The show must go on 
Quote of the day:
"A ship in harbour is safe, but that is not what ships are built for." William Shedd

Monday 12th April.
This was supposed to be a kite cruise. And a sailing cruise. The fact is, due to lack of wind, our twin Yanmars are doing the job to tug us along at 7 knots heading for Koh Lipe, which is another 40 nautical miles away. We spend the night on a mooring in Koh Rok Noy. Max is in the cockpit reading and sweet Ina is sitting on the roof reading as well. The light wind is from behind (I should say "astern" if I were pompous), which makes our apparent wind virtually nil and the heat is thus inescapable. Within an hours we should be out of sight of any land, but GPS is making it just too easy nowadays to find our way. In a way, I am missing the days of astronomical navigation, which made us navigators appear like sorcerers or soothsayer, predicting with reasonable accuracy the time and day we would be hitting land again, with the help of our book of magic, the almananc of heavenly bodies, and the cabalistic intruments called the sextant and the marine chronometer.
We were supposed to be 5 on board, but Sebastian and Nick decided to leave us in Koh Phi-Phi Le (Koh Pharya Nak on our marine chart) of "the Beach" fame, in order to return to Hua Hin in hope of better winds. They are on a mission to make a movie about kiting in Thailand, and this prospect was getting thin in this area with such little winds forecasted. They might find wind, but they might well miss the magic.
We are looking forward for Koh Lipe. We are first of all anticipating some wind in the channel between Koh Adang and Koh Lipe to deploy finally our restless kites and get some filming of our own done. And a Thai dinner in a beach restaurant is not out of question either; nor the Sang Som Coke that goes without saying as the sun sets. We won't miss Songran on Thai soil, and are curious to see how it is celebrated in such a remote place.
Koh Phi-Phi Le and Koh Ha Yai were offered us an amazing spectacle of colours and beauty both in and out the emerald waters. Just wait for our gallery to be updated to get the picture.
This was not only supposed to be a kite cruise, but it was supposed to be a delivery cruise to Pranburi. But TTT was not quite ready for that, due to the nasty motorcycle accident Larry, our skipper and engineer in chief suffered whilst we were still in Hua Hin. So we are renaming this trip a "Round Andaman Sea Cruise", hoping the re-christening will be heard by the wind gods, and make it possible to envisage a visit to Similan and Surin Island on our way North.

Tuesday 13th April. Songkran!
Two To Tango is now anchored on the southern bay of Koh Lipe. Max and Ina are cooling off ashore. Seb just called me from Pranburi to say the wind dropped completely up there, so both he and Nick will be sick when they will see the pics taken yesterday afternoon after we had anchored and sipped our fruitshakes ashore! The connection is slow here, so I don't know if I will manage to upload anything to Nautikite's gallery today. I'll try to get at least some low res preview across. Moreover, Max waits for me to get back to the beach to get some more riding around this quite unique place.
Songkran doesn't seem to be celebrated the way it should over here :-(. Far too mild.

Wednesday 14th April. Telaga Harbour in Langkawi.
Arrived last night. No berths available for catamarans so we will be staying another night at anchor in the bay. Some wind this afternoon meant some riding for me, whilst Max and Ina were sightseeing nearby. We'll likely to move to Kuah, the main town, if a berth is found there.

The Andaman Blues teaser is uploaded: Andaman Blues

More to come...

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Flysurfer Speed 3 review 
Quote of the day:
"The light wind laughs, brings along with lonesome."
Zatôichi

Flysurfer Speed 3 - 19m review by Neil.

How does the world's most expensive kite fly? So what's the deal with the Deluxe version? Is it worth the premium? In this review I'll try to answer these questions. This review will be up-loaded in installments as and when I get the chance to fly the Speed 3.

It is very likely that we are at the end of the 2010 North-East monsoon. Definitely not a spectacularly strong monsoon, but at least we were blessed with lots of sunshine and not too many tropical storms. El Nino at play perhaps? At least we got about 10 straight days of solid 18 to 25kt winds with white caps everywhere and even luckier, we got it right through the Chinese New Year Holidays. There were two honking great days that I was on an 8m tube and well powered up and several more on a 10 meter while the rest was on my usual 12m. I'm a flyweight kiter weighing in at 56kg.

