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 3' Stunter kites (the first US smaller version of the standard 4' 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!

Sunday, 27 November 2016

A Peter Powell selfie!

When we were at Weymouth Kite Festival earlier this year, and took delivery of our set of L-katz Peter Powells, we also got ourselves a pair of PP hats to keep our heads warm in the coming winter, colour-matched with our Flying Fish coats.

Well, today was definitely cold enough to start using them!

By the way, with this picture we've joined the selfie generation: this is our very first ever selfie; not sure whether to be proud or embarrassed ...

Wednesday, 23 November 2016

L-katz Peter Powells in flight

Some time ago, I showed you a picture of our set of custom Peter Powells for the L-katz team. Now you may have wondered why I didn't post any pictures of them flying. Well, the reason for that is that I wanted to hold off on that blog post until L-katz had flown all five together. Unfortunately, shortly after I got the kites, Tony suffered very serious health problems, and he may never fly as part of the team again .... So I decided not to delay any longer.

The first time we flew three of the five kites (#1, #2, #5; red - black - red tails) was when Neil was also out of action, due to surgery on his hand. Roger, Irma and myself had the honour of the initial flight of the L-katz Peter Powells.

The wind was strong, the kites were in their element, and we had fun!

Next time the kites came out was with a 4-man L-katz. Four kites (#1, #2, #4, #5; red - black - black - red tails).

We could really take the kites through their paces, and try out which patterns worked and which didn't.

And with the 3-man as well as the 4-man team, there were occasions were it didn't work! But, as they say, if you don't crash into each other every once in a while, you're not trying hard enough ....

I want to finish this blog post by simply expressing our wish, in the strongest possible way, that Tony will one day be able to take back his place in the team, and fly kite #3, with a yellow tail. #3 has so far remained unflown, waiting for Tony to pick up the lines. Fingers crossed ...

Saturday, 12 November 2016

'Chevron' Cayman

I've written on this blog before about the US arm of Peter Powell Kites becoming independent and changing its name to Caribbean Kite Company. Several of the kites produced by Peter Powell Kites were continued, but under a different name. For the standard PP diamond Stunter this rebranding resulted in the Cayman.

As I said in this earlier blog post, I regard kites made by the Caribbean Kite Company as having 'Peter Powell DNA'. You may well disagree with me, but for me, Caribbean Kite Company is part of the Peter Powell story, and so I've been looking for Caribbean kites to add to the Peter Powell collection. There certainly aren't many around so I'm pleased that I've managed to get my hands on a Cayman in the 'chevron' colour scheme, new in its package, and for very little $$!

This Cayman hardly changed from the Peter Powell Stunter that was its predecessor: same 4' wing span, ripstop sail, same spar arrangement, fibreglass spars. Besides the slightly different nose piece, it's just the label which identifies it as having been produced by Caribbean Kite Company.

It also flies exactly as you'd expect from a PP Stunter: needs a decent pressure on the sail to be optimally steerable, but in winds over, say, 10mph, it's a fun kite to fly.

And in case anyone has any doubt about the PP ancestry of the Cayman, look at the handles that came with the kite:

What does it say on the handles? Exactly ..

Monday, 31 October 2016

'The Monster', part II: adding a custom-made tail

I blogged earlier about our 6' Peter Powell 'Monster' and wrote that I was hoping to convince Mark and Paul to make me a blue-pink-white custom tail for the kite. Well, they were happy to do so, and here is this custom-made tri-colour tail; thanks guys!

Because the kite is around 50% larger in height and wing span, Mark made the tail also longer, to keep it roughly the same length relative to the kite.

And the extra-long tri-colour tail looks really good on the kite, I must say (but I would say that, wouldn't I?).

There's just one downside to flying kites with extra long tails ...

Thursday, 20 October 2016

Battle-scarred ...

Got her via Ebay, a Mk I Stunter with fibreglass frame, and she arrived with battle scars: two long tears, repaired with tape. As I was setting her up in our usual flying field for her first flight with me, another tear appeared. She's clearly suffering from BSS (brittle sail syndrome), a common problem with old Peter Powells. Another length of repair tape, a quick field fix, and she was ready to take to the air.

