Saturday, 27 May 2017

One Aer-o-bat, two Aer-o-batses ...

Some of you reading this blog will know I'm very interested in early dual-line kites, and am trying to build up a bit of a collection of these kites. Quite recently, I spotted an Aer-o-bat on eBay, and managed to get my hands on it for very little dosh.

Taking it out for a spin showed it to be a kite which is pretty fast when the wind picks up, but handles reasonably well.

Not long after, at Minchinhampton Kite Day to be precise, a very generous fellow kite-flyer gave me an earlier version of the Aer-o-bat to add to my collection (thank you, you know who you are!). This kite has an aluminium frame as opposed to the fibreglass of my first Aer-o-bat. Although used, it only needed some minor TLC on a few tears in the sail.

In terms of flight characteristics, the aluminium Aer-o-bat handled very similar to its fibreglass descendent.

Of course, having two Aer-o-bats, we had to fly them together!

Wasn't easy flying them together (and definitely wasn't easy to take a half-decent picture while flying!). The kites are quite fast, and not as easy to control as, say, a Peter Powell, So I don't think we'll fly them as a pair too often, but they do make a very nice addition to my 'museum' of early dual-liners!

Monday, 15 May 2017

Streatham Common Kite Day

Our third appearance on Streatham Common. Mostly sunny day, which brought loads of people to the event. I've said it before, but what I really like about this Kite Day is the community atmosphere. More than on any other kite festival we fly at do you get people walking up to you, asking questions about your flying, your kites, or kites in general.

Wind was typically Streatham: varying between 2 and 15+mph, extremely variable, gritty, bumpy and full of holes. Basically, you could be certain that, whatever kite you picked, it would be the wrong one most of the time. We went for standards, and that turned out to be the right call. Or, I should say, the least wrong call ...

Like our previous Streatham attendances, we flew three sets of two routines. Well, we flew one more routine, but more on that later. During our first set, we really struggled with the wind conditions, and Irma flew into a hole, which meant she could do nothing more than see the kite slowly drift to the ground. Second and third set went better, mostly because we were anticipating the conditions better. We've certainly flown better, but given the circumstances, it wasn't too bad.

Also present were our trusted festival neighbours, Team Spectrum. They mostly flew their usual sets of three routines (Carl flying two kites - Bryan and Carl flying as a pair - Carl flying three kites).

And just in case you haven't noticed, here a close-up of Carl's new shoes in full action:

I said we did one more routine, didn't I? Here's the story behind that one ... Zack de Santos, who we first met at Streatham two years ago, is trying to build up a group of London-based kite flyers, with the ultimate aim of getting into team-flying. Earlier this year, he came to Stokes Bay for a day of team-flying with L-katz. Since then, he's been building a set of Sixth Sense kites, to be used by the London group. When I asked him a few weeks ago whether he was coming to Streatham, I suggested he bring three Sixth Senses, with the aim of letting him join Flying Fish in an impromptu display, and so give him his first experience of flying in the arena at a kite festival. Zack indeed brought his Sixth Senses, so the game was on!

Zack really got a baptism of wind in the very challenging conditions, but he held it together, and managed to get out of a few tricky situations without causing a crash. Well done, Zack! Talking of tricky situations, I had to face one myself midway through our 3-(wo)man scratch display .... all of a sudden, the kite I was flying seemed to implode. I half-felt, half-heard something snap and immediately the kite lost its shape and became really hard to fly. At the time, I didn't know what broke, but something definitely did! The moment it happened I remembered Chris Goff flying at Portsmouth with a broken leading edge. Don't get me wrong; as a mere mortal, I'm not trying to compare myself to Chris, but I did make a snap decision to try and keep flying, and see whether I could complete the display. And yes, I could, and I was pretty chuffed about it. A video of most of the "Flying Fish ft Zack" display (credit: Zack's mother), can be found here; see if you can spot when my kite breaks ... By the way, if you're wondering what actually happened, one of the lower spreaders half-snapped close to the t-piece ...

