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Bruno Legaignoux's message

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  • Bruno Legaignoux
    Hi, I m Bruno Legaignoux. For those which don t know my name, we are, with my brother Dominique the inventors of the inflated kite in the shape of a gore. This
    Message 1 of 3 , Aug 3, 2000
      Hi,

      I'm Bruno Legaignoux. For those which don't know my name, we are, with my
      brother Dominique the inventors of the inflated kite in the shape of a gore.

      This message is to try to put the numerous rumors off.

      My brother and I were sailors (french Junior champions, cruising boat
      skippers, sailing instructors, surfers, windsurfers, etc...).
      We tried to develop very efficient sails and boats and finally we became
      interested in kites when seeing Jacob's Ladder, a catamaran pulled by
      Flexifoils, although we never flied a dual line kite. It was in 1984.
      After a few researches, we understood that no water relaunchable kite
      existed so it became obvious to us that we had to create one.
      You can see some old photos at www.wipika.com/Pages/chapitre1.html

      After one year of work, we were sailing with water skis and
      demonstrating the device during the 1985 Brest International Speed
      Week. We also applied for a patent. The project was to find one or
      several licensees within 2 years but windsurfing was at its acme
      and no windsurf company was interested.
      We never stopped believing in this sport so we had 10 years of VERY HARD
      time, continuing the project without money, looking for new markets, for
      licensees, then creating our own company and producing in France in
      1993-94... at a too high cost (please don't cry !)

      Then Windsurfing declined and Kiteboarding time came.
      I am proud to see that we were the main actors of kiteboarding birth
      but for sure we were not alone. For example Cory Roeseler with the Kiteski
      device or Andreas Kuhn with a paraglider and a kind of wakeboard helped too
      with international media exposure.

      In 1995-96 we went in very serious talks with Neil Pryde. Finally they
      renunced but they accepted to produce small quantities for us and we
      started selling these kites in July 1997 under Wipika brand mark.
      Then we found another manufacturer in Asia.

      In 1998, Don Montague and Robby Naish came to us asking for a license.
      As it was our original goal, we agreed and told them that both of us needed
      a software to be able to make new designs quickly. I came to Hawaii and gave
      all my knowledge to Don Montague and their programer. One year later, the
      program was working. We shared it. With it, everybody can make a new good
      kite in 30 seconds, just changing one parameter. For example, change
      AR = 2.5 (the default value) with 8 and you will appear as a genious designer!

      WHY PATENT PROTECTION ?
      Some people hate this way.
      I think that when you are a well organized company in a market where products
      evolve very quickly, patent is just a waste of money and energy. But if you
      are a "small" independant inventor, you have no chance against large companies
      if you don't protect your ideas : they won't even give you just credit for that !
      Who on this list is against intellectual property (music, litterature, etc...) ?
      Our motivation was kept during the hard years because of the patent.

      INFRINGERS
      Seen by my side, there are only 3 kinds of kites :
      - the ones which are far from ours, like ram air kites, delta kites,
      etc...
      - the ones which are very close to ours : if they got a license contract like
      Naish, they are licensees; if not, they are infringing copies whether or not
      there are patented improvements on.
      - there are kites designed with a sole goal: to use our concept but escaping
      the patent by modifying the kite after studying the patent and looking
      for weak points in it. In this case it is more difficult for me to get
      the justice admiting the infringement but I'll try each time I think
      I can win.
      Obviously, I beat the infringers and already stopped a few ones.
      Something interesting to be known is that I have no obligation starting
      legal action immediatly, that means that I can start even when they will
      have invested a lot of energy and money in their product. This is to
      explain that it is probably more risky for them to infringe that what
      they generally think.

      NEW LICENSEES SOON ?
      Yes, we are open to give other licenses but to companies which are
      able to bring something to the market, not to companies with short term
      view or which sole way to get market shares is to discount their kites.
      In 2000-2001 a few high image companies will enter the market.

      WHO INVENTED ?
      - who invented kiteboarding ? several people did it on their side
      without knowing that other people previously made something close.
      Ourselves we started in 1984 with windsurf boards because we were
      surfers and windsurfers but not waterskiers. We built several
      boards for that purpose.
      As our kites were very unstable at that time, we mainly used
      waterskis because the waterstart was easier, but the patent talks
      about windsurfing board type too.
      We also tested any kind of boats and many other "things" that you
      can't even imagine and a patent drawing shows a guy on two 40cm "water
      skates" (photos in the History page of www.wipika.com). We made and
      sailed them. It was fun. I 'm sure that we'll soon see advanced pilots
      trying this kind of skates.

