Finding Things to Tie Kites to at Kite Festivals.
Kitefliers aren't lazy, not all of us anyway, it's not that we don't want to hand hold our kites, it's just that we can't.
For starters, if you have more than one kite up at a time (which festival organisers regard as desirable, and so they should) then if they are tethered together, sooner or later they'll tangle. This initiates a ballet that can be entertaining for spectators but is potentially dangerous and sooner or later reduces the number of kites in the air by at least two, and often more
And of course, some kites are just too big to hand hold- I'm sure you just knew I was going to mention this.
So, if you want to organise a successful kite festival, for there to be as many kites in the sky as possible, fliers need to have things to tie their kites off to.
Local kitefliers can drive events, so they can probably bring some kite anchoring devices with them- their car for example (the very best anchor there is, but more of this later).
But non-local fliers cannot carry any sort of anchoring things (except the bags the kites are is) without reducing the number and/or size of the kites they bring.
Obviously therefore, if they want the best results from their participants, festival organisers should provide kite anchors.
Obvious it may be, but most don't, and even those that do rarely provide useful and effective ones.
The most obvious failing (from my point of view, trying to keep as many kites in the air as possible) is the absence of any means to quickly and easily move anchors around.
Sometimes when I arrive at events, the delegated anchor providing person will come along with a front end loader or forklift truck and big lumps of concrete and say; "where do you want the anchors placed?.
I'll then say; "50 metres upwind from where you want the kites to fly", and they'll then say "but where will that be", after which it all gets too philosophical. If wind is random- a useful first approximation- then for a kite to fly above a defined point, there needs to be twenty or thirty anchors arranged in a circle around that point- which isn't sensible allocation of resources.
Of course, locals will know that the wind only comes from the east or south or whatever so a complete circle isn't necessary.
Yeah right, except during kite festivals it seems- how often have you heard locals proclaim: "this is very unusual wind direction".
Reality is, in the absence of either an infinite number of anchors - or by-the-minute moveable ones, unless the wind is invariable in direction (which is about as likely as the proverbial goat proof fence), less than half the achievable number of kites will be flying at any time.
Wind quality also comes into this of course, when the wind is smooth and reliable, kites can be parked almost touching wing tip to wing tip- but when it's variable, greater spacing is necessary- but this doesn't change the case for re-positionable anchors.
The very best positionable anchors are cars- preferably your own, because then all your other junk is quickly accessible as well. With the current generation of maxi kites (that are developed to pull less), they don't need to be big cars either- a train of three or more maxi's can be flown safely from even a small car in quite strong winds.
Cars aren't useful without their keys in ready to shift at a moment's notice though. It's amazing how often all this is explained to event organisers, they're convinced, provide car anchors (for non-local participants), then take away the keys or supply designated drivers instead- who will generally never be there when it matters. In this case they may as well be lumps of concrete.
Next best after cars are 30kgm bags of sand (rice bag size) and pneumatic tired sack barrows for moving them. Fliers can then pile as many as they need for each set of kites.
One cubic metre bags as used for building materials are excellent if there is sand to fill them with and a front end loader or forklift for shifting them. They have strong loops to be picked up by- and for tying lines to- and in the absence of organiser support (usual), can be emptied , shifted and refilled by hand- provided there are shovels available (also rare).
Driveable tractors and other machinery can be satisfactory- but are usually more awkward to shift quickly than cars , and often require special knowledge to drive- like that they won't start unless the clutch is
depressed for example, which many kitefliers don't know. Tractors are also usually much bigger than optimum- there'll be more kites in the sky with more, but smaller, anchor points.
Lumps of concrete can be useable- especially if there is a quick response shifting system like provided at
the Berck sur Mer event- and fairly, it would be difficult for them to provide enough beach-capable cars.
From here on we're at the point in the hierarchy of kite anchoring when things don't just get less convenient, they become dangerous, and there's a bit of theory to this.
Kite pull goes up with the square of wind speed: double the wind equals four times the pull (disregarding that some kites have auto de-powering characteristics). If wind speed climbs from 10km/hr to 40km/hr during the day (not unusual), kite pull will go up by a factor of 16. And it can be even worse than this- much worse: There is no way of being certain that a sudden gust much higher than 40km/hr won't strike- 100km/hr gusts are very rare, but they do happen- and sometimes out of a clear sky without unequivocal warning. The pull in a 100km/hr gust (if the kite or line doesn't break) will be 100 times what it was at 10km/hr. And it gets even worser than this! Kites will often become unstable and start looping above some wind speed- and when they do this the pull multiplies even more- and this can happen because of an asymmetric bridle break, or a tangle with an adjacent kite as well.
The consequence of this is that it's impossible (pedants might say impractical, but I'll stick to my word choice here) to provide lines and anchors strong enough to resist peak loads. With super ripstop kite construction kites rarely break, no matter what the wind, and since Spectra/Dyneema became available at reasonable prices, lines rarely break- it's usually anchors that fail first now.
And HOW they fail really matters.
Some 'found' anchoring points are so massive- buildings , trees etc, that there is no risk of failure except by line breakage, but such anchors are rarely, if ever, where you want them to be.
But of the types of anchors that kitefliers or organisers can position themselves; stakes, screws, buried plates, and 'dead man' anchors can all fail catastrophically- and often without warning. They are satisfactory when the wind can be relied on to remain light, and also in stronger conditions when the consequences of failure aren't too serious- like when the area downwind is clear of people and the national grid- but are never ideal.
That failures of these types of anchor haven't killed anyone yet (or have they?) is a huge surprise to me. Every maxi kite flier has multiple stories of kite anchor failures- and some are spectacular- like a flying log that crashed through a house roof into the living room. Most are merely dangerous.
I've broken a thumb when a screw anchor launched from the ground without warning , had a 25mm dia. x 2m long reinforcing bar stake crease the back of my neck on the way skywards, and nearly took out the entire No Limits team at Cuxhaven when a 1m long Deutsches Telecom grounding screw missed them all by centimetres from 25 metres away (it was their screw, which absolves me a bit I reckon).
When a lump of concrete or a bag of sand or a car anchor fails, it does so by sliding a bit- and usually gives warning that it's about to do so. Even when such an anchor continues to slide after the first movement, it will usually (always in my experience) do so in fits and starts. There's then time to do something about it (jump on it, tie it to something else as well etc), and even if there isn't, there will at least be time to get everyone out of the way as it rampages off downwind. The other benefit of this failure mode is that a bit of sliding usefully reduces the load on the line and the kite itself, making other breakage much less likely.
Fortunately, this anchoring principle is becoming much more widely appreciated and adopted now by maxi kite fliers. And to extend it further, on the VERY big kites , like the Kuwait Mega flag and etc, there is a take-down line to the kite from a separate slideable anchor- so if/when the main anchor moves, after 20metres or so (if the lines are adjusted appropriately - note to Andrew Beattie here) the kite will automatically de-power and come back safely to the ground.
A note to event organisers then:
Please, for the benefit of your kite event and the safety of all of us, consider slideable anchors of some sort ( preferably re-positionable ones) for big kites and be VERY wary of stakes, screws, plates and buried things. Best (and easiest) of all, allow locals to bring their cars onto the field for use as big kite tie off points.
And a final safety exhortation; There's a great temptation for people, especially children, to congregate socially around anchoring points, particularly when the wind is pumping and line tension is impressing the hell out of everyone. This is a very bad idea, because it's the most dangerous place to be if the anchor, leash or line fails. In everything from moderate wind up, make sure that people stay upwind or well to the side.
Peter Lynn, Cervia '09