic shopping bag" to a line attached to the end of a wing to pull it to one side. Keep meaning to try this but have not needed to since I got the kite.

  • The fishing kite people are the experts. It took me a while to figure out why they were selling extra bits of fabric that doesn't provide lift.
  • Broox - what kind of angle have you been able to maintain - say, 15 degress or so?

    That would actually be pretty good, considering the lower flying angle flowforms have with the gound -- thus you could of course be over the water significantly more than a high angle kite, even a little off-wind, yes?

    Also, could this be done with the Levitation delta - somehow adjusted for slightly lower angle AND off-wind? Roks too, maybe?
  • Phil, I haven't done much experimentation with this. Yes, probably 15 degrees is doable with the Flow Form.

    There's not much to adjust on the Levitation delta, for either parameter.
  • Wow. For me, this is a whole new way of thinking about kites. Given that many of the sites I photograph are coastal, this technique could be extremely useful. Something new to practice.

    I've also been thinking quite a bit about attempting a kite train. The SkyHook strikes me as something like a simple kite train, but one that can be used to alter the direction that the kite flies. It also seems that the SkyHook can be flown under just about any kind of kite. Am I reading this correctly? Thanks to AerialLensGuy for starting a very interesting thread, and thanks to all those who have written in with interesting replies. Thread bookmarked.

  • theonecalledtom
    anyone played with trimming kite position using RC? for instance moving the tail or even adjusting bridle while maintaining the simplicity of the single line operation?
    I actually used to have a RC hang glider that would launch like a kite, and when you reached altitude, you'd hit a button which would release the glider from the line. The line had a little pod with a parachute, so you could easily track it down. To steer the glider, there was a ballast that would swing left or right in response to your input on the controller.

    The glider was really nothing more than a small delta kite with ballast on the bottom. So I'd be willing to bet that what you're questioning is very possible.
  • Thanks for all the input so far - this really helps! The idea of RC is really interesting but the dynamic capability might not be needed. By that I mean if you are aware of the challenge/wind direction at the time of launch, it may not be necessary to change anything once you are up and off-wind...unless of course the wind changes during the flight. Still, an awesome idea that shows "thinking outside the box."

    Has anyone seen a video or photo - or even an illustration - of how Paul's Skyhook can alter the position of a kite? The site refers to this, as well as the main use of the Skyhook (light wind aid), but I cannot find anything that shows how it works. Anybody seen one work?

    Here is a crazy question - showing off my ignorance now - would the Skyhook work to set a 6 foot Rokkaku off-wind in conjunction with setting the Rok's AOA for a lower angle relative to the ground. I would not want to lose the Rok's lift, but the normal flying almost overhead would of course miss the whole point (of tacking out over the water or other feature). Sorry if that is confusing.

    Main question for now is, has anyone seen the Skyhook in action?
  • Interesting discussion. The amount of trim required to achieve a desired tack angle is dependent on the wind speed. A bridle setting or an unbalanced drag applied to one side of the kite that results 15 degrees of tack at a given wind speed, may result in undesired performance (i.e. looping or overflying to the left or right) in higher wind speeds or gusty conditions, so adjustments should be made carefully in small increments until the desired tack is achieved.

    Having radio control of the trim would be great. Another potential approach would be to add some type of adjustable, limited authority spoiler (or aileron or rudder) to the kite itself. These types of surfaces may require less energy to control than would be required to change the bridle position itself.
  • edited October 2010
    Phil, if I may nitpick: I think you mean a lower 'string angle', not 'angle of attack', which is the angle of the kite's surface to the wind.

    My experiment with the Flow Form 16 consisted of tying a knot in one of the side bridle lines to shorten it an inch or so, and perhaps moving the fuzzy tail to the outside corner (can't remember that part).

    Here's the picture I was after; as you can see, not much offset, but enough to see some of the side of the ship:

    Spirit of 98
  • edited October 2010
    Thanks, Broox - of course you are correct - sorry. By the way, FANTASTIC picture of the ship! Maybe the Flowform has potential for this sideward technique after all.

    I still cannot find any photos of the Skyhook used for tacking out, but if it pulls strongly, couldn't it be located somewhere below the camera rig? The progression on the line from the ground would be Kite flyer (or stake) then Skyhook then camera rig then kite. If the cross wind vector from the Skyhook were strong enough, it would produce the tack angle and then the line from it to the kite would be with the wind. Any thoughts?