      - who "invented" high AR inflated kite ?
      In 1985 we made a 17m kite with aspect ratio 6 and with 100%
      double-skin (photos on Wipika web site... and a short video soon).
      With it, we waterskied with 6 to 12 knots of wind and, during the
      1886 International Brest Speed Week, we were clocked at 14.5 knots
      (average speed during a 500m run) while the best world class
      windsurfers reached 10 knots. This is registered.
      We also made kites with 20%, 30%, 40%, 60%, 80%, 100% double skin,
      what was already described in the 1984 patent, and kites made of
      clear mylar with scrim. Probably you will see this kind of
      "improvement" in the next months or years.

      - who "invented" inflated "struts" without inner tube ? a competitor ?
      No, in the past, we used 2 different construction methods for inflated
      struts : airtight fabric and mylar fabric with inner tube.
      These ways are described in the original patent.

      - who invented 4 line straight bar with both front lines meeting at
      a "main line" going to the harness and with the bar sliding along the
      "main line" ? a competitor ? No, we own a patent on this device since
      1995.
      I first used this device for buggying and won some races thanks to it.
      Seasmik uses without any license the exact device we described
      so we'll have to sue them.

      - who invented 4 line inflated kite ? A competitor ? No, the above
      patent also describes how to settle inflated kites with 4 lines by
      cutting the edges for example (there are other ways). I always used
      "cut tip" kites with the 4 line straight bar.
      I explained all these things to Don Montague in 1998.

      Why didn't we apply these improvements earlier ?
      There are 2 main reasons :
      Firstly, when you settle a company and you have no money, especially in
      France, you have to work 80 hours a week to have it working properly.
      So I had no time for R&D. It's why in 1999 I looked for people to take
      care of Wipika and get myself more time in R&D. I also moved in early
      2000 to Dominican Republic which is really a perfect place for R&D.
      Secondly, the market was not ready for more evolved kites. In the
      "early ages", we made very efficient kites then we understood that we
      had to make simple, stable and safe.
      In 1998, 100% of the users were beginners - there are not so many
      markets like this one !
      In 1999, still 90% were beginners but the 10 other percents were
      starting to ask for more efficient kites so we prepared the Free Air
      AR3.3 range and started sales in early 2000. But because of Naish AR5
      our new range is already old fashioned if you believe a few ones.
      My main concern is safety and when I hear that some beginners directly
      purchase AR5 kites, I'm scared. Firstly they are more difficult to
      relaunch but above all they are fast. That makes them dangerous for
      beginners in the state of the market (almost no schools nor well
      informed retailers...).
      We are starting a competition to efficiency, just like windsurfing
      manufacturers did. Remember :
      "Hey guy, how many cambers do you have ? Only six ? ... and
      your board, what size ? 2.26m ? Too bad! mine is 2,195m !".
      Windsurfing is dying for this reason. And us, when ?

      A fact : the Wipika riders Franz Olry and Christopher Tasti,
      which actually win some events, don't want to use too high AR kites
      because they are so fast and unstable that they can't make the kind
      of tricks they do with more stable kites. They don't want a 20 kite
      quiver. They want simplicity. Same for Lou Wainman, Mauricio Abreu
      and some other ones.
      If you see them using high AR kites, it's because competition pushes
      in this way, not because they prefer (except in light winds).

      To resume, if we go too quickly, we'll burn our wings. All the people
      involved in kiteboarding should take care with that.

      R&D AGREEMENT WITH NAISH ?
      Any kind of commercial/strategical agreement was never made.
      Both companies are completely independant/free of mutual contract.
      Both are Legaignoux licensees with same contract terms.

      4 LINE KITES
      Wipika supplies the Classic kites since July 1997 with an additional
      webbing so that all the Classic can be settled with 4 lines. That
      means that we believe to the 4 line use since a long while but 99%
      of the customers didn't want to hear about it last year.
      There are several ways to settle your Classic as a 4 line kite,
      I'll come back on this matter in another message.
      Very soon, the Classic kites will be sold with a second webbing, like
      the Free Air, to simplify transformation.
      Classic and Free Air will also receive long velcros to fold the tips.

      Many new Wipika items will be available in the next weeks and
      months, including an interesting 4 line bar. We'll keep you informed.

      You are welcome to use abstracts of this message for public use as
      long as it is in good faith.

      Please don't expect that I'll react to the messages which could follow
      mine, I'm still too busy to do it. Sorry!

      Thank you for your time and...
      Best winds to all of you,
      Bruno
    • David Trewern
      fantastic email from Bruno... I use Naish AR5 kites because I love them - but now I have a new respect for the Legaignoux brothers. I sincerely hope that the
      Message 2 of 3 , Aug 4, 2000
        fantastic email from Bruno...

