Tuesday, February 26, 2013

New choice of kites : Flysurfer Speed

We have arrived in the world of snowkiting and this lively community by the way of polar expeditions. To add a very technical activity, as well as the delights of speed and gliding, to the repetitive and laborious activity that are often at the core of the progression on long polar skiing expeditions, was our main motivation. But time passing, we got hooked and we have meanwhile become real snowkiters. At least almost, as we still stay a little away from the busy and small spots of our regions ! Yet every week during winter, we get our kites out to do some backcountry riding in mountains.

But we never forget our first "loves" above all that. Since one year already we are planning a huge expedition through the polar territories again. To be revealed soon !

Anyway, we are more experimented kiters today than we were during our previous Greenland crossing, and we also acquired some practical and theoretical working knowledge of the peculioar aerology of polar icecaps. It was thus natural to completely rethink the choice of the kites in order to find the most adapted tools for this new project.

Cornelius in the Bukkeskinns cirque, foothills of Hardangerjökulen, Norway. Flysurfer Speed 4 10 m2 Deluxe.

We know today that the success of large-scale snowkite expeditions is based on some simple criteria:
  • Naturally, it is necessary to be capable to progress by kite in all conditions. But contrary to the idea one may get, it is particularly important to be able to make ground in low, or even very low, winds.
  • An expedition needs of course a complete and effective quiver to progress in winds ranging from 7 knots to about 40 knots. However, it is of advantage to limit the number of kites ! Less with the objective to reduce the weight and volume embarked on the expedition, but rather to simplify the essential and permanent question of the appropriate choice of kite size. If a single kite corresponds to a given wind speed, and if the wind range of the different kites does not overlap substantially the choice is so much easier.
  • Indeed, the daily gain in distance is not determinated by the maximum- but rather by the average-speed the team is capable to maintain. Making the right choice of kite size all the time (to know how to delay a desire for change or, on the contrary, operate an efficient change when necessary) is as important as knowing to get the best out of a given kite in the low, medium and high wind speed range. Having no option to hesitate between two potentially good kites surely increases the efficiency.
  • Add a daily kiting routine of 10 hours or more, in a hostile and very isolated environment, and this during more than 50 days, it is normal to consider the piloting comfort as a parameter of primordial importance. It will help to save energy, increase the efficiency and results in a reduced risk.
  • However, the quest for comfort should not impair the kites performances such as the progression at high speeds, the ability to maintain a heading in difficult going (headwind, downwind), and a homogeneous performance of the kite over its entire wind range including the lower and higher limits. For the bigger kite to be used in winds lower than 10 knots, its capacity to take off and to relaunch again, to fly and to generate pulling power in very light wind is obviously of primary importance.

Flysurfer Speed 4 10 Deluxe

      Finding the best compromise between piloting comfort and flying performances is not a simple task, because these two parameters are often antagonistic. Flysurfer, proposing kites with both, fast and stable profiles thanks to the closed cells design, and a pleasant and safe control thanks to an unbelievably effective depower, seems the kite maker coming closest to the perfect mix which we are looking for. By opting for Speed 3rd and 4th generation, for winds lower than 25 knots, we should have adequate tools for our ambitions...
     If it is more than likely that we shall lose a little comfort in ground handling during stops and while packing the kites due to the closed cell design. Yet this is the price to pay for their stability during the progressiion, and the efficiency of the depower combined with their wide wind speed range, their capacity to sail upwind or lock in in a given position of the wind-window. The power reserve of the Speed 3 19 m2 and its capacity to relaunch even in very low, wind will be among the many advantages which should help to increase our average progression on the ice, without making too much compromises on the piloting comfort.

Photos: Cornelius Strohm and Michael Charavin
      Texts: Michael for WOG.

Speed 3 19 Deluxe