In looking at replacements for the Sutton Flowform 30 I now have 2 ‘off the shelf’ candidates. The Didakites Explorer 2.7 supplied by KAPshop and a Fotokite 180 from IKAR of Poland.
The Fotokite 180 is a fairly powerful kite for its size and I flew it in 6-11mph on 250DaN line, it is very sensitive to wind speed with a tendency to rise and pull hard as wind speed picks up, it has the feel of a traction kite and weaves to the left or right rising in an arc to its apex with a hefty pull on the line. The cells can collapse as it turns in lull if tension is not kept on the line. This is a kite that likes a lot of sky to move around in! It returned to a stable down wind apex after each swooping turn so you could say it was predictable in its movement. Once I’d got an idea of where it wanted to sit in the sky I lofted the Explorer and the differences between them immediately became apparent.The Explorer does better in lull and it has a better downwind path, unlike the Fotokite it doesn’t arc across the wind with speed variation, it rocks a little and ‘sidesteps’. In this shot the kites are dropping in lull. The Explorer is on a super light Coramid line (it wasn’t pulling much at all), you can see the Fotokite tipping ready for another fierce lunge across the wind window. The Fotokite was generating more lift but the Explorer was the more stable. After letting the kites dance around each other for a bit I thought I remind myself of what the Sutton can do with the same wind.Up she rose and hung in the air absorbing lull and gust beautifully with very little tracking to left or right.
I wonder if the crosswind stability of these kites is a property of the aspect ratio, the oblong shape of the Fotokite and Explorer seems to want to turn over whereas the Sutton’s deeper profile helps it stay on the down wind line.
So for now I have to conclude that the Explorer 2.7 might have a place in the KAP bag for Bft 4 ( it will be in competition with the HQ Flowform 2.0) and the Fotokite needs a very smooth airflow to work in. For the same wind range the Sutton is by far and away a more stable kite than the Exporer and way better than the Fotokite.
It turns out the Fotokite has a history I was unaware of when I ordered it. It is a published design by Jim Rowlands from 1992 which he has since advised uses an incorrect profile. Back in 2004 a number were made and found wanting, Peter Bults has one and let me know the story. I’ll fly it with a custom drogue on a yoke and see how it behaves. It’s not a bad kite: it’s just the Sutton is so much better I’m beginning to treasure it!