Ten are the prototypes of wind sleds that have managed to navigate the ice driven by kites.
A first prototype in January-February in the year 2000 utilized an Inuit wooden sled, with a kite and was tested in the Pyrenees. Here, Ramon Larramendi and Javier de la Puente, the builder and founder of “Fun Run Kayak”, realized that it had little stability. Joining two sleds was necessary to prevent overturning.
A few months later, the second prototype was designed at Javier de la Puente’s workshop in Aranda de Duero (Burgos province). It was made out of fiberglass, 3 meters (9 ft) long by 1.5 meters (4 ft) wide and similar to the ocean catamarans. Mr. Larramendi found that this solution had many problems. On the one hand, in case of breakage, the repairing tasks could be very difficult on a crossing and on the other, it was impossible to use for moving expeditionary and equipment.
On that trip to Canada, after the first tests, a new WindSled begins to take shape, a third prototype that has little to do with the above. It is based on Inuit design, much simpler in structure but able to be driven by the wind and repaired when needed. The expedition members, thus, substantiate that it may be driven by kites.
Right there on the ground, they made their first sketches and drawings of what the future sled would be like. In a school notebook they drew, shaped and brainstormed ideas that would originate what is now the only eco-polar vehicle in the world.
The fourth prototype is tested on the first voyage to Greenland in the year 2000; measuring 4 meters (13 ft) long by 2.5 meters (8 ft) wide and weighing 450 kilos (992 lbs). Insisting on the first idea, it is formed by two separate fibre glass sleds, each with its own kite, and quite easy to store every season. The expedition verifies that the more simple “nasa type” kites break less than the “drawer type” ones and that it’s much better to use one large sled instead of two given the difficulty for both to progress at the same speed.
The fifth prototype was tested in the South-North Greenland Crossing 2001. Ramon Larramendi recuperates the notebook sketches made in Canada and designs a new sled, still based on the Inuit concept but with carbon fibre crossbars tied by ropes to a Teflon surface to facilitate sliding. The four rails are made out of maple wood, characterized by its hardness and flexibility. Each of the rails consists of five superimposed steam bent sheets, on which an outer layer of a tough plastic material is added.
Crossbars and rails are joined by knots with ropes and carabiners, a simple and not very rigid system but easy to repair in case of failure. Overall, the vehicle is 6 meters (19 ft) long by 2.80 meters (9 ft) wide. Placed on it is a standing tent. This prototype is the first one similar to the current model and was found to be perfectly windblown while surpassing land contours. Also demonstrating the fact that two people alone were not enough to handle the ‘polar catamaran’. Juan Lupión, expert kite and glider designer and former member of the technical mountaineering team, designed a new generation of kites reinforced by Kevlar material used in bulletproof vests.
In the year 2003 the sixth prototype of WindSled is tested in Greenland, a detachable model that can be divided in two parts. Thus, using four rails, the wind vehicle is converted into two sledges ‘pulkas’ that can be carried by the expeditionary in case of no wind. It is nicknamed ‘the catapulka’. It uses seven kites reinforced with Kevlar, designed and manufactured at Juan Lupión’s workshop. For the first time in this type of expedition it uses a 48 square meter (516.66 sq ft) kite as compared to the 28 square meters (301.38 sq ft) above (Mr. Lupión’s achievement). In this manner, better use of the wind is accomplished and capability of transporting 500 kilos (1102 lbs) of weight is attained.
During the crossing the expedition comprehends the two divisible models do not function: it is not like the wind sled has to be dragged but more like it should be driven by the wind.
The seventh prototype (year 2005) is the first to be taken to Antarctica. After previous experience now it is made out of one piece. Its measurements are 5.40 meters (17 ft) long by 2.80 meters (9 ft) wide. Among the improvements we find the tent’s habitability module for expeditionary and the size of the kites designed by Juan Lupión; leaded for the first time by a 60 square meter (645.83 sq ft) one. On this crossing, the wind sled suffers numerous breaks of its 97 rungs made out of wood instead of carbon fibre. The Antarctic test shows that vehicle weight should be reduced by about 800 kilos (1763 lbs). The sastruguis are too high to attain velocity and the snow is much harder than in Greenland. But even being in poor condition and during the worst part of the expedition trip, the wind sled obtained a good speed pulled by kites. For a few days it worked with two modules, one hooked up after another, first attempt of a convoy with more than one sled.
The eighth prototype is designed for a second traverse in Antarctica and incorporates many new features: the convoy concept is tested with two modules which can carry a greater load expanding its potential of conversion into a scientific vehicle: each unit is shorter, but the whole has a greater length: one module measures 2.40 meters (7 ft) and another 4 meters (13 ft) in total, nearly 7 meters (22 ft) long by 3 meters (9 ft) wide, and with five rails. Each traverse, in this case, is 80 centimetres (2.62 ft) long (one meter beforehand) and thus reducing stresses generated by movement while increasing the flexibility to adapt to terrain. In total there are 140 wooden traverses capable of supporting 1200 kilos (2645 lbs), with the inclusion of four crew members.
THE NEW WINDSLED, 9th PROTOTYPE
The ninth prototype is already underway. One of the priorities of the new model is to reduce the weight of the vehicle itself, to be able to carry more scientific material, which is the ultimate objective. Experts in design and construction are testing new, stronger, more flexible and lighter materials, for the crossbars or traverses. To the Circumnavigation of Greenland different models will be taken to field test their resistance.
Moreover, this first prototype shall consist of three modules (4, 3 and 2 meter -13, 9 and 6 feet- long) with a total length of 9 meters (29 ft) by a width of 2.80 meters (9 ft), five rails and 80 cm (2.62 ft) rungs:
The first module will be the locomotive one in which there is a transparent tent to protect pilot expeditionary from the wind and cold while allowing part of the team to work inside while other members rest in the third module.
The second module will be the loading one: food, scientific instrumentation, sample collection and solar panels.
The third module is the habitability (or living) one, with a specially designed tent to withstand strong gusts of wind.
The tenth prototype was designed for the Ice Summit Expedition Greenland, in 2016. The convoy concept is tested with four modules which can carry greater loads expanding its possibilities of becoming a real scientific vehicle. With this configuration, the WindSled may be divided in two parts.