So it wasn't with the greatest enthusiasm that I finally had to take out the Flysurfer Speed 3-15m one day when the wind wasn't co-operating. There were a few kiters on 14m and they definately weren't having much fun walking back up wind. They gave up after an hour. The Speed 3-15m wasn't exactly staying up-wind too and while I kited for an hour and the half, it was mainly cruising and also struggling to stay up-wind. In actual fact it was quite hard work as I was often boxed in by three groups of learners and had to do multiple short tacks to avoid them.

The following week's forcast was a paltry 5 knots for Saturday and 7 knots for Sunday, I guessed it was time to take out the Rolls Royce of kites, the Flysurfer Speed 3-19m Deluxe edition. The wind was very light at the beach. It was so light that I decided that it was too light for anything to fly. I waited and waited while the tide slowly ebbed away and I would be out of water for the day. With about an hour and the half to go before the water fully drained away, I decided to just launch the mother of all kites. The Speed 3-19m.

I tried pre-filling it with air by holding the kite air intakes to the wind. It filled up a little bit and then didn't seem to want to fill up anymore. I managed to get it about 5% inflated when I decided that trying to pre-inflate it will be furtile. So I got my assistants to hold up the kite and wait for a gust to catch the formless rag. When I saw the over-priced flag open up, I tugged the center line and up went the brand new Speed 3-19m on its maiden flight.

Usually it takes about a minute for Flysurfers to inflate fully. This time however about 1.5 meters of wing tip just flapped in the breeze for a good two minutes before eventually morphing into its sleek long kite shape. I looked hard at the kite and wondered whether I had mistakenly took out a Speed 3-15M Deluxe instead of the nineteen meter. It definately looked a bit smaller than the white and blue Speed3-15m that I have been flying regularly. Also the kite seemed nearer than usual like it had shorter lines. Probably because it was so huge. The large black border really does make it appear smaller than it really is.

The pull from the kite was quite light and I had no problems walking out away from the shore. I put on my 131X39cm board and tried to swing the behemoth right in preparation to dive left. It basically didn't want to move. I sat in the water trying to coax it to 1 O'Clock. Once there I tugged left on the control bar and saw the slowest, laziest kite dive I have ever seen! But it pulled me up, out of the water with ease. Sined it just once as Speed 3's don't like to be worked. Parked it at 45 degrees and it just pulled easily. Not powered up at all, but definately moving with speed.

For the next half hour, I was just barely staying upwind, not having much fun. Then I realised that I left the power adjuster pulled fully for de-power when I launched it. I pulled the power strap one inch and the kite just speeded up and a respectable rooster tail emerged from the rear of my small board. Well if one inch is good, then two must surely be better. Tugged another inch of power and suddenly I was fully powered up on a small high wind board on very flat water. Only one thing to do. Wake-style!

I only do basic wake style tricks and am still practising. Here I was, in the flattest water in Asia on a low wind day, pulled by a monster of a kite with no one else in the water. I rode for an hour solid, pulling 2 to 3 tricks on each run. All this time, the Speed 3-19m did not even once seem like it will ever fall out of the sky. I tried a couple of send back jumps but got as high as half a meter and the kite was so sluggish trying to re-send it forward that I gave up trying to jump old school.

Got tired of practising wake style and also the water was about 3 inches in some places and my fins kept scraping on the sea bed. Got on a finless skim board. With a whoosh and a yelp from me and I was off like a rocket. However the lack of water depth meant that I couldn't edge the skim board hard enough to slow down the Speed 3 and I was skimming at some really uncomfortably high speeds. So called it a day before I got dragged over the ever disappearing water. Tomorrow's forcast is better anyway. A whopping 7kts!

Day 2. Another 30C hot day, little cloud with only a slight breeze rustling the leaves a little. Launched the big boy again. Practiced some more wake style, this time un-hooked. Nothing big, just working on the timing and the different feel of the Flysurfer. The pull from the big Flysurfer was so constant that I even popping from toe-side. Not very successful but some day hopefully. Then decided that I needed to work on riding toe-side with my surf board and jibing. Nothing like practising on perfect flat water. My toe-side on surfboard definitely needs more work. Every time I carved to toe side, I slowed down so much that my board was almost being dragged through the water rather than surfing on it. The speed 3 even in very light winds was just a tractor pulling a very bad rider very slowly. The Speed 3-19m just stays up in the sky seemingly not affected by gravity at all.

