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Update from Finse.

12/03/2010

It’s day six here in Finse, Norway, where we have been learning to harness the wind using various forms of kite in order to pull ourselves and our pulks across the snowy, windswept landscape. Well…..at least that’s the idea! There have been a lot of comedy crashes but we are pleased with our progress.

We’ve been a given a (sometimes literally) crash course in parasailing and kite-skiing by Ronny Finsaas, local kite-skiing legend and holder of most polar kiting records that exist. His phlegmatic approach to teaching has been much appreciated by the team; when Paddy’s first attempt to launch a kite resulted in a face plant Ronny just grinned, “well I guess it is a crash course”.

Mike and Si kiting across the lake

Acres of space for the occasional wipeout

Parasails are basically kites with short lines that are controlled via a bar held vertically. They are useful in high winds (and also for going off jumps!) due to their ease of control and the fact that its pretty easy to quickly de-power them in case things get out of control – quite a common occurance for the team!

I won’t insult the reader’s intelligence by describing what a kite is! However, what we are using is slightly different to your average kite. For propulsion in lower wind conditions (below around 40 kph) we are using foil snow kites made by Ozone in various sizes; controlled by handle and bar control systems. The kites range from beginner versions which are fairly easy to handle and stable to more advanced versions which react quickly (sometimes unpredictably) and develop a huge amount of power for their size. The most advanced version we are using is called the Yakuza GT. Being Ronny’s favourite kite he had us trying it on day 2. To a man we were pretty much controlled by it, rather than vice versa, and as such ended up being rescued by Ronny from the downwind end of the lake.

As a result, the team has developed a healthy respect for the Yakuza GT, in addition to a desire to “master” it. The latter is especially necessary as it will be the principal kite we intend to use in Greenland and Antartica, mainly due to its exceptional power / weight ratio. During a session yesterday with this kite I was practicing with this kite and made the mistake of not de-powering it enough before initiating a turn. As a result the 5.5m2 kite picked me up around 10ft in the air and deposited me in the snow amongst a pretty much unresolvable mess of skis, skis boots, kites lines, handles and the kite itself. And this was in a fairly moderate wind!

Despite the hiccups we are pleased with progress here and feel we have kept up with the steep learning curve. We have learnt to control parasails of various constructions and sizes in addition to many handle-controlled and bar-controlled kites. We have also completed two day trips downwind, during the longest of which we covered 60km in a variety of terrain and wind conditions.

Lastly on this post, I’d like to offer a big thanks to Ronnie Finsaas, who not only has taught us to kite but has also given us a huge amount of indispensable advice on kite travel in Greenland and Antartica. Thanks a lot Ronnie!

Simon, Finse

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