    Sure wish there were some skyhook-in-action photos out there.
  • edited October 2010
    Hi, I did a Google video search for "Kite fishing" and found this link:

    My first thought, it does not look very stable with the added "sail" flying around the line.

  • I would recommend a rokkaku for flying "off wind". After all, these kites are used for kitefights in Japan between two teams on both sides of a river.
    After some bridle adjustments I have flown a rokkaku approx. 15 degrees "off wind". Be careful though, you need a gentle breeze, a windgust will put you're kite in a slow but deep dive in the "off wind" direction. (In you're case the ocean..)
  • Thanks guys - I have written to Paul's Fishing Kites to inquire about the capabilities of their kites and sails, and maybe some practical videos or photos.

    The Rokkaku sounds great, but the requirement of a gentle breeze kind of takes it out -- I need this to work in moderate wind of say 10 to 20+ mph. Perhaps if an intermediate kite were set up down the line to pull it out at a sideward angle, and the Rok above that (as in discussion above)? Maybe do-able?

    Your suggestions are really appreciated here.
  • This is probably a very risky solution, but what about the option of a two-line stunt kite? I've attached micro camcorders to mine with zero effect on the flight properties. Of course your average point n' shoot camera will be considerably heavier, but with the right combination of kite and wind, you might be able to sneak the camera into position?
  • Any idea how much de-centering you need in a rokkaku bridle to make it go off the wind like this?

    I'm kinda laughing as I write this. I've been absolutely paranoid about centering the bridle on my rokkaku, and I fought my G-Kites Dopero for several months because it kept flying off the wind every time I went out. I finally traced it to a number of asymmetries in the sail, mostly in pockets whose stitching had started to go. An afternoon spent with needle and thread fixed most of this. I found it to be extremely sensitive to symmetry. So I was extremely careful to try to get it as symmetric as possible. I can see the utility in having a kite that can predictably fly off the wind by a good margin, but it's funny how much time I spent trying to counteract exactly what's being asked for!

    But if the offset numbers aren't too wild or too unpredictable, I wonder if I could mark the bridle on my rokkaku for left-center-right and dial an offset on the ground prior to launch. There's a subject I've never been able to photograph for just the reasons stated. I wouldn't need a huge offset, maybe 10 degrees to the right. But without an offset the only way to get over the subject is with close to 2000' of line and a low-angle kite. Compare that to a normal 300' line length on an offset kite, and you can see the attraction.

    10-20mph wind sounds like healthy conditions for a Flow Form. Brooks, I think I'd like to try the knot in the bridle line and offsetting the tail trick. It's howling tradewinds right now, so it's good conditions to test in. Hey, maybe I could fly a FF8 and a FF16 from the same hand and not risk a collision!

  • edited October 2010
    Wow, Benedict, thanks for the ideas. In my vast LACK of experience, would it work at all to put fuzzy tails on one side of a rokkaku? Seems like it would tack it a little to the side, perhaps without dancing all over. I do want to be able to anchor whatever kite we come up with, not fight it.

    Kind of like this? Can someone give it a try?
  • I actually like the PFK Skyhook arrangement. I have flow kites (mostly deltas or ROKs) with adjustments to the wings or bridles to introduce asymmetrical flight conditions to either correct a poor flying characteristic or to move a kite off the wind center line. If the wind changes speeds this can throw the balanced flight off and cause the kite to dive. The Skyhook arrangement - you can keep a stable kite (that will stay stable under a wide wind range) and let the Skyhook do the work to move the kite line off the wind center line.
  • No chance to test this here right now. The tradewinds did come back, and now we're getting 40+MPH gusts through town. Too fast for me. Aaaah, to have a PFK...

  • edited October 2010
    Wind Watcher, what were you able to accomplish on the Rok before it would become unstable? Also, how low and what orientation have you tried the Skyhook. I did get an email reply from PFK, but it was not specific on the tacking use of the Skyhook, and had no references other than offering an instructional DVD sold on their site. They offered the (about $12 + $12 shipping USD) DVD about kite fishing that might explain various ways to configure the Skyhook.