Next weeks forcast is for 7 to 9 knots. Yippee! Too bad I got a group of four to teach, so I'll have to skip lunch to ride the Speed 3-19m again hopefully.

I rode the Speed 3-19m for an hour and the half on both days. While riding, I didn't feel elated or excited as I would be on a big day with a small kite. It was a nice long ride. I practiced stuff I wouldn't have practiced if it was blowing hard and I was on a smaller kite. Most importantly I got my ride and didn't waste the weekend. But when I went to bed and re-played all the moves in my head, my adrenaline was definately still pumping and it was all because of the Speed 3-19m.

Dealers often cite the cost per hour of owning a Speed 3. They claim that because it flies in such little wind, that you will get to kite so much more. ...
Also that the Speed 3 is light wind insurance. Definately true.

Dedicated light wind machine. Nothing else comes close.

Posted 1st March 2010 by Neil, of Clubkite Asia (Singapore).

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PKRA and Sebastian Bubmann are coming to Thailand 
Quote of the day:
"Thailand, the Land of Serendipity".

Breaking News! PKRA comes to Hua Hin!
Thailand joins the 2010 PKRA Word Tour! Thailand will open up the season with a Grand Slam event consisting of Freestyle, Course Racing, and Best Trick disciplines. The event to be the first professional kiteboarding event in Asia in the history of the sport, promises to be a new beginning for the sport in the region, as it is expected to attract all the top riders in the world for an exceptional display of kiteboarding in Thailand.
The event will be held in Hua Hin, which is 3 hours driving time south of Bangkok International Airport. Registration will be on Sunday March 14th and the event will be from Monday March 15th till Saturday March 20th.
The Thailand KTA (Kite Tour Asia) event will follow shortly afterwards in Pranburi (25th -29th March).
Flysurfer Team rider Sebastian Bubmann (www.sebastianbubmann.com for bio and results) will take part in both events, after which we will have the pleasure to have him on board Two To Tango for a month FS kite-specific cruise from Phuket to Hua Hin round Singapore, via Koh Samui and amazing surroundings. Our blog will keep you updated with our progress.

http://www.pkraasia.com/
http://www.prokitetour.com/news.php?id=79

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Is IKO (International Kiteborading Organisation) relevant? 
Quote of the day:
"There's a sucker born every minute" Barnum

This is a topic I long wanted to cover, but a post (More IKO troubles) in kiteforum.com spared me the work. This is what I read (and applauded) today:

The IKO Headquarters in the DR is quite a joke. I live quite close to it. From what i can tell, the office is full of women, most if not all of them don't kite and I have never seen any of these IKO people on the Kitebeach or on Bozo Beach (200 meters away from the office), I suspect they have no clue what goes on in their own backyard.
If you sit 5 minutes on any of the Cabarete beaches you will quickly realize that they do not implement any of the safety rules they claim to follow. They're too busy sitting in that office sucking the money out of clueless riders all around the world.

I won't deny the business idea is genius, they make serious money out of nothing, just by using words like "safety and danger" as a leverage to mold the minds of government officials. Here in Cabarete, they seem to implement only the part where you have to pay!

From what i have seen on Kitebeach, If you want to be an IKO instructor all you need is money, no skills or experience is necessary as long as you can mow the lawn and you have money to give them, you will get certified. A guy i knew took the IKO course, failed the written test, they just made him shadow an instructor for a few hours and he got certified. The guy sucked at kiting and he was most definitely not experienced enough to be an instructor.

I know all this is old news but every time i walk by that office i get annoyed, IKO is the leach of the kiteboarding industry, they take a lot but gives nothing useful back to the kiting community.
Knowing how they are, i can't even imagine living near a spot where you have no choice but pay these people to ride.

I wish one day the kiters of Cabarete would riot and burn their office to the ground.

