A blog detailing our collection of Peter Powell kites, and chronicling our flying of these kites. Plus a bit of PP kite history thrown in. Our collection to date can be seen here. I am keen to expand the collection, so if you have an old Peter Powell kite, whether made in the UK or the US, gathering dust and looking for a new home, why not get in touch? Depending on the kite (does it bring something new or different to my collection?), its condition (is it flyable? how much TLC does it need?), and the price you ask (+ shipping if from outside the UK), we may well be able to do a deal.

Saturday, 31 December 2016

End of 2016 - overview of the collection

Early this year, I decided to get serious with building up a Peter Powell kites collection, and 2016 has been quite successful in that respect! On the last day of the year, I thought it would be a good time to take stock of my collection of Peter Powell kites.

As I've written on this blog before, I see the history of Peter Powell kites consisting of four consecutive chapters, and those four chapters are reflected in my collection: 1) The Beginning; 2) Expansion; 3) Going it Alone; 4) Rebirth. So let me take you through those four chapters, and the kites belonging to each.

1) The Beginning
If you're a kite flyer, I don't have to tell you that it was Peter Powell who invented a dual-line diamond kite in the early 1970s. Even though Peter wasn't the first person to fly a steerable kite with two lines, there is no debate that he popularised dual-line flying like no other. It became a massive success, winning the Toy of the Year Award in 1976, and reaching a peak production of 75,000 kites weekly, in five factories. Peter Powell Stunters were initially produced with a 2-point bridle, and these kites are referred to as Mk I. Whereas the sail was made from polythene plastic, the frame material changed over the year: first wood, then aluminium (in a few different versions), and finally fibreglass. Adding a 3rd bridle leg (to the wing tips) turned the Mk I Stunter into a Mk II. Initially, the sail was polythene, as in the Mk I, but that material was subsequently replaced by ripstop nylon; all MK II kites had a fibreglass frame.

I currently have 11 Peter Powell Stunters in my collection. Nine of these are Mk I kites. My oldest has a fully aluminium frame and a yellow sail. Four have aluminium spines and leading edges, but fibreglass cross-spars; I assume the cross-spars were originally aluminium in these kites, and that they were replaced with fibreglass cross-spars at some point in their lives. These four kites are bridled as two 2-stacks (yellow/red sails and yellow/blue sails). The remaining Mk I kites all have a fully fibreglass frame; one has a blue sail, one a red sail, and I have a pair with black sails, which are usually flying with modern silver-coloured tails (which looks really good with the black sails!). Of the two Mk II kites in the collection, one has a polythene blue sail, the other a ripstop blue-green sail.

2) Expansion
To deal with the initial success of Peter Powell kites in the US, a company was set up there to produce and sell Peter Powell kites under licence. Initially, this US Peter Powell Kites company produced dual-line diamond kites of the same size (4’ wing span) as those produced in the UK. However, they expanded into smaller (3’) and larger (6’) versions. A little later, they also started to produce dual-line deltas and even dabbled in quad-line kites for a bit.

As things stand, I have eight US-produced Peter Powell kites in the collection. Three of them are linked together in a triple-stack of Junior kites (the 3’ version of the diamond Stunter). I also have the 6’ version, which was dubbed ‘The Monster’; it certainly pulls in strong winds! The collection includes three dual-line deltas: a Skyraker (the very first Peter Powell delta), a Wing (which develops serious power when the wind picks up) and a Skylite (as the name suggest, this is basically an ultralight). Finally, I have the first of the two Peter Powell quad kites, the Double Diamond (or ‘Double-D’).

3) Going it Alone
Around 1994, the US arm of Peter Powell Kites became independent and changed its name to Caribbean Kite Company, based on Jamaica, and with distribution centred in Florida. The Caribbean Kite Company continued production of a small number of Peter Powell kites, and introduced a range of kites themselves. All their kites (except one) carried names of islands in the Caribbean. So, for instance, the traditional Stunter was renamed Cayman, and the Skylite was produced under the name Mustique. Others were sold under the names of Trinidad, Aruba and Martinique, to name just a few. Even though, technically, kites produced by the Caribbean Kite Company aren't Peter Powell kites, some of them certainly do contain the ‘DNA’ of Peter Powell kites. And the Cayman is a Peter Powell kite in all but name; it even came with handles bearing the name Peter Powell! So, for me, kites produced by the Caribbean Kite Company definitely represent a chapter in the story of Peter Powell kites.

At the moment, I just have a single Caribbean Kite Company Cayman in the collection; Caribbean kites certainly aren’t easy to get hold of!

4) Rebirth
The final chapter in the history of Peter Powell kites brings us to the present day. As you may be aware, Peter’s sons, Mark and Paul, relaunched Peter Powell Kites a few years ago, and you can again buy brand new Peter Powell Stunters. Obviously, we have some of these Mk III kites: a pair, customised for Flying Fish, the pair I form with my wife Irma; and a set of five, customised for L-katz, the team we are also part of. As I figured you wouldn’t be interested in seeing five pictures of five essentially identical kites, I’ll just show the two sets:

Having these kites as part of our pair/team quiver gives us an extra dimension to our flying on days when the wind is really strong, whether that is during practice sessions or at festivals.

So that brings the total collection to 23 kites (I'm counting a 2- or 3-stack as a single kite now). Not bad for a burgeoning collection, eh? Obviously, I’m interested in expanding the collection. Peter Powell kites I’m specifically looking for are UK-made diamond Stunters with unusual sails, with a wooden frame, and with an aluminium frame different from the one I already have. With regard to US-made Peter Powells, I’m interested in any that are not already part of my collection, but especially 4’ Stunters (Mk I, II and III), Skyblazer, Skytoy, Firefli, Dragonfli and Omni (the second Peter Powell quad).  As I only have one Caribbean Kite Company kite at the moment, essentially any would be welcome! And as far as modern-day Peter Powells are concerned, I know that Paul and Mark are working on a few different versions of their new Mk III, but I’m not sure how much of that is meant to be public knowledge, so I won’t divulge any details.

If you have a Peter Powell kite for sale which adds something to the collection, please get in touch!

Friday, 23 December 2016

Ripstop Mk II

Mk II Stunters differ from their Mk I predecessors by having an extra bridle leg, which goes to the wing tip. At first, like Mk I Stunters, they had polythene sails. Later on this was replaced by ripstop. If, as I do, you keep a close eye on eBay, you may have noticed that polythene-sailed Mk I and Mk II Stunters pop up quite regularly, but ripstop Mk II Stunters hardly ever do. I'm not quite sure what's behind this. Could it be a reflection of the numbers of kites produced? Were there simply far fewer PP Stunters with ripstop sail sold than with polythene sail?

Whatever the underlying reason, of course I had to have a ripstop Mk II in my collection. Patience paid off in the end; here's our green (jade?) ripstop Mk II!

The kite came with a semi-translucent orange tail; not sure if that tail is original, but it matched the green sail quite well.

Flight characteristics are what you expect from a vintage Peter Powell: needs a decent breeze to fly and steer optimally.

I don't know if ripstop Mk II Stunters only came in single colours (and how many colours were produced) or whether they also existed as multi-coloured sails. One way to find out: keep keeping an eye on eBay!