The Rainbear Skydive Corps Re-Equips for 2016

Adopts Ultraform Kites


The Rainwear Skydive Corps was founded in 1994 and has been flying and jumping ever since. When I began the Corps, I did much testing and arrived at the fluted sled kite design as unquestionably the best lifting platform for my purposes. I found nothing else that matched its combined lifting power per sq. ft., stability, flying angle, ease of opening to fly or rolling up to put away.

From its start till around 2006 the Corps was highly active, making most of the major northwest kite festivals and hitting our local parks several times a week during the summer. As I got older, the activity became more and more local and I also got very highly involved in archery and bow making, which took up much of my time. Two years back, I started to find the work of bow making too tiring. My legs weren't up to long periods on the the workshop floor. I started doing more kite stuff again and this summer I have really dived back in.

As I started back up I found that over the years the trees the city had planted in the park were reaching heights that seriously affected the flying there. I needed to drop my bears from lower altitudes and be much more careful about wind angles to avoid having the bears come down in the trees. Dropping from lower altitudes required a new dropping system as the old system of free jumping with a packed parachute used up considerable altitude before the chutes opened. At the lower altitudes, sometimes the chute would barely open before the bear hit the ground.

An additional problem with the old system was that I would have to get down on the ground to repack parachute packs. With age, I find that getting up and down is very difficult. I developed a working system for releasing a pre-deployed chute at a lower altitude (about 125'), using smaller bears and 14 sq. ft. fluted sleds instead of 30 ft models. (The development of both our original system and this new system is described in some detail in the "Traditional" RSC section, as is the fluted sled kite. The traditional information section is accessable from the main web site index page at www.dickwightman.com . I wish I could put a direct link here, but my software won't accept it. Too many folder jumps between.).

The new setup worked fine for the past couple of years, but I, and my fluted sleds, were still getting older. I have always built all of my equipmen fields and beaches was getting really difficult; sometimes impossible. Another adaptation to my "system" was called for.t, bears and kites. (Note: If you want to fly a fluted sled, you have to build it. They are not available commercially.) Most of my sleds were more than 20 years old and I myself was beginning to realize that 80 was a matter of months, rather than years, away. Numerous aches and pains made getting all the kites and dropping gear loaded and unloaded and across the field or beach.

I wanted new kites, but I didn't want to make them. Big projects seem much bigger now than they did even when I was in my mid-70's. I had played some in the past with soft Flow Form kites, mostly because they packed up small enough to take on bike trips. (Something else I did at one time but no longer.) Flow Forms are nice kites, but they don't have the lifting power or stability of fluted sleds (nothing did). However, for my new concept, I decided I needed soft kites. I wanted to be able to fit everything into a duffle bag and I did not want to mess with any kind of kite assembly upon reaching the field.

I considered parafoils, but I had tried them in the past and never liked them. To me, they are far too finicky in tuning and their stability compared to a fluted sled was sadly lacking. I decided that I would have to settle for Flow Forms. However, I learned of a new foil development (new to me at least), the Ultrafoil, developed by Ray and Jeanne Merry of Cobra Kites. They are principle suppliers to KAP folks (Kite Aerial Photography) and the Ultrafoil seems to have been developed with KAP needs for lifting power and stability in mind. By appearance and description of flying characteristics, this kite appeared to offer the simplified bridling of the Flow Form with lift and flying angle comparable to the parafoil. I decided to give it a try and ordered their 30 sq. ft. model.

I received my Ultrafoil 30 and was blessed with good wind to try it at the club's Fathers Day fly. I immediately decided that it was a winner! It lofted very easily and flew at a very high angle and with plenty of power. Over subsequent sessions, I was able to try it side by side with my 30' fluted sled. I think that in lighter air, 7 to 9 mph., I would give the sled a slight edge in lift and flight angle, but very slight. Above 10 mph., the UF's lift is excellent and it achieves an almost startlingly vertical flight angle, at 15 mph or above, its lift reaches awesome. Getting the UF down and put away is more of a chore than the sled, which you simply walk down and roll up around its three longitudinal spars. The UF requires some kind of packing. It comes carefully folded in a fabric envelope. That ain't gonna happen on a windy kite field. I'm still working on a "best" system, but for the moment I'm walking it down to the bridle point, rolling it from one edge into a long cylinder, folding that in half and wrapping the bridle around it, then putting it in a cloth sausage bag. This works pretty easily for the 30 ft. and for the 15, which I also bought to and fly the Rainwear Skydive Corps banner from.

Overall, I rate the Ultrafoil outstanding for bear dropping. It performs well on all factors… lift, angle and stability. The fluted sled is easier to launch and retrieve, as there is no folding involved, just rolling it around its spars. However, the UF's launch pretty easily, too.

In practical terms, the flute has two two disadvantages, neither of which involves its performance. The fact that it has spars is one disadvantage, in that I just don't like to have to assemble a kite. I get around that with the 30 sq. ft. flute by simply never disassembling it. It has three 6' vertical spars. I made them as 3' sections so you could pack it small, but as I said, I never disassemble it. I just roll the kite and bridles around the spars and carry it in a 6 1/2" kite bag. That was fine, if awkward. I no longer drive a van and now I need to pack smaller, plus I now use a cart to haul all the gear across the fields and sand, and a 6 1/2' kite bag full of kites is really awkward. Soft kites that performs equally well win out. The other great disadvantage to the fluted sled is that it is not a commercially available kite. You have to build it. I have built maybe 20 of them over the years and conducted classes in building them at numerous kite festivals. It's not the easiest kite to build, especially in the 30' size, but it rewards with its performance. Of course, building your kite yourself saves a bundle of money, too, if you have the skills, energy and time.

In my enthusiasm for the new Ultrafoils, I also ordered one of Cobra's custom Ultrafoil 60's! Therein lies a separate tale, which I'll tell elsewhere.


Update: Got to take the kites to a school playfield I sometimes use and got some nice shots of all three sizes flying together, now posted below. I also got the chance to really study the construction and found that I had been accepting the overall visual without realizing that in fact, this kite shares concepts with my beloved fluted sled. The fluted sled is a flat surface with straight open tubes on the front and holes in the face to allow more air to be forced into the tubes. The air exiting the tubes under increased pressure pushes the kite to a good high flight angle, kind of a rocket effect. However, again, it is a flat kite overall. The UF is a shaped wing foil shape, which certainly gives it powerful lift. However, there is an inner second surface to the cells and openings on face to allow additional air pressure in. There are open ends to this second layer to allow the increased air pressure to exit, similar to the flute. No wonder I like this kite!


Pix of kites














UF30, UF 60 and UF 15 aloft together



UF 15 "sausage". Kite has been folded across the width, tail tucked into the fold, then rolled rather than folded from the back edge to the front. The bridle is still outside of the roll at one end. I wrap the roll with the bridle, tucking the end under one of the windings. Nice neat package. To deploy, untuck the bridle end, fasten to line and hold the bridle as you let the kite unroll. The amount of spreading you'll have to do depends on the wind.



The "sausage" drops neatly into the sausage bag. I handle all three kites this way.

The magic duffle bag contains:

three UF kites

5 welded iron stakes

2 webbing straps to fasten around beach logs

folded banner to attach to a kite line as laundry

3 line winders for straight single line flying

4 complete bear dropping rigs on yoyo's

Hopi coat to impress crowds and for sun protection

sun screen

bug repellant


super wide brimmed hat




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Sorry I can't put a link here, but my software won't accept it.