Freedom


New schools are popping everywhere, and obviously, many are eager to take a shortcut to get the punter's trust. What easier than buying the IKO sticker for instant recognition? Old and established schools either never bothered with IKO or are shrugging any affiliation with IKO.

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The compared evolution of kitesurfing and other great air & water sports 
Quote of the day:
"In theory, there's no difference between theory and practice.
In practice, there is."

This one is aimed at the visitor interested in prehistory ;-). It is a bit longish and if it's true that an image is worth 1000 words, then skip the reading and go to the end of the blog.

It is about LEI (leading edge inflatable, or tube kites) and foils, but not so much about the never-ending discussion on the relative merits of LEI and foils, but how it came about that two so different concepts emerged and how they are likely to develop.

If one is interested to guess where kites technology is going to evolve, we've got to look back at the evolution of other air and water sports such as hang-gliding, paragliding and windsurfing. So I hope I am going to be forgiven to digress a while from kitesurfing to talk about hang-gliding which was then (long ago), just as kitesurfing is today, my overwhelming passion.

The earliest hang-gliders consisted of tubes and polyester canvas (or even polyethylene sheet!), and had very low aspect ratio, which gave a L/D ratio (lift to drag, the equivalent to the glide ratio for flying things) of around 4. I can remember the front cover of the French magazine Paris Match picturing the "flight" around the Eiffel tower of a daredevil with a Greek name (not Ikarus), which must have been launched with the help of a winch. The article describes the contraption, inspired by Rogallo and called delta in French (and perhaps even in Greek!), which had a glide angle of about one to three. That figure disappointed me greatly, and I can clearly remember thinking the day such a thing will manage 4, I'll go for it. It didn't last long; the year after a guy called Bernard Danis offered deltas in kit made in his garage made deltas and they were reported to achieve a glide of 1 to 4 in good hands and perhaps with a bit of help of some friendly lift. I ordered one of the very first ones, and set out to learn with a couple friends of great experience (one of them learned at least one month before me and the other was Etienne Rithner, "the Swiss hang-gliding pope" as he was called later, who had actual flying experience (*) and who eventually made an industry of hang-gliding manufacturing).

As years went by the aspect ratio (the average span divided by the average chord, a measure of "slenderness" of a wing, a kite or a sail) increased significantly and the profile got to look more and more like a real airfoil, with actual thickness, by the gradual addition of a second skin and hiding the drag inducing cross bar inside. Consequently the L/D of flex wings approached the 1 to 12 mark of today’s best hang-gliders, and the sink rate lowered to 0.9 m/s from twice as much with earliest "delta-ploufs" (= sinking deltas). But more importantly perhaps, the "penetration", i.e. the ability to maintain reasonable L/D at higher speeds and thus not losing to much height in areas of downdraft, was improved to such an extent that cross-country flying became accessible to all.

Parallel to the flex wings, there had always been rigid hang-gliders designs; the great Otto being the first acknowledged one. They require, as opposed to the weight-shifting of the flexwings, aerodynamic controls to control yaw, whilst pitch often relied on weight shift as for flexwings.

10 years after the invention of hang-gliding, a small group of nutcases were throwing themselves from the cliffs of Mont Saleve (near Geneva) with square parachutes. Those guys quickly realised a bigger area would make the launch easier, and made basic improvements on their chutes. Laurent de Kalbermatten (another pope) was the first to realise the commercial potential of this new-born sport and was the first to manufacture on a grand scale very much improved gliders. The design of paragliders followed a similar path to hang-gliders towards higher performance by increasing the aspect ratio and optimisation of the airfoil.

Back to kites.
Tubes kites were improved from the early models, first and foremost by splitting the control lines into front and back in order to modify the angle of attack, and consequently, the lift (we kiteriders wrongly say "power"). The bar was a brilliant idea; it enables to control the kite's angle of attack (power) and the turning independently in an intuitive manner. It is the equivalent of the control bar of the hang-glider and the wishbone of windsurfing rigs. Early foils benefited the innovation; but as a matter of fact I am not sure which of foils or tubes were the first to use the “modern” 4 lines control bar.