I launched her with a hefty dose of apprehension. The wind was quite strong and blustery, and that's not ideal for an old girl with BSS ... But off she went and crossed were my fingers (at least for as far as the line straps allowed me).

She seemed really happy, riding the gusts as if nothing was wrong.

I kept expecting to see another tear appear as she was flying around, but no, all went fine! Battle-scarred and wounded though she was, she was enjoying herself, diving, rising and looping to her heart's content. I will need to treat her with caution, of course, keep a close eye on her sail for any emerging tears, and repair when necessary. But 'brittle sail syndrome' is progressive and incurable, so the day will come that her sail tears beyond repair ... But until that day, this old girl will remain a welcome part of my collection.

Saturday, 8 October 2016

Looking for a Skytoy

While searching the internet for information on US-made Peter Powell kites, I stumbled across a mention of an "evil PP for the Japanese market", which, allegedly, "even Peter himself didn't like". Any attempt to pin down exactly which kite this was fizzled out into failure ...

Keep in mind the Japanese connection, and look at this ad from 1991 in the magazine Stunt Kite Quarterly.

Look at the kite featured in the lower right of the ad. It's a Skytoy, said to be "a big hit in Japan" ... Am I jumping to conclusion by adding 2 and 2 to make 4? Is a Skytoy indeed this "evil PP"?

The Skytoy was Peter Powell Kites' attempt to create a miniature stunt kite. It had a wing span of 86 cm, and weighed just over 50 grams. It was meant to be flown off two fingers, and was said to be very fast. Further attempts to get more information on the Skytoy, or even another picture, again fizzled out into the earlier mentioned failure, so if anyone knows more about this tiny PP kite, please get in touch.

And needless to say, but if anyone, whether in Japan or anywhere else, has a Skytoy for sale, please do let me know, ok?

Saturday, 17 September 2016

3' Stunter triple-stack

Some time ago, I posted on our new Skyraker, which we managed to get from the US. Well, this kite didn't cross the pond on its own; there was something more in the package ...

But let me first give you a bit of background. In the UK, Peter Powell Stunters all came in the same size: with a 4' wing span. In the US, this was also the case originally, but then the US arm of Peter Powell Kites started producing larger and smaller versions. The larger 6' version was called 'The Monster' and we have one in our collection. The smaller 3' (82cm) version didn't appear to have a specific name other than 3' Stunter, and that's the kite that accompanied the Skyraker in its voyage to the UK. Or, to be more precise, three kites linked together: a 3' Stunter triple-stack.

The stack came without original tails, and I thought we'd just try to fly it like that. Big mistake ... Highly unstable, extremely twitchy and almost impossible to fly. We didn't bring any official Peter Powell tails with us, but we did have several Premier transition tails in the team bag. To see whether that made a difference, we first attached a single 50' tail to the lead kite of the stack. That definitely made a difference, and when we then attached two further 25' tails to the other two kites, we had a stack that was actually flyable!

The Premier tails weren't made for these kites, but they do match well, and the two different tail lengths create a nice unusual visual effect.

Even though the tails most certainly tamed the kites, they remain more difficult to fly than 4' Stunters, whether old or modern. Nevertheless, they're a welcome addition to our Peter Powell Kites collection.

Update: this blog post was originally published under the title 'Junior triple-stack', based on information suggesting that these smaller PPs were marketed under the name 'Junior' in the US. After some more research, there appears to be no hard evidence that the name 'Junior' was actually used in the US; these kites were simply referred to as 3' Stunters. A Junior Peter Powell did exist in the UK, though.

Saturday, 10 September 2016

Round Table PP

Not long after a Queen promo Stunter appeared on eBay, another branded Peter Powell popped up. This time it was a white one, featuring a Round Table logo.

Paul was not aware of the existence of this particular branded Peter Powell kite, but he did mention Peter being an invited speaker for the Round Table, so the kite may well be connected to such an event. The kite was listed with a buy-it-now price of £80, which was just too high for me to bite. The kite didn't sell in its first listing, and was relisted a few times, after which it disappeared from eBay. So I assume someone did feel it was worth it!

