Ray's World Adventures 1997
Still setting new World Records
-- 3 stacks of 4 kites for 1 hour and 43 minutes --
May 31 - June 1 at Belmont Shore, Long Beach, California
By Larry Bush
We were sworn to secrecy. No one was to let Ray Bethell know what was planned for him at the Aire Affair Fun Fly and Competition on May 31st - June 1st at Belmont Shore, Long Beach, California. John Shara of Tight Lines Kite Company, with frames provided by Skyshark and 200 lbs lines by Shanti, designed twelve of his Airobatic kites for Ray to attempt a world record. Bowdy Aggres did the bridling and train lines with assistance from the one and only "Fuzzy Bear" - Brian Champie. Of course, Ray would have to put his touch on the tuning of the stacks to make sure they were ready for his world record attempt.
The three stacks of 4 kites looked beautiful in the morning light. Each Kite was one color; black, purple, gold, and green; all posed like a squadron of aircraft ready to take off at a minute's notice. Looking at these kites I think to myself, "Man, there's a lot of pull in each of those stacks. Yesterday, I flew a stack and it pulled me right of the ground. And Ray is supposed to attempt a world record flying all three stacks simultaneously? No Way!"
Ray arrived with his sponsor and festival organizer Neil Tuthill. Ray still was not aware of what was in store for him. He knew that there was some talk of a new record attempt, but he was not sure exactly what was planned. Neil showed Ray the stacks and explained what was planned. John Shara and I were wondering what was Ray thinking, What would he say? Would he attempt a new world record? Could he do it? Ray took a long look at the three stacks. He then smiled that classic Ray Bethell smile and in his English/Aussie accent said "Roight! Let's give it a go, mates!"
Bethell tested each stack individually and made adjustments to the bridles and train lines. He let us know that he was satisfied with his settings saying "All roight! Let's see what these beauties can do!" The focus was now on the ballet field where the three stacks were placed. Ray placed each stack where he wanted it to be. A very large crowd had gathered around the field. The flyers had stopped flying. No one wanted to miss his attempt at a world record. I checked the wind. A smooth consistent 8mph.
Ray hooked a stack to his waist, took one step backwards and the first stack was in the air. As he is flying this stack he bends down and picks up the handles to the left and right stacks, takes a small step back and both jump into the air, joining the first stack.
Ray is flying like a three man team... Passes... Dives... Loop Wraps... Right & Left turns, even a refuel and a world famous Canadian Maple Leaf Split out of a refuel. After seven minutes of fantastic flying Ray does a perfect 1-2-3 landing.
The crowd cheers in amazement! Tight Lines Kite Company's John Shara and Aire Aiffair's Neil Tuthill both have smiles. This was a great way to start the Aire Affair Fun Fly Competition. Ray Bethell had achieved the record that was planned.
But as we soon found out, it wasn't even close to a world record by Ray's standards.
The next morning, June 1st at 10:30 am Ray decides to go for a longer flight. He wants to fly the 3 stacks simultaneously and continuously for as long as he can. I check the wind speed. Again, it's a pleasant 8 mph.
At 10:40 am the stacks are in the air. The kites seemed wobbly at first but Ray quickly had them under control. Ray's skill is amazing. He just doesn't keep the kites in the air -- he puts on a show that is easily as good as some teams that I have watched. As usual, Ray had his shirt off and I could see the muscles in his back working against the pull of the three stacks. It is hard to believe that he is in his seventies. At 11:30 am I checked the wind. It had increased to 12 mph. I wondered how much longer can Ray keep this up? Finally, at 12:33 pm, Ray does a perfect 1-2-3 landing. He had flown the three stacks of four kites for one hour and forty-three minutes.
There were hand-shakes and hugs from those watching. Ray was then brought to the ballet field in front of the announcer's tent where Aire Affair Productions' Neil Tuthill presented Ray with a collector's pin to celebrate the occasion and stationary with his new logo on it. "We are proud of this achievement!" exclaimed Neil Tuthill; "But we are more proud of Ray Bethell!"
On both days of the Aire Affair Fun Fly and Competition Ray did multiple kite demonstrations for 10 hours. This was Ray's second trip to Belmont Shore Long beach, California; and he is already scheduled to return in 1998.
It will be interesting to see what Aire Affair Kite Productions can dream up for Ray next year
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