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The Batten Phase

9ft 1in 345-type with single batten per wing; short fin

Early battened deltas

...they look cool on paper

Mid 1970s to early '80s

... they look great in the air

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These are some of my early battened deltas. The 12ft span lefthand one was hang glider-inspired; the middle one was a Mike Pavlov special; and the righthand kite has its wing tips chopped off, with a single batten - it's included here because it's a sort of "missing link"; Mike Pavlov asked if he could use the idea on a design he had in mind. I said OK, and the next thing I knew, he had made a prototype "Phoenix," which was the world's first delta-based two line stunt kite.

More early battened deltas

My first multi-battened deltaEarly Battened deltaThese kites are representative of my hang glider-inspired wing shapes. The idea was to extend wing fabric beyond the support of the frames. (The problems this caused outweighed any theoretical advantage.) They look neat in photos, but that's about all that's good about them. They have terrible stalls, and tend to flap and flop about during certain turning maneuvers.

My favorite batten design

These pictures show my favorite batten usage, where the wing area doesn't extend beyond the baseline on the wing plan. This solves the problem of the extra fabric flapping up and down too much. The single battens run from the midpoint of the trailing edge to the spreader pocket, neatly tensioning the fabric exactly where it needs it, while remaining independent of any wing flexing.

The first two are about 9ft 10in span.

The bottom two here are 14ft 4inch ones, all wood frames. (Sometimes I extended the fins, sometimes I didn't.)

In the end I found that battens could easily be snapped or lost. Assembly in the field took that much longer. At the kite building stage, the time-consuming extra detailing required had to be done with the utmost precision to preclude having separate left and right battens. The kites were heavier in the air - by a trifling amount - but there wasn't any noticeable performance gain to justify the increased construction cost.

Battens on a Clipper

This is the kite that finally put me off battens forever. The battens added virtually nothing to the kite's performance.

The principle is the same - run battens from the spreader pockets to the midpoint of the trailing edge line, filling in some of the wing area lost to the normal deep scallops. Battens require a lot of finicky little parts assembled with a high degree of precision - and then they are easily lost or broken in the field. They do nothing for the kite's handling. I've concluded it's better to concentrate on kites without these costly yet relatively useless complications.

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