The Dowel Dopero Kite

Eventful! Pelicans, Failed Tape, ...

Gusty moderate winds almost prevented us flying the Dowel Dopero kite, but a good flight eventuated anyway. Immediately after pulling up in the car, it was clear there was no point in trying to fly the light-wind Dopero immediately.

The Dowel Dopero kite in flight.

Thermals were popping and although the wind was moderate, the gusts seemed quite fresh as they tossed around the surrounding leafy tree tops.

Hence we just waited for 1/2 an hour or so, after which a big blue hole moved overhead.

The active cumulus clouds were drifting away to the West and starting to die off, losing their puffy whiteness.

With this, the wind became less gusty and the average wind strength seemed to drop a little too. Good!

Within half a minute of stepping out of the car, I was surprised to see 4 shadows flit across the grass, very close to where we were.

Looking up, there they were - 4 pelicans in a partial V formation, heading South. Incredible soaring birds, but on this occasion they were all flapping. Not for too long, I suspect, but we never saw the pelicans again.

The Dowel Dopero kite launched easily, but we had a little trouble when one of the vertical spars slipped from its corner tape. The air was still a bit rough! Never mind, it was a good opportunity to fiddle with the bridle a little before we re-launched.

I slipped the towing point back a touch to put more tension on the keel lines. Also, one of the bridle loop knots was way off center, so that was fixed by sliding it across a centimeter (1/2") or so.

This time, all went well, and the kite was soon flying on a short line while a few photos were taken. After letting out another 10 or 20 meters of line, I zoomed in for a couple of short videos. About a minute in total. Unfortunately, there was just a featureless pale blue sky as the background this time.

Climbing the kite further was a bit slow, since there was quite a lot of tension on the winder. Despite my experience of the last few years, I almost copped a couple of small line-burns on my finger!

Once in a while the Dopero would send long ripples down the line as it's tail wagged in the fresher gusts.

The Dowel Dopero kite flew at around 200 feet for a while, and tended to track a long way left and right when under pressure. Now, as most kite fliers know, a single-line kite will generally go in just one direction every time it gets over-powered by a stiff breeze. Maybe the flexible keels were sitting one way or the other, to cause this behavior. Maybe it remained in perfect trim, but was bordering on instability due to the wind strength...

Finally, after more cautious letting out of line, the Dowel Dopero kite arrived at just over 300 feet.

The kite seemed nicely trimmed, but was pulling strongly most of the time. Despite the blue sky, it wasn't totally devoid of thermals. At one point, the kite was pushed right up to 70 or 80 degrees of line angle, with the flying line slightly bowed out in 2 different directions.

Not long after this, the wind strength picked up a little more, and the Dopero was forced lower. At first I thought it was just flying in sinking air, as sometimes happens. However, the struggling kite just stayed down there at around a 45 degree angle. The pull on the line reflected the stress it was under.

At one moment I saw a huge bow appear in the trailing edge of the upper sail. How something didn't rip or pull out, I don't know!

Eventually, all this air pressure took its toll, and a tape spar cap was pulled loose. With maybe 10 or 15% of the sail area gone on one side, the poor kite heaved over to the right, and commenced a continuous loop. There were trees directly under the kite, so I desperately headed upwind to gain more room.

With the Dowel Dopero kite now down to under 100 feet, I also noticed trees to either side! No chance to reel in quickly enough, so I scooted sideways to bring the kite down between the trees.

Finally, the last loop was obviously going to meet the ground. With the kite still a couple of meters from impact, I thrust the winder at it, to lose all the tension in the line.

At this point, the kite disappeared over a small rise and came to rest.

As we approached the kite, we saw it had settled only a few meters in front of that down-wind tree! There was somewhat more room across to the trees on either side. However, I still gave myself a small mental pat on the back for saving the kite :-)

Wheeeew. You can't whip up a new Dopero in 20 minutes...

There was no other damage to the Dowel Dopero kite, so it must have landed softly as planned. As we packed up, it was clear that the weather had definitely got windier and gustier again. In fact, a telling sign was a small but rapidly-growing cumulus cloud just upwind of us. Perhaps the whole area was about to enter another cycle of thermal activity.

I guess we squeezed out as much flying time as possible on this day!


The story above was an actual flying experience with the described kite. My write-ups are definitely warts-and-all since things don't always go totally as planned. However, half the fun of kiting is anticipating the perfect flight. When it happens, it's magic!

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  1. Flight Report:
    Carbon Diamond High Wind Experiment

    Sep 23, 14 01:22 AM

    This day's flying had been anticipated for at least a couple of weeks. A 'drag bucket' added to the tail end of the 2m (7ft) span Carbon and Tyvek Diamond was an attempt to raise the upper limit on the flyable wind speed for the kite. From earlier experiences it seems the unmodified Diamond becomes unstable at around 30 kph.

    The first flight was done with the drag bucket adjusted for fairly minimal effect. As half expected, the kite soon started to fly way over to the left and right. So, the wind speed up there must be at least 30kph! This was down at Brighton Beach, but all thoughts of doing KAP soon evaporated, due to the high wind speed. Not to mention the turbulence coming from some high buildings directly upwind.

    For a second attempt, the Velcro fastener was re-adjusted to considerably open up the intake of the bucket. The bucket being two Tyvek flaps which come together over the tail-most region of the sail. This had an immediate effect. More stability! Unfortunately, the extra drag also helped keep the kite at a lowish line angle in some of the fiercer gusts. Lots of line tension ensued, with a huge amount of distortion apparent in the sail.

    At this rate, something was going to break pretty soon, so I struggled to get the kite down to the sand. After shifting the towing point forward by about 3cm (1") the kite seemed a little more comfortable. When the sail of a Diamond distorts badly, it reduces the amount of effective area below the towing point. This is like shifting the towing point back - adding to the problems of too much wind!

    And then the inevitable happened. The already broken-and-repaired horizontal ferrule gave way and the kite promptly folded up and sank to the sand. But not before I had carefully observed every second of the kite's struggles, trying to learn more about Diamond kite behavior in high winds.

    Just an hour after arriving home, the weather station at the nearby airport was reporting gusts to 50kph! It was less further down the coast, but I suspect the Carbon Diamond felt the brunt of around 40kph for at least a few seconds at a time.

    "Simplest Dowel Kites": A free but very useful kite-making e-book. Make a super-simple Sled, Diamond and Delta - step-by-step with photos. Sign up for the e-book and get an emailed series of messages called "MBK Tips'n'Ideas". If you don't need the e-book, consider signing up anyway... You won't believe the value on offer in that message series!

    Read More





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