More pictures of the day are here, though I didn't really have time to take many pictures. Besides flying ourselves, and crewing for Team Spectrum, we also did three interviews. One for a 2nd year student doing a project for her BA in Film and Television:

And two for local media, one of which, from SWLondoner, is here (we're about 55 seconds in):

Photo credit of us flying: Carl Wright (Team Spectrum); of us being interviewed for a BA project: Neil Lover

Monday, 8 May 2017

A recent pair of pairs

Regular followers of this blog will know that we always try to post on newly-acquired paired kites. Now if you've recently checked my sister blog on our collection of Peter Powell kites, you may have noticed that we acquired two pairs of Peter Powells in the last month or so. The second of these pairs consists of two bicolour ripstop Mk IIs, one teal/pink, one green/pink, and both fitted with modern pink tails:

They look and fly pretty well together!

A wee while prior to this pair, we got our hands on a pair of Caribbean Kite Company Caymans. As I have argued before, these kites may not technically be Peter Powells, but they surely contain ample Peter Powell DNA!

Somewhat lighter than standard Peter Powells, they performed well together in relatively light winds.

Our collection of paired kites is certainly and steadily expanding ... watch this space!

Thursday, 13 April 2017

And then there were four ...

Remember I wrote last December  that Irma got a pair of Trilobites for her birthday? And that I mentioned I also had an upcoming birthday? If you remember that, you probably also managed to put 2 and 2 together to make 4 ...

Yes, guilty as charged: we didn't order one pair of Trilobites last year, we ordered two pairs .... Here are the other two, on the Kaixuan Kite Company factory floor:

And here they are, finally released from the stuff bags they've been in for half a year or so, happily flying in the UK air.

Happy birthday to me!

Of course, now that we have a family of four Trilobites, or, rather, a 'tribe of Trilobites', they all came out to play. Our very own mini kite festival.

And a video of all of them as dessert; enjoy!

Monday, 10 April 2017

STACK boot camp

It has been in the pipeline for quite a while, but Flying Fish finally subjected themselves to a STACK boot camp! These coaching weekends can be tailored to specific needs, with the coaches coming to you. When we met at Minchinhampton Kite Day with our coaches-to-be (Keith and Vee, of Airheads fame), we discussed what we would most like to get coaching in: landings, half-axels, and taking our figures 'to the next level'.

Vee and Keith arrived Friday night, ready to provide us with two full days of pair-flying coaching at our primary flying site: Stoney Cross Plain in the New Forest. Needless to say, we made sure our coaches were well taken care of outside the flying sessions. After all, you don't want to be subjected to a boot camp run by people who are cranky due to lack of sleep or food (or, worse, both), do you?

Weatherwise, we really hit the jackpot: bright sunshine with hardly a cloud in the sky all weekend. Light winds (1-6mph) on Saturday and a stronger, though variable, breeze (7-18mph) on Sunday. On day 1, we alternated between T5 Cubans and T5 Taipan ultralights, and on day 2, the T5 Taipan Standards and V1s came out to play.

As I said above, our boot camp would focus on landings, half-axels, and figures; plus anything Keith and Vee felt they could help us improve on, given they've seen us fly time and again at festivals. Starting with landings, we're not consistent with them, and that really is a weak aspect of our flying. Sometimes we hit them fine, sometimes we really fluff them, and it's all a bit too random. Not surprisingly, the stronger the wind, the more we struggle. So, first, Vee and Keith took us through the different possible landings, explained the crucial aspects of each and under which conditions which landing is most appropriate to use.

And then, of course, they got us to try things out. And as this is meant to be a boot camp, the call for so many push-ups was replaced by: "OK, both of you: five proper two-point landings each; loser makes the tea!"

Flying half-axels we've basically taught ourselves, but we're struggling more with these as the wind gets stronger. Keith and Vee got us to pay more attention to the set-up (especially when flying them synchronously), and to fly them from every direction: horizontal, diagonal, vertical (going both up and down). From vertical down is definitely the hardest, as there is this ground racing towards the kite!

And so on to figures: to get to that next level in scores, we need to start paying more attention to the spacing in the grid, in addition to flying the shape. And there are two figures which we don't particularly enjoy flying, and so they tend to get ignored .... Obviously, I'm not going to say which ones, as that might just influence STACK in creating this year's shortlist ... Anyway, we got to fly these figures again and again, with pointers as to how to make them easier to fly. Don't think they'll ever become our favourites, but we definitely feel we got a bit more of a grip on them.

In addition to all of the above, we flew our technical routine and competition ballet, and got feedback on both of those. The changes we made to both technical routine and ballet in terms of technical difficulty, following feedback on our routines at last year's Nationals, were noticed and appreciated, so we were very happy with that. And then we got plenty of tips on a wide range of aspects, from creating a specific warm-up routine, to general arena craft, and to pointing out of a few bad habits, which will take some time to unlearn ...