Then came the pursuit of ever increasing performance, just like hang-gliders and paragliders, by increasing the aspect ratio. The difficult part of the improvement was that it should not be achieved at the expense of the handling. At that early stage, and regarding the turning ability and to a certain point the depower, tubes (LEI, or leading edge inflatables) had the definite edge, principally because of the fact they were maintained at their tips, they had to assume their characteristic C shape, whereas most foils (Peter Lynn kites being the exception) were “bridled”, meaning their shape was maintained across the whole span of the kites with a multitude of lines. This bridled concept had the advantage of a perfect control of the shape, approaching as far as possible the ideal airfoil (as paragliders), but they had the drawback of poor turning and depower, and are still suffering from that reputation in spite of the fact that a few year back, Flysurfer changed that state of matter with the improvement and introduction of new technologies giving as good turning speed and depower as the best tube kites.

Whilst foils were improving the handling, the tube industry worked on improving performance (power/sq meter) by “bridling” somewhat the kites so that they could become flatter (the Crossbow was the breakthrough), but as could be expected, it was at the cost of the handling. This is why most new-style pro riders generally prefer to stick to the C shape kites which were never supplanted by bow and hybrid kites for that handling reason. See http://www.fksa.org/showthread.php?p=50787 for attempts by Legaignoux brothers.

Yet, strangely enough, the profile of tube kites remains as primitive as it was on day one! Still an un-faired tube and a single surface. Quite primitive really. There has been some, but un-sustained research done by a few manufacturers to add a second skin in order to reduce the LE tube’s drag. This will be the only way tube kites will ever be able to match foils kite’s raw performance. Some of the technical difficulties which will need to be overcome will be handling of course (a second skin adds rigidity to the structure), the trapped water should evacuate quickly, and the weight problem. Flysurfer had to overcome challenges which were just as problematic, but have the great merit to have stuck to the concept without despairing, and the results are Psycho4 (for handling) and Speed 3 (for sheer performance). The last and major challenge Flysurfer faces remains to get the tube guys to review their prejudice. Very easily done if we can get them to try!

I believe the tube industry sooner or later will react, either by starting producing foils (!), or by making tubes very similar to FSs in terms of aspect ratio and airfoil section. Time will tell if this view is correct.

Well. This turned out to be a foil versus LEI discussion after all. All my apologies.

The kite is only part of the game; the board part plays an equally important role and that could well be the topic of a blog to come.

Three cheers to anyone who got this far!

PS: Writing this blog made me want to fly hang-gliders again!

(*) Rithner’s experience included successful manufacturing and operation of a Lilienthal-like ski-launched glider, and a flight on a Tipsy Nipper ending hanging on high voltage electric lines.

This


is to this


as this


is to that !


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Monsoon weather. Good or Bad? 
Quote of the day:
"Some people walk in the rain, others just get wet."
Roger Miller

The wind dying in Bali, it was time to return to Phuket. Barely more wind here allowed me to have a few unexciting sessions in Nai Yang with the Flydoor 155. Rain is back with a vengeance and is here to stay till November. There is going to be a lot of windguruing in search of dry an windy spots the weeks to come. The most likely place of interest in the region remains Sumbawa. We'll have to check on that, preferably in situ.

I am shuttling between Bali and Phuket for a reason: the seasons are inverted (being in different hemispheres), the dry season of one being the rainy season of the other. The good season of Thailand starts cool in November and ends hot in April, the prevailing winds coming from the North-East, whilst in Bali the nice season starts in June and lasts three short months, with winds coming from the South West sector.
Having said that, the "bad" season of both places provides sometimes superb conditions; as for example this year, we had fantastic weather in Nai Yang in July, with 2-3 meter waves, wind for 8 to 10 m2 kites and hardly any rain during 2 weeks solid. You have decent waves in Thailand only during the wet moonsoon season. Bali offers similar conditions occasionally during the rainy season in Canggu (west coast), with the difference that good waves occur also in the dry season.

We might be in the wrong place altogether if wind is our criterion of choice: our French friend Jean-Yves just returns from Rhodes (Greece) and the French southern coast, where he had continuous winds ranging from 25 to 45 knots during the month he was there!

But let's not knock the miserable weather; how would I have started the day's blog?


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