    It is very cool that you have done this -- any notes or pictures or memories you could share?
  • Ahh! I just received another email from Paul's:

    "The skyhook is like a jib on a yacht. It provides extra power in light winds and provides the fishing power needed when tacking the kite.
    You can tack the kite and the skyhook, or just the kite. Tacking just the skyhook does not do much at all.
    The kite MUST be flown with the skyhook, the skyhook cannot be flown on its own without the kite."

    So, there you go. The Skyhook really needs to be within a few feet of the kite and it cannot power the kite off-wind by itself. Hmmmm.

    So, I guess it is going to be bridle adjustment and/or tails, depending on the lifter.
  • edited October 2010
    Let me rephrase the original question, then. Can a kite other than a PFK Nighthawk delta be flown stably off-wind by altering bridling or by adding off center weights or tails? Can someone with moderate wind give it a go and share observations?

    I did roughly put components of a Rok through the online NASA Foilsim III graphic calculatior using zero/thin airfoils ("eliptical" in program) and varing the angles for the main panels at about 15mph (It is cool. see at If I did it right it looks like -- when tacking -- one side of the rok gets both drag and lift and the other gets almost all drag if a certain off-wind angle is exceeded. This interactive online graphing program is for wings (airfoil, eliptical or whatever), not kites, so who knows.

    There has to be an answer in addition to using a Nighthawk.
  • I'm planning to get out Saturday morning and Sunday afternoon this weekend. I'll give it a go with both a rokkaku and a Flow Form 16, if I can find conditions to play in.

  • Really looking forward to that - thank you very much in advance.

    Although this is a serious subject, I thought of something humorous in case you wanted to try tails but had none -- wiffle balls! Ha.


  • edited October 2010
    The first kite I build (a Conyne) wasn
  • edited October 2010
    Hello, FlyingFool - Thanks for bringing the DC into the conversation.

    I had earlier considered a 9 to 11 ft delta conyne, but became concerned with two things, although I have zero experience with these. (1) I read they have a strong tendancy to dive at times, particularly after going too far overhead. (2) It also seems, by looking at some comments -- paticularly Mike LeDuc's video database set on Flickr -- they do not pull very hard relative to other kites in moderate wind. I DO like how they can hang in a lull, however. I have no clue if that sounds correct to you. Please comment if you have seen it behave differently.

    In any case, thank you for mentioning the off-wind behavior of the DC you have. Did you find exactly what initially threw yours off balance? I have heard it can be a problem with either the bridle or the lay of the fabric not being symmetrical.

    Either way, I am leaning toward the 7 foot Rokkaku or a Flowform 16 unless someone finds a good stable wind tack is just not possible. If that occurs, then the DC could be an answer. One thing for certain in my region is that wind is often variable (e.g., 12-15mph maybe with small gusts), not super steady. I hope I am not asking the impossible (improbable?).
  • I know these weren't directed toward me, but my preferred kite is the 10ft. Alpine DC from Into The Wind, so I'll chime in...
    (1) I read they have a strong tendancy to dive at times, particularly after going too far overhead.
    Mine has NEVER dived, though it definitely can overfly. This is easily fixed by adjusting the position of the pigtail on the bridle; move it back, the kite doesn't soar as high. I find that flying with 2 fuzzy tails on the inner attachment points in conjunction with small (.25 inch) pigtail adjustments allows me to fine tune the angle at which it flies.
    (2) It also seems, by looking at some comments -- paticularly Mike LeDuc's video database set on Flickr -- they do not pull very hard relative to other kites in moderate wind. I DO like how they can hang in a lull, however. I have no clue if that sounds correct to you. Please comment if you have seen it behave differently.
    I prefer to fly mine when the wind forecast is 10-15MPH, and I gotta say, it has no problems whatsoever lifting my HoBEAK rig and Canon Powershot A590. It doesn't pull so hard that you have to wrestle with it, but it takes my rig up with ease. And yeah, when the wind dies down, it gently glides, it doesn't drop like a brick.

    I should add too, as this has just occurred to me, but back to the original topic... I have actually found that my DC does have a tendency to fly to the side if one of the leading edge spars is NOT pushed all the way to the front. It's never been off-center enough that I feared it would dive, but it was noticeably off-center. I don't know if that's a common trait with DC's or delta-shaped kites in general, but one suggestion that's often given to correct off-center flight with DC's is to make sure the spars are pushed all the way front.
  • edited October 2010
    Keep in mind that the Delta Conyne I videoed has a 7.5 ft wing span, so it's pull will naturally be less than that of a larger kite.

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