Photo of Marcus Morris

Semi-Rigid Double-Foil Sled Kite

I remember kites. When I was very young they were those extremely sad cotton and spruce constructions which one's Dad helped one to fly - or attempt to fly. Even in a Beaufort 6-7 they would remain pinned to the ground sulkily. In desperation one would run as hard as one could into the wind, towing the obstinate object behind, until, out of breath and with liquefied leg muscles, one would glance over one's shoulder to see something looking like an early experiment in corsetry plummeting earthwards from the giddy height of about 20 feet or so.

Materials began to get better - slowly. My first encounter with a radical departure from conventional kite material technology was in the late 60's when my Dad brought home a "Guinness" promotional kite made from polythene (or something similar). At the time I was in awe of my Dad's selfless devotion to the consumption of enough Guinness to acquire this fabulous item for me. It was only a traditional "diamond" shaped kite, but it flew! We had months of fun before we lost it somewhere off the coast at Folkestone. However, my resourceful Dad had written down the dimensions and so we were able to make reproductions for future use.

It was around the mid-70's when I noticed that kite technology had moved on and that there were people out there flying things other than traditional diamonds and boxes. I found a design for something called a Semi-Rigid Double-Foil Sled kite and, YES, it could be constructed from ordinary materials found in the typical domestic environment! I set about construction immediately and found myself in possession of a quite extraordinary instrument. It would fly in the lightest of winds and could generate considerable pull. It was also capable of lifting payloads equivalent to, say, a 35mm camera...

Since then, things have changed fast. Carbon fibre, Kevlar, Ripstop nylon and the serious application of aerodynamic design methodologies have driven kite science to extremes of perfection and performance. If ever there was an expression of convergent technology, here it is. Carbon fibre (canoes, fishing rods, etc), Kevlar (car seatbelts, space-suits, bullet-proof undergarments, etc), Ripstop nylon (yacht sails, paragliders, my great aunt's party bloomers, etc). Outcome? A new generation of kites.

However, this burst of technological activity has had its casualties. Whatever happened to the "kid who made a kite" - the one who got so much satisfaction from seeing something fly which he or she had made, without being laughed at for being unable to afford the sexier high-performance shop-bought item? That's why I'm re-releasing details of the Semi-Rigid Double-Foil Sled kite. With some care over choice of materials, it should be possible for anyone to build it for the equivalent of a few (UK) pounds or so.


Karen Murray of "Natural Heights", London SW12.
I visited Natural Heights recently to buy a "Powerhouse Dynamo" for my Dad. I ended up buying two. Karen's enthusiasm for a certain "youth initiative" persuaded me to dig out the old Sled kite plans and reproduce them here.

The original designer of this Sled kite.
I regret that I do not know the designer's name. The design was published in a weekend newspaper colour supplement (Telegraph or Observer?) sometime back in the mid-70's. The supplement had a blue border and a picture of Elton John on the front. If anyone can help me to trace the designer I would be very grateful. I have made a few structural modifications but, apart from that, it's the original design.


First of all, some terminology. On the diagram above, the following abbreviations are used: LBF (left bridle fin), CBF (central bridle fin), RBF (right bridle fin), LF (left foil), RF (right foil). As you read the following instructions, be sure to refer to the diagram for guidance...


Regards - Marcus Morris.