The Multi-Dowel Sled Kite

A Learning Experience With A Truly BIG Kite

5 to 10 knots from the South-East were the forecast winds for today. Perfect for a second outing with the huge new Multi-Dowel Sled kite! The first outing was in very marginal conditions when wind speeds were barely enough to keep the kite aloft.

The Multi-Dowel Sled kite in flight.

As before, rigging the big Sled today was super-quick and easy. It takes more time to unroll the bridle from around the bundle than it takes to join the spars and attach the flying line!

Today the line was stored on a garden hose reel, to avoid getting twists in the line. A couple of small tent pegs were easily driven into the rain-softened earth, to allow line to be dragged off as required.

There was just a bit of breeze coming through.

Raising the bridle lines with my gloved hands near the towing points was enough to get some air lifting the leading edge. In no time, the whole sail had filled and the Multi-Dowel Sled kite was standing on its trailing edge, about to take off.

With the kite a short distance from the ground, I carefully let it move out to the full length of bridle. It felt a lot safer with the gloves on!

This huge kite is the BONUS DESIGN that is included in the e-book up there on the right. Full 3-view plans, hints and close-up photos provide all the info you need, after you've got all the fun you can out of the smaller Dowel version!

Soon, the line was out to 30 meters. The wind was obvious stronger than the very light gusts of first outing. Hanging onto the 200 pound Dacron line was somewhat slippery using the gloves. I soon found myself taking a wrap or 2 around a gloved hand whenever I wanted to pause for a moment and watch the Sled climb a bit higher. With just light to moderate strength wind, the huge Sled had no trouble pulling line off the somewhat stiff garden hose reel. No fancy ball-bearings there!

This is when all the video was taken. A couple of photos were taken too, but it turned out later that the camera had failed. Movies still working fine, but still photos - no!

The only way of managing the camera work was to put a turn of line around my left foot. Just treading on it was not enough to prevent line slipping out. At quite a pace sometimes!

After a while I decided to go to 60 meters of flying line, half expecting a towing-point tape to fail at some point. All that was holding the kite was 4 thin strips of packing tape. However, it didn't happen. They are quite strong under tension, particularly when stuck together!

Since the tension in the line was getting uncomfortable, it seemed the right time to find an anchor for the line. However, with the reel pointing downwind, it wasn't straightforward to simply walk back to a handy tree and wrap some line around it. I would need to get a whole lot of slack line on the ground first. Conclusion - in future it might be a good idea to always set up the reel a short distance upwind of the intended anchor point! The reel itself is no good for this job, since only a couple of tent pegs are holding it back. They could easily give way.

While at 60 meters of line length, I paused for a while, to see just how stable the Multi-Dowel Sled kite was during stronger gusts. Thermal activity was evident by now, and some of it was quite strong. This had me planning how I would keep the kite and flying line out of trouble if something suddenly failed.

The bigger the kite, the bigger the variations in line tension it seems. After all, a big kite will go right to almost zero tension while it is floating down in a lull or copping a gust from behind. Then, the tension can come back on very suddenly!

For the first time with this kite, the flying line could be heard whistling and buzzing during moderate, perhaps almost fresh gusts of wind. The video over there only shows the ground, but the sound track is the thing... The line was in contact with the camera case, right next to the lens. Eerie! Also, at other times some trailing edge flutter could be heard for a moment or 2 as the strongest gusts peaked.

The huge Sled kite was proving very predictable, so it felt safe to try going to 90 meters. Mind you, I was still prepared to run up-wind or cross-wind in a hurry if necessary! Once there, at 90 meters, the thought did cross my mind 'how straightforward will it be to get the thing down from here?'

A bird zoomed past, higher and slightly downwind of the kite. This wasn't really a coincidence, since the bird was not flapping, and the kite was in rising air, pulling like an ox. At one point the Sled went directly overhead, and continued to pull line through my tightly gripped glove - taking meters of line off the stiff-running hose reel as it went!

Then, it was decided to go briefly up to 120 meters of line, before starting to take the big Sled down. The kite got to 350 feet alright, on 120 meters of line. But then I found that getting it down again was not going to be easy! To cut a long story short, I had to resort to taking double or triple wraps around each hand in turn, to get line in without slippage. This was awkward and slow. In future, it should be a lot easier to take the Multi-Dowel Sled kite down with the line properly anchored somewhere. Then, it's just a matter of walking out to the kite, effectively shifting the anchor point out to it as you go. Apparently, some like to tread on the line to do this, but that can't be very good for the flying line!

I know, how about a 50 pound de-power line attached to the top of the center spar. That would do the trick, wouldn't it! Just pull some tension onto it and watch the 2 Dowel Sled kite nose over, collapse and fall...

Bringing the kite in, things got a bit easier when it got under 50 feet of altitude. Finally, I started bringing the bridle lines together, hand over hand until the sail collapsed inwards and sank to the grass. I'd call it a very successful flight, despite a few awkward learning moments!

The Windtronic wind speed meter, which I reset after winds seemed to pick up a little, showed an average of 2.8 kph and a maximum of 7.5 kph near ground level. I'm itching to suspend it from the bridle line one day, to see what's really happening up there, but the thing is worth $100...

Here's a 30 second video, showing the big 2 Dowel Sled kite in some fairly rough air at around 50 feet altitude. The kite flew smoother up at 350 feet.

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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P.S. Keep an eye out for books by kite author Glenn Davison, a prominent kite person in the USA.

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Wind Speeds

Light air
1-5 km/h
1-3 mph
1-3 knots
Beaufort 1

Light breeze
6–11 km/h
4–7 mph
4–6 knots
Beaufort 2    

Gentle breeze
12–19 km/h
8–12 mph
7–10 knots
Beaufort 3    

Moderate breeze
20–28 km/h
13–18 mph
11–16 knots
Beaufort 4    

Fresh breeze
29–38 km/h
19–24 mph
17–21 knots
Beaufort 5    

Strong breeze
39–49 km/h
25–31 mph
22–27 knots
Beaufort 6

High Wind
50-61 km/h
32-38 mph
28-33 knots
Beaufort 7