March 3, 2011
To Darned Much Wind

It is blowing like stink this week.

Trees are shaking, the windows rattle, and wooden deck furniture is bouncing around on the deck. Back East, they give storms like this names. Here they just call it "winter"....

I'd never suggest flying a kite in winds over 50 mph. But I've seen plenty of cases where big pieces went up in winds of 25 plus. So I thought I'd use this Update to talk about that and what happens in stronger breezes.

How do you measure wind? Well, you can check the forecast, use a fancy (and expensive) wind meter, or just look around.

As you may know, Sir Francis Beaufort of England developed a wind table in 1805 that used observation to measure the wind. See here for more details.

Winds over 25 mph fall into a Force 6 on the Beaufort scale. At Force 6, you can see small whitecaps and spray on waves, sand blowing across the beach, or larger branches on trees moving.

Wind Meter

Some years back, I proposed the alternate Bufont Scale. In a Bufont 1, Susie's hair would hang straight and limp. At Bufont 4, you need to hang onto your hat -- which creates a bad hair day. And at Bufont 8, crew cuts are plastered flat.

But we digress....

Wind Dance

When the winds kick up to over 20, two things things happen. First. safety concerns increase significantly. And second, you risk damage to your kites. A related third result is that kiting simply isn't as much fun.

If something is going to happen, it will happen much worse in stronger winds. Kites will crash harder and faster. Rips will be bigger. People in harm's way will get hurt more. About the only safety related benefit of strong winds is that there are likely to be less people around.

Double check your lines and anchors! Many kiters forget that stresses on your line are larger in heavier wind. (duh!) And if an anchor pulls loose, it is going to bounce down the field faster than you can catch it. So muscle up your anchors with more stakes, more sand, or more straps than usual.

Examine your kite system -- the anchor, line, knots, bridles, and kite. Where is the weakest link?? When something goes wrong, where do you expect it to happen? Then strengthen that element and think about where the new weakest link is.

Some kites simply won't take the stronger winds. And some will. But you may find they have been changed by the exposure and fly differently later. Fabric, bridles, tails, and seams stretch in strong winds.

Think about a pair of new shoes that are a bit tight the first time you wear them. Squeeze in a few times and they fit differently!

So in strong winds, a kite may adjust and fly fine, but the stretched fabric will fly poorly in normal winds from then on. Because like shose, they don't stretch back...

And of course, kites may stretch to the point where they fail. Will anyone on the field soon forget the machine-gun like popping as all the internal through-cords of my Maxi-Devil ripped loose??

Big Devil

If you are a paid or sponsored flier, you have a different level of obligation to keep a performance in the sky. Choose the right kite and be careful! Otherwise, the best answer I think, is in winds over 25 to go get a beer. Tell stories. Have fun!

Susie and I are off to Austin Texas for Zilker in the morning. Then next weekend is Kite Party in Southern California. We also have our local Indoor Festival here in Lincoln City and then a trip to Korea at the end of the month. March is going to be busy!

Kiters say that it is never the wrong wind -- only the wrong kite. But what is the right kite in extreme conditions?

Part parachute, part airfoil, and known for their incredible lift, the BullDog is a "work horse" parafoil are designed for flying and lofting a show in the toughest and most unpredictable wind.

Rainbow BullDog

The 75 square foot BullDog was designed tough with durable 1.5 ounce sailcloth and reinforced edging. Deep cells and a low aspect ratio allow it to inflate quickly, lift more gear, and stay aloft in varying winds. Extra tabs along the trailing edge make attaching extra tails easy.

BullDogs were originally developed for lifting the famed beach shows on the Oregon Coast. Daily performances required easy handling and long-term dependability.

We're making three different colors. List price is $350. But order before March 15 and we'll take 20% off. Just remember to mention the Update and ask if it is still blowing like stink here!

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