The Dowel Delta Kite

Dicing With Gusts And Cloud Suck

Yes, cloud suck affected the Dowel Delta kite today. It's particularly evident to kite-fliers when the sky is over-developed so there are rain-clouds everywhere.

Today cloud-base was quite low, perhaps around 3000 feet.

Ominous gray patches were sucking warmer air into the huge hidden masses of puffy cumulus towering above. Also, the inevitable larger patches of sinking air surrounded the bubbles of rising air.

Not stormy weather as such, since surface wind speeds were actually very light most of the time, but certainly the air was very active. Lots of wind-shifts and sometimes sudden increases in wind speed when rain, or just the threat of rain, was within a few kilometers of the field.

A recipe for giving the new light-wind Delta quite a work-out! Anyway, back to the beginning...

Approaching the reserve, there was barely any movement in the tree tops. However, on stepping out, there seemed to be a fitful light breeze blowing through. The wind meter, on its little tripod, registered less than 1 kph on average. Occasionally the cups stopped spinning altogether! But the clouds above were moving...

The Delta was soon rigged - and the wind died! I towed the thing in various directions, catching a little breeze here, a little there.

Finally, after getting further away from the trees at the edge of the reserve, the Dowel Delta Kite soared up on a light gust or 2. It didn't take long to encourage the kite up further, until it was sitting nicely in the air, on just over 30 meters (100 feet) of line.

A few photos were taken. Plus several videos so as to not be stuck with anything out of focus! With this camera, if the first frame is not in focus, none of them are, for the remainder of the clip.

Well, 30 meters was a bit boring, so out it went to 60... On this line length, it was clear that there was a steady breeze up there. Steady by in-land standards that is!

It was also clear that the kite had a slight lean to the left in moderate wind speeds. Something that was not evident when flying out of the back yard the other day, on a very short line.

Interestingly, the Delta would sometimes straighten up when the wind strength increased yet further. Still, that lean needs to be corrected. Today, this caused the kite to move a long way to the left at times, before climbing higher and drifting back downwind.

The tension in the flying line was quite firm most of the time.

As I've mentioned many times, this location often has a great difference between the wind speed at ground level and higher up. One time I could hear the trailing edge of the sail fluttering in moderate wind strengths while the wind meter cups came to a complete stop!

Time to let out line to 90 meters (300 feet). The big orange Delta drifted off downwind as loops of 50 pound Dacron flew off the winder. This was actually a little easier when I walked slowly downwind at the same time, to lower the tension in the line.

And then, the kite just sat there at less than a 30 degree angle for some time. Straining away in a large patch of sinking air that took at least a couple of minutes to move on. Finally the tips flexed inwards even more, and the Delta accelerated skywards. At least a couple of times, patches of rising air boosted the kite way overhead. The updrafts seemed even stronger than the prevailing wind!

The Dowel Delta kite in flight.
The Dowel Delta kite in flight.

What the heck, why not go to 120 meters (400 feet) now? So I did. It wasn't long before the Dowel Delta Kite was vertically situated once again. Very soon after that, the lift died, and the Delta was left to hunt around in a big circle, slowly gliding earthward.

It so happened that as the kite was pointed downwind, the line tension came back on a bit... Sending the kite into a vertical dive! I watched it for a few seconds, fairly confident that it would right itself. And it did, describing a slow graceful arc in an anti-clockwise direction before recovering, still around 300 feet up. Maybe 250.

All too soon it was time to go home and I started bringing line in. The Dowel Delta Kite, however, was having way too much fun up there and resisted strongly. On and off, for minutes on end.

Finally, the kite was down to under 100 feet, when the air temperature dropped and the wind speed really picked up. Uh-oh...

With the ground only meters away, the poor Delta nearly folded itself in half trying to cope with the fresh gusts coming over the trees. Like the 'unsinkable' Titanic, the spreader on this kite was designed to be unbreakable. Shorter and stiffer and cunningly reinforced where it bends the most. It broke. :-(

Never mind, there will be a small design change now, to make the spreader even stronger, without adding much weight. But really, the Dowel Delta kite had already proved itself to have a very satisfactory wind range. Sometimes, the weather gets you anyway!

The Windrontic wind speed meter, in its somewhat sheltered spot on the ground near the trees, showed an average of 1.7 kph, and a maximum gust of 7.7 kph. However, I think the kite was hit with well over 20 kph when it failed. It will only take minutes to make a new spreader, since no gluing is involved.


 

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

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

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

Strong ...
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

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