The Simple Sled Kite

Circled Overhead In A Huge Thermal!

The Simple Sled kite seemed a reasonable choice since wind conditions seemed very light and not overly gusty. By the way, you read the title correctly - the Simple Sled did indeed circle overhead today! More on that further down...

Just walking around for a while before getting the kite out, the sun on our necks had some bite to it. Can't remember noticing this since last Summer.

Massive Cumulus clouds were everywhere, blotting out the sun from time to time. The appearance of strong thermal conditions was confirmed by a small hawk. Lazily circling upwards, the bird was at around 1000 feet above us.

On this classic 'light-wind and thermals' day, I was prepared to see the Sled drop out of the sky from time to time. All it takes is a gust from behind or even just a big lull in the wind strength!

I took some photos with the Simple Sled kite on a fairly short line, perhaps 20 meters (70 feet) or less.

Down below tree-top height there was very little consistent breeze. The bright orange Sled barely flew, staying below a 30 degree line angle most of the time. The sail collapsed often due to insufficient air pressure.

Making Dowel Kites is one of my e-books that's worth a look (or printing off) when you want to explore bigger and better kites. Using similar materials and construction methods - that is, just dowels, plastic and tape.

Simple Sled kite - down low before the huge climb.Embarking on a very eventful flight
Simple Sled kite - down low before the huge climb.Embarking on a very eventful flight

Back to the flying...

While struggling to get the kite higher, it did get caught in a ... let's call it a micro-thermal quite close to the ground. There is the proof in the video at the bottom of this page, taken with not much zoom at all. See how the kite goes round in a large circle. You can't see any trees or other ground features because it all happened directly overhead! Not so common at such low altitude.

Unlike a rigid kite, a Sled in free-fall is just a 'pile of washing'. When forced to float down on its face, it tends to flatten out, slip sideways and then roll up into an untidy bundle as it begins to plummet down. It's always a bit of a game to try to re-inflate the sail in such a situation, by pulling in line quick enough. A nice feeling when you manage it, and the kite pops open before sailing back upwards again!

Finally, a lengthy gust got the Simple Sled kite up much higher and into a few knots of steady wind. Flying at around 45 to 60 degrees, it was straightforward to quickly let out line to 60 meters (200 feet). There it flew for a while. Sometimes steady, sometimes changing shape in response to gustier air, the Sled had the feel of a small Manta Ray at times!

So far, so good, so out went the flying line to 90 meters (300 feet)!

At this line length, the Simple Sled kite experienced 1 or 2 collapses due to lulls, but it quickly climbed back up. One of these slow dives burned through 250 feet of height before I just managed to re-inflate the sail, about 30 feet off the grass.

Actually, I noticed today that the kite will occasionally recover all by itself. The random nature of wind turbulence sometimes interacts with the falling pile of dowels and plastic to pop it open, parachute-like.

The wind direction was ideal for avoiding obstacles on the ground, so it was time to 'max out' with 120 meters (400 feet) of flying line! Even if the kite collapsed all the way to the ground, I had a good chance of landing it in an open space of the reserve.

You might think, with all this talk of collapses, that the Simple Sled kite is hard to keep airborne. Not at all! On a day with fairly smooth air, or at a coastal sea-breeze location, this kite will just hang up there and not even look like collapsing. For an hour or 3, just as long as the wind blows.

Simple Sled Kite - at 400 feet in a large thermal.Almost out of sight, almost overhead
Simple Sled Kite - at 400 feet in a large thermal.Almost out of sight, almost overhead

Anyway, before long, the flying line tightened, and a large thermal powered the orange Sled right overhead.

Check out the second photo, which shows what the camera saw with no zoom. You can just make out the flying line, towards the bottom of the picture. For at least a couple of minutes, the Simple Sled kite remained overhead at 400 feet altitude. With a tight line. Fortunately I was using our 50 pound line, after having tossed up whether to try the 20 pound line since winds seemed so light!

At one stage the Simple Sled executed a big loop, pulling hard the whole time. This is not the usual scenario when you have a kite looping under excess wind speed! After dropping out of the strongest area of lifting air, the Sled slowly descended to a 20 degree line angle. This probably had a lot to do with a wide area of sinking air surrounding the core of the thermal.

Since we had forgotten our sunscreen and hats, we decided to call it a day at this point. I started bringing the kite down, helped by a few more collapses in the very active air. Even after we had it down to 50 meters (170 feet) of line, it wasn't long before the Simple Sled kite was nearly overhead again.

Wind, wind, wind, wind it in.

In terms of flying fun per minute of construction time, this kite just has to be the best value of the 3 kites in my Simple Series! Mind you, the Simple Delta would have gone overhead today too...

And don't forget, if you like DIY...

Making Dowel Kites is one of my e-books that's worth a look (or printing off) when you want to explore bigger and better kites. Using similar materials and construction methods - that is, just dowels, plastic and tape.



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!


FREE E-Book!

I'm referring to Simplest Dowel Kites, my popular kite-making download. It's a printable PDF file. Make a diamond, delta or sled. Each kite is capable of flying hundreds of feet up for hours on end.

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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 ...
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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