There were definitely more branded PP Stunters around in those days. Paul remembered a green-and-yellow one made for BP. If I ever come across this BP kite, or at least a picture of one, or of any other branded Peter Powell kite, you can be sure I'll post a bit about it here. And obviously, if any of you reading this has more information on this Round Table kite, the BP kite, or any other branded Peter Powell, please get in touch!

Sunday, 4 September 2016

New PP routine music

The 2016 festival season for Flying Fish has come to an end. Although we have a pair of custom-made Peter Powell Stunters to fly displays with, it wasn't until our final kite festival, Exmouth, that the conditions were such that we could think of flying them in the arena. On Sunday morning, after a Saturday with very light winds, the wind had picked up enough for us to get the PP Stunters ready (with Keith and Vee of the Airheads team acting as ground crew).

Previously, we had always flown our Peter Powells to 'Adiemus', but for this festival season, we had decided to change the music for our Peter Powell routine to 'Heart of Courage'. We felt the way PP Stunters fly through the air match this piece of music really well; have a listen, and see whether you agree.

As we launched (me first, with Irma joining me about 15 seconds later), the wind was still strong enough to fly the Stunters.

Unfortunately, however, the wind gradually started to drop, causing us to struggle more and more. Despite frantically walking backwards, the kites dropped out of the sky about 30 seconds from the end ....

So sadly, we couldn't complete the official debut of the new Peter Powell routine music all the way through. Still, there's always next year!

Picture credits: Marian Linford & Valerie Hancorn

Friday, 12 August 2016

Peter Powell Kites catalogue

This will be a rather unusual post for this blog, as it's not about a kite, but about a kite catalogue! Thanks to Charly Whitaker of Kite Classifieds for giving me first dibs on a 1991 catalogue from Peter Powell Kites in the US.

The catalogue consists of 22 pages, and came with a few inserts. It covers the range of Peter Powell kites available in 1991, from the classic diamond Stunters to several of the early dual-line deltas (Skyraker and Wing) and the Double Diamond quad kite.

Also included in the catalogue are a range of lines, straps and handles, as well as a page on single-liners.

A very interesting insert is the retail price list, including kites, spares, and accessories!

A standard diamond Stunter with plastic sail cost $29 back then, one with a tri-color ripstop sail cost $53.40, whereas the 6' Monster would have set you back $144. Skyrakers varied from $62 to $145, depending on sail and frame, and for the Wing you had to pay $135. The most expensive single kite on the list was a Skyblazer (shown on the cover of the catalogue): $195. But if you really wanted to splash out, you could order a 6-stack of tri-color ripstop diamond Stunters for $302.40.

What did the catalogue tell me about US Peter Powell kites that I didn't already know from other sources? Few things. First of all, I wasn't aware that Peter Powell also made single-liners in the US. Secondly, there was an American Mk III Stunter, which was an ultralight version, with a carbon frame, of the ripstop Mk II. And finally, The Skyraker came in more sail versions than I was aware of. I knew it came with 3-panel, 11-panel, and 'Illusion' graphics sails, but the price list also lists a 1-panel sail. The 'Stars & Stripes' version I showed in an earlier blog post was actually a separate version of the 11-panel sail, costing an extra $5 on top of the $85.

Fun bit of PP history! And if anyone reading this is looking for specific information from this catalogue; you know where to find me ...

Thursday, 28 July 2016

Skylite (and looking for a Mustique)

Two American-produced Peter Powell deltas are already part of our collection: a Wing and a Skyraker. And I'm pleased that we have now been able to add a third one to the collection: a Skylite!

This PP delta appears to have come on the market in 1992, based on the ads in the Kite Lines magazine. It's essentially an ultralight kite, with a wingspan of 2.47m.

The Skylite tracks very well, no oversteer at all. It does need a bit more input than a more modern delta, but would make a pretty decent team kite.

As I mentioned in an earlier blog post, when the Caribbean Kite Company took over the American arm of Peter Powell Kites, they retained some of the existing PP models under a different name. The Skylite was renamed Mustique, and, judging from a Caribbean Kite Company catalogue, it appears nothing much was changed in the specs of the kite.

Now you may well have seen this coming, but does anyone have a Mustique they'd be willing to part with? Colour not important. Would be fun for Flying Fish to have a Skylite - Mustique pair in their quiver!