Hargrave Man Lift

Kite Fest '99. 26-28th March, 1999, Semaphore Beach, Adelaide

Anne-Marie Parry and Phil McConachie got me out of 'kite retirement' to bring my Hargrave box kite man-lifting rig across to the Adelaide International Kite Festival in March. This was only the third time the rig had been used. The first was at the Hargrave Centennial at Stanwell Park beach in November 1994; the second was a few weeks later on the Sunshine Coast in Queensland (see KiteLines, Vol 11 No. 2 for a description of those attempts) . I did take the kites across to the second Napier international fly in NZ, but the weather conditions were not suitable for a man-lift.

Actually the weather conditions weren't that favourable in Adelaide. The Friday (Schools Day) was sunshine and light winds in the morning, but by the time I had the kites assembled, around lunchtime, the winds had dropped away. I stored the assembled kites in the beach marquee. The next day the weather was atrocious - strong blustery off-shore winds (okay for kite-surfing though). The conditions deteriorated with downpours of torrential rain. The spectators all left and the kite-flying was cancelled for the rest of the day, even the planned evening fireworks show was abandoned.

Sunday morning I awoke and decided that I would at least make an attempt to put up the kites. Early morning on the beach was spent helping Peter Lynn and crew attempt to move a few hundred kilos of blown sand from the surface of the world's largest kite (the megaray version). An unfortunate attempt to speed up the process by moving a truck mooring a smaller lifter ray resulted in the skin of the megaray ripping - Peter spent the next two hours sewing it back together.

Midmorning however, and a fiercesome squall hit the beach - the tail of the now-flying megaray ripped off with a crack like a rifleshot. It ended up in the sea and had to be rescued by boat. Phil's beautifully crafted octopus lost a leg when it strayed too close to a truck. Richard Dutton attempted to set-up his box-kites for an attempt on the world record, but they self-launched and ended up in two main sections - flying from Bob Dawson's red worm-kite and off Phil's parafoil flying line. All were recovered, with only two broken kites. Phil's parafoil, awesomely stable in the horror winds, first lost it's giant spinsock, which floated off into the bushes, and then the kite crashed at high speed mouth-first onto the beach, bursting the top skin.

By lunchtime the squalls were less frequent, though the winds were still full of rolling thermals after coming across land. I moved the boxes onto the beach and began the process of sorting out flying lines, anchor (a 4WD) and the lifting seat. After discussion with Phil, we settled on doing the manlift around 2pm, following the corporate Rokkaku challenge.

simon's kitesWe spread the five kites out to the length of the flying line, flipped them over and launched them one at a time. As usual they flew nearly directly overhead. I hooked the harness into the quick release system and yelled at the crew of five holding the line just downwind of me to let go.

And I was up - a smooth ascension when a wind gust hit the kites. I waved to the crowd who clapped and cheered, sat there for a minute or so, then the wind dropped and I was back on the ground. I was elated. I slipped out of the harness and asked "who's next?". In quick succession we sent aloft Jan Mirck, Anne Harris (from the UK), Ray Bethell (USA), Bob Dawson, Anne-Marie Parry and about six others. Some of the flights were more dramatic than others - in one a giant wind shift caused the person being lifted to move around 90 degrees and then back. After his flight, Bob Dawson proclaimed I was a legend.

simon liftedThen I noticed that the front box of the black kite was distorting - I called out to Phil and the crew quickly brought down the train. It turned out that one of the two tensioning lines on the front box had slipped - no real damage done.

Everyone who had been lifted was blissed out - I think it's the moment of terror when the kites get full altitude and you get lifted to about 20 feet that does it - much like bungy jumping really.

That night the (delayed) spectacular fireworks display, designed by Bob Dawson, lit the night skies.

The next Adelaide Kite Festival is planned for the 20th to the 26th March, 2000 - the competition heats (stunt, kite-buggying and kite-sailing) will be held in the week before the public festival.


Story: Simon Freidin
Photos: Colin Minter

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