        I use Naish AR5 kites because I love them - but now I have a new respect for
        the Legaignoux brothers.

        I sincerely hope that the Legaignoux brothers are fully rewarded and
        respected for their efforts.

        Many people have talked about trying to stop kitesurifng from going like
        windsurfing - but you can't fight human nature and you can't stop evolution.
        I think the commercial approach Naish has taken has also been very clever -
        even if many of the ideas originated elsewhere.

        Don't forget that people learn fast, and people always want to be pushing
        themselves further. Many times with windsurfing people said things like
        'cambered sails won't work' they're too hard, or "fully battened sails are
        too unforgiving".

        Remember that this sort of attitude helped Bruno develop these ideas in the
        first place - and we all want to have these experiences of adventure also -
        and we will pay for it. With all due respect - If Wipika decides that all we
        can handle is a classic - then some of us will look elsewhere (as I have
        done) for products than can allow us to keep pushing our limits. I am sure
        there are things being done with these kites now - that Bruno himself never
        dreamed of. The Legaignoux brothers have done a great job up until this
        point - but don't stop now! This is the time to step back - regroup, and
        start innovating all over again.

        At the end of the day - some people get excited about new gear and some
        people don't. For me - 1999 was the year of one kite one board simplicity -
        and it will be remembered for that. (In some ways) it's a shame that next
        year won't be quite so simple - but I made the choice to get more water
        time, go faster, higher etc and to accept the added complexity and cost.

        I hope that Wipika doesn't short change itself (and hold kitesurfers back)
        by holding back innovations that we all want to try. If Bruno was able to
        try an AR8 17m kite in 1988, then why can't we as well? It would be nice if
        we all had one two line classic each and lived in paradise - but many people
        don't work that way - it's just the way it goes. I'm sure if anyone is going
        to exploit that fact - it is going to be companies like Neil Pride - who
        have a WidgetCarbonStretchHeadLuffcurveSeamshaped (TM) invention every year
        to keep us all interested.

        I am getting the impression that the new Cabrinha / Neil Pryde kites will be
        Legaignoux brothers licencees. I hope that the Legaignoux brothers get every
        cent that they deserve for every kite sold - but at the same time, Wipika
        had better pull their finger out - because many people want the latest
        innovation with the best performance - even though the inventors think its
        "too hard" for anyone other than themselves to use.

        We live in a commercial world, and human nature will reign supreme - I
        really don't like the Classic, or even the Free-Air as much as the Ar5 - but
        I can see that they would be better on a wakeboard, on Maui in 25 knots
        plus.

        But I don't live there - So give me a good Wipika kite that uses all the
        Legaignoux knowledge, and I'll buy it.

        And bring on the flames ;-)

        DT
      • Greg Walsh
        Regarding Dave Trewern s comment, I think kitesurfing is paralleling windsurfing but doing it kind of backwards. The latest windsurfing magazines and Neil
        Message 3 of 3 , Aug 6, 2000
          Regarding Dave Trewern's comment, I think kitesurfing is paralleling
          windsurfing but doing it kind of backwards. The latest windsurfing
          magazines and Neil Pryde brochures are hyping the new concept of
          friendly gear that people can get out on consistently carve gybes and
          just circulate. Last year it was wide-arse boards and free-style.
          When you consider that probably 80% of sailboarders can't gybe at all
          this is a good development. I think for the general population fully
          cambered sails and high-tech race boards were a big mistake. Most
          people were much better off with a well developed no-cam sail and a
          floaty wave board.

          I think of the early kitesurf foils and C-Quads as the equivalent of
          fully-cambered race sails. Great power and performance but a real
          bitch if you mess up. The Wipika classic is probably somewhere
          between a wally windsurfer sail and a wave sail. Very easy to use but
          very limited range.

          The big attraction of the the AR5 and 4-line inflatables in general
          is the managability of the power. The newer foils, like the NewWave
          and the Stamos, are echoing this trend by becoming easier to use and
          more manageable in a broader range of conditions. This allows less
          experienced people to get the on-water time to build skills and the
          experts to go nuts with tricks and huge air. I'm hoping the
          development continues in this vein of better and easier to use gear.

          I'm thinking the future holds a one-kite, 3-line reel bar system,
          that floats forever, doesn't have to be pumped up, has a range of
          from 5-35 knots, can be trimmed on the fly (literally), can be
          kitesurfed effectively after a 30 minute lesson, and packs down into
          a bum-bag.

          Greg
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