Kite Racing

A Fast Growing Kite Sport

It seems that a small number of people have been kite racing on land for quite some time. Indeed, this became popular enough for manufacturers and designers to take notice and produce special racing traction kites. For example the Ozone Yakuza and the PKD Combat.

Kite Racing - 3 kite racers powering across the water.

However, in 2005 a very significant new direction was taken in the traction kiting world.

A big sailing club and a kite surfing organization got together and experimented with sending kite surfers around a course. It was an interesting melting-together of a sailing regatta and a kite surfing competition. Top riders from other countries also started to experiment with course racing. Many were looking for 'somewhere else to go' after having been immersed in the freestyle kite surfing scene for years.

Meanwhile, in the United States, the level of involvement and enthusiasm finally resulted in a national competition being organized in 2007. By this stage, many different approaches had been tried, with regard to technique and also equipment. For example, boards with a hydrofoil underneath were very quick upwind, but proved slow in other directions. 'Directional' board designs proved to be much more competitive than other types. Boards with too many fins were slower, and so on.

Flying the Slingshot B2 trainer kite or similar design over sand is the starting point for would-be racers. You have to get the feel for handling a hard-pulling power kite before hitting the water!




Kite Racing - The Spectacle

When run close to shore over relatively short courses, kite racing is a real spectator sport!

As the riders wait for the start, a gaggle of colorful water kites weave around above the waves as they jostle for position. Just as in a sailing race, the starter's gun goes off and it's a race for the line.

As riders pick up speed, long white trails appear behind them as the boards carve through the water. If the conditions are challenging, the occasional rider might come off the board and hit the water while others skim past! The most skillful round the marker buoys closely, hardly dropping any speed as they smoothly make adjustments to the kite which is powering their progress.

Because of the boards' small size, kite surfing is actually faster than any other motor-less water craft in light and medium wind. Including windsurfing boards! The riders try to fly the largest kite that they can handle in the conditions, in order to extract maximum pull from the kite and therefore maximum speed through the water.





The Racing Kites

This is a kite site after all, so here's a quick roundup of the type kites that have been used in kite racing.

Closeup of a large hybrid kite

Generally, the so-called flat inflatables are the ones to beat, when riders use them to their full potential. These kites can be fully de-powered if necessary, which is good for safety. Apparently, speeds approaching 50 knots are not unknown!

Inflatable refers to the hollow leading edge spar which is pumped up with air. This helps the kite keep its shape in the air and also prevents it from sinking if it happens to hit the water. Hence the term LEI or Leading Edge Inflatable has been part of the kite surfer's language almost since the sport started. Because of their shape in the air, these kites are also known as C-kites. They can be relaunched from the water.

Any old LEI kite will get a rider around a race course, but of course manufacturers have always been under pressure to come up with faster and better kites. Hence the first generation of 'Bow' kites made an appearance in 2005. With less curve than the C-kite, these became known as flat LEI kites. They had performance advantages over the standard LEI kite, but were more of a handful to operate, for a number of reasons.

The second generation of flat LEI kites in 2006 solved most of the Bow kite's problems and in 2008 are still the kite of choice for kite racing. They are called Hybrid or Supported Leading Edge kites, SLE for short. The bridle is more complex, with attachments at various points along the leading edge of the kite.





This is only an overview of kite racing for those who haven't come across this variation of kite boarding yet, so I'll leave it there!

This Slingshot B2 trainer kite or the slightly larger B3 is great for getting the required kite-handling skills.

Two kite surfers in action

Photo courtesy of Brendan Lally.

 

You might have noticed that this site has a monthly newsletter...

For single-line kite fliers and builders, it's always been a good read. But if you are interested in KAP and/or large home-made kites you won't want to miss it!

So sign up today, and download the free 95-page e-book "What Kite Is That?" straight away. Info-packed and fully photo-illustrated.

And there are even more free resources, such as a kite-making e-course, waiting for you in the next issue of this newsletter.

 

What's New!

  1. Flight Report:
    Sea-sick Barn Door Kite

    Jul 28, 14 05:06 AM

    This was an experiment with mounting a camera directly onto the kite. With winds gusting to over 30kph up high, the Fresh Wind Barn Door kite was selected...

    In a word, it was tricky. I mounted the camera as close as possible to the center of gravity of the kite, but it still ended up quite a few cm closer to the trailing edge than I would have liked. It was only practical to mount he camera - on its bendy tripod (!) - near the diagonal spars crossing point. Electrical tape secured 2 short tripod legs to the diagonal spars, holding the camera upright with the kite sitting on its trailing edge.

    It was a struggle to get enough lift to gain much height, and the kite swung dangerously from side to side. Might try the drogues next time! I did my best to urge the kite higher in mid-swing.

    Eventually, for a few seconds, the kite got to around 100 feet on almost 200 feet of 200 pound Dacron.

    A video clip will of course be forthcoming on Facebook. And only seasoned kite fliers will bother watching it all the whole way through, possibly wrestling with sea-sickness all the while. Hence the title of this post. Still, it was an interesting, if slightly nerve-wracking, outing! At shoulder level, the breeze measured around 9kph gusting to 18.5kph. Some low cloud over the hills was absolutely tearing along, perhaps up around 40kph.

    Huge Homemade Kites And Aerial Photography: This is often the topic for posts which appear here. New things are always being tried so sign up for my newsletter to stay right up to date with the latest developments!

    Read More




New! Comments

Plenty of fun kite info, photos and videos - there's definitely too much here for only one visit! Feel free to leave your impressions of this site or just this page, below...



Apologies for this site's current lack of video when viewed on mobile devices...

For now, please view this site on a Desktop or Laptop computer to see the videos. And there's plenty of them!

 

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