The Kent Scouts Power Kite Team
‘Getting muddy with style’, well that could slogan could be equally appropriate for nearly all Scout activities nowadays, with a much greater trend towards all-year-round Scouting than when I was a Cub and Scout many years ago and a much greater emphasis on getting outdoors as much as possible. In my younger days, the camping season started around Easter and finished in mid-September with the most activity at Whitsun and the annual Summer Camp. Although some Groups were more active outside for the rest of the year, these days it is the norm with a much greater demand for more varied activities to fill the time. And today there is probably the greatest range of things to try ever available to Scouts of all ages - far beyond the scope of this article to mention, but suffice to say that virtually anything you can think of (within the bounds of decency of course!) is probably available somewhere.
This is of course where we come in offering a chance to try their hands at power kiting, including buggies for those who wish to take things a little further. ‘Getting muddy with style’ is our adopted slogan and is quite often appropriate particularly between late September and April! Of course Scouting has had kiting connections almost since its conception with BP’s brother, Major BFS Baden-Powell, being one of this country’s aeronautical pioneers. He designed the Levitor kite as a man-lifter, this being adopted by the Army prior to the arrival of Samuel Cody on these shores and would later gain fame as the aerial lifter for Marconi’s Transatlantic radio experiments. Major Baden-Powell also encouraged air activities for Scouts, which would later see the birth of the Air Scouts branch (He also had a connection with Kent, living in Sevenoaks for many years).
So enough history as I’m sure many knew much of this already, what of today and in particular the team? Well, we formed in 2009 and are part of Kent Scouts’ Air Activities Branch whose remit is to provide the opportunity for many kinds of ‘air’ related activities to not only Air Scouts but to all Scout Groups in Kent. Aside from kiting, among the activities offered are microlights, model building and flying, model rockets (both water and solid fuel (new for this year)) and flight simulators. Gliding and flight experience in fixed wing aircraft and helicopters are also available.
From small beginnings we have grown steadily into close-knit and professional team of around 30 instructors with ages ranging from 15 to 50. Our equipment includes: several Ozone Flow kites in sizes 2, 3, 4 and 5 metres, smaller Ozone Imp Quattros in 1 and 1.5 metre sizes; these are our main teaching kites that cater for a wide range of wind speeds and age and experience of participants. We also have a large 6 metre Pansh and a very large 8.5 metre Flexifoil Blade for the braver among us and have recently purchased a set of Ozone’s new Method kites from 2 to 5 metres. We have several Flexifoil standard buggies and a Libre V-Max racing buggy. We also have a few mountain boards and in addition to an event shelter and banners, a 2-metre rokkaku kite commissioned from Sky Bums bearing our logo. This was chosen for its good flying characteristics and for being closest in design to the original BP Levitor. It is used for promotional purposes and as a lifter for bear dropping.
We offer flying training for age ranges of 8 (Cubs) up to adult in a range of sessions from a 2-hour taster through a 4-hour intensive to a 6-hour day where we would aim to get our participants onto buggying. Locations used on a fairly regular basis so far include: Capstone Park, Mote Park, Sittingbourne District Scout Campsite at Bexon Lane, Kent Scouts Barn at Sandling and Quex Park. We will also visit Groups during their camps if the venue is suitable, in the past this has included the Kent International Jamboree near Downe in 2009, last year’s Kent Network camp in Wales and the our regular Air camps held at Old Hay airfield near Paddock Wood where the microlight is normally based. Demand also goes beyond Kent for the annual Gilwell 24 national event held at Gilwell Park and we will shortly be attending the Revolution camp in the Isle of Wight. In addition, we also hold regular team events for our instructors, both for the fun of it and to show off our own kites but also to help hone our skills. We have visited Blackheath and Camber Sands on several occasions as well as Palm Bay and Greatstone. Last year a number of our instructors undertook some buggy training at Brightlingsea and more recently spent a few days at Westward Ho in Devon as guests of the Westward Wind Kite Club.
So what does the future hold? We have a fairly full calendar for the rest of the year and are likely to be busier still following the fantastic response to our stand at the recent Active8 exhibition for Scout activities in Kent. We are already booked for the next Kent International Jamboree in 2013 (it would nice to include the KKF in this event as we have in the past). Longer term, it would good to expand to include other types of kite flying in our repertoire, perhaps trick-flying and kite fighting (there is much expertise not only within the Club and Kent now has a diverse multi-ethnic community that could encourage this), our rok is a full competition standard fighter after all!
We are always on the look out for more instructors, both to help with power kiting and possibly to expand our range of flying as mentioned above.