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Tutorials : So you want to Buggy? (Part 2)

by Iain Drummond

Here are some specific comments on kites and lines
You’ll be surprised how much time you can waste if you forget or are not aware of this stuff.

Lines stretch.

It can take a long time to get even pre-stretched lines to their final "OK I won’t stretch any more" length (usually just before they snap or rot through!). They will also tend to stretch more during their initial flying time. Lighter loaded lines will a) tend to stretch less but b) take longer to stabilise.


The funny coloured stuff at each end is called sleeving. It is there to protect the line from getting "crimped" by putting a knot in it (i.e. the bend radius falls below that which is healthy for the material), and to prevent abrasion at the contact points with other lines. Make sure you put sleeving on all of your lines- they will just break frequently otherwise.

Never assume new lines are actually the same length.

Even "matched sets" are rarely identical. Don’t be too surprised if you have to arse about with knots and sleeving even before you attach them to the kite. It is a good idea to tie/stake out one end and then run them out to see how much of a difference you are looking at. Some kites react very badly to even small differences in length.

When you fly a new kite it will need adjusting.

Even if lines are attached, the lines are rarely set correctly "out of the box". Even if they are initially correct, they won’t be after 10 mins of flying – see below.

When you’ve flown your kite for a few minutes it will probably need adjusting again.

This happens as the lines settle in. After that, it will take maybe 5-10 times longer before you have to adjust it again, and so on. The main thing to remember is that it will usually benefit from some minor adjustment after each outing, or (if you’re lazy like me) a more major adjustment when you notice something wrong.

Lines don’t stretch at the same time.

As a natural consequence of use, the flying lines will usually stretch more than the brake lines, especially when you start using the kite in anger. This is one of the reasons some people use "pigtails" on the handles. These are just lengths of heavy line (5 or 6mm climbing cord is good) with about 12-18" free on the flying side with some knots at various distances. This allows you to make quick adjustments between left/right hand also between flying/brake lines. Eventually you might have to arse about with knots and sleeving anyway, but the pigtails can make this a less regular occurrence.

Balancing lines left/right.

This is easy – make them the same length. This assumes you are not compensating for duff bridling/construction, which is not unknown on home-made kites…

Balancing flying/brake lines.

This is not so easy to pin down and depends on the kite as well as personal preference, the prevailing wind, what sort of course you will be favouring, etc, etc. Again, in general (and I really am being general- some kites do not appreciate what I’m about to suggest) the easiest way to start is to have the brake lines slack enough that they do not deform the trailing edge of the kite, but can still be pulled on together to kill the kite quickly and one at a time to force it into reasonable tight turns (on brake alone). Some kites like more brake than others, some like tension on all the time (single skin kites in particular), others are utter pigs if you don’t physically flip the bottom of the handles forward and keep the lines slack . The length of your handles will also affect this, since it will dictate the total amount of differential you can introduce. Try it and see. The main things to check are

  1. does it track reasonably well in a straight line
  2. can you force turns in both directions
  3. can you kill it safely (without leaving too much exposed area)
  4. can you fly the kite straight overhead
  5. can you either rotate one end or lift off completely backwards (it is important for your blood pressure not to forget this, otherwise every time the kite ends up front-down will require manually sorting out. This is sometimes referred to as "the walk of shame", which is also applied to people who have to drag their buggy back up the beach ;-).

The obvious extremes when you get it completely wrong are 1) flying lines too long/brakes too short and the kite may not even take off - but will fly/launch backwards quite nicely! 2) flying lines too short/brake lines too long and you will not be able to control the kite with the brakes. Obviously you want to be somewhere in the middle.

Remember that the points above refer to the brake settings alone and is not actually suggesting anything about how you fly a given kite- some will fly brakes off until they get to the edge of the window and then just turn themselves inside out, some like a little constant pressure on the brakes, some hardly need brake input at all and can be flown like 2-liners. Nothing is certain until you start putting the hours in. In general, the faster a kite is the more anti-social it gets and the less time you have to correct it.

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