Final session on Sunday was simply play-time: Flying Fish and Airheads joining for fun 4-(wo)man flying. We learned a few new 4-kite patterns ('Airrex minus centre', 'fly-through', 'jitterbug', and 'Airheads cross'), at least some of which we will no doubt try out with our own team, L-katz, in due course.

In conclusion, this boot camp was very very useful, and I would strongly recommend it to any dual-line pair or team in the UK, whether you're a new pair/team, or want to get 'to the next level'. Teaching yourself is possible of course, but getting specific pointers from experienced flyers works so much better. What worked especially well for us, lucky enough, was to have very light winds on the first day, and then the second day with stronger winds. This forced us to adapt what we learned the day before to the change in conditions. Of course, we didn't become expert landers in one weekend. Or fly all figures with consistent 90+ scores. We now need to work on everything we were taught and incorporate that into our flying over the coming weeks and months. The boot camp really gave us specific tips and tools to do just that, but our heads were spinning towards the end of the weekend with the effort to digest it all.

We got a lot out of it, and very likely more than we realise at the moment. Vee and Keith: massive public thank-you for the time and effort you put into this weekend!

Picture credit of the T5 Taipan in the air above Keith and Lex: Vee Griffiths. 

Wednesday, 5 April 2017

Minchinhampton Kite Day

Spring 2017 isn't even two weeks old yet, and we already had our first kite festival of the year! The organisers of Minchinhampton Kite Day are keen to expand their annual event, and invited a number of dual-line teams to come and fly there, in a proper arena. Flying Fish was glad to be among them.

We arrived with Minchinhampton Common basking in sunshine, and under a decent breeze. Keen to have our VampDevil quads be part of our displays, we quickly got them out for a spin, and they flew fine in the smooth morning breeze.

Unfortunately, this nice breeze wasn't going to last; more on that later ...

Besides Flying Fish, there were team performances by the Airheads, flying as a pair in the morning, and as a 3-(wo)man team in the afternoon.

The reigning UK pairs and team champions, Phoenix and Flame, respectively, were present to fly their internationally acclaimed routines.

Is one man flying three kites a team? Whether or not, Dave Green flew three kites in the morning, and two in the afternoon.

Definitely not a team, but performing his solo Rev routine: Les Storey.

Back to Flying Fish: what did we do? As I mentioned above, the nice morning breeze quickly started to drop away. Like the other teams, we struggled with this rapidly decreasing wind, which meant we couldn't fly our VampDevil routine. It was down to T5 Taipan UL at first, and T5 Cubans later. First time we flew our updated 'Chariots of Fire' routine in public, and unfortunately, the wind dropping to almost nothing at times meant we couldn't fly them as well as we'd wanted .....

We also flew our pair of Trilobites for their official festival debut. Once launched, they flew fine in the light winds.

Quite some time in the programme for mega-teams, and we flew with the other team flyers in varying compositions, and with between four and eight kites in the air.

The final arena display of the day was an 8-(wo)man mega-team, combining Flame, Airheads and Flying Fish:

As we were flying (or crewing) so much, I hardly had time to take pictures, but a few more can be found here. A great opening of the 2017 kite festival season for us; if they want us back next year, we will be!

But not only did we leave with good memories of the start of the season, we also left with something very special ... A little girl had seen us fly, and had made a drawing for us. She handed it to the organiser, asking for it to be passed on to us, and then rushed off. So, sadly, we never met her. Look at the drawing: she put a lot of detail in it: the clouds over the Common, lots of public, us flying as a couple. And she has looked carefully at our Cuban kites and really succeeded in capturing their panel design. We really must have struck a chord with her. As we didn't get the chance to talk to her and thank her, we don't know whether she has a kite or not. If nor, maybe we lit a spark, and I do hope in that case that her parents will get her a kite (or two, or three) to fan that spark into a life-long passion. Wouldn't it be great if in 10-15 years time a young woman called Violet becomes UK National Champion, and the seed of that was sown at Minchinhampton Kite Day 2017?

For us, getting something like this from a member of the public is really special, and we will treasure Violet's drawing as a cherished memory. Violet, if you or your parents see this, please do get in touch.

Credit for the picture of us flying: David Joyce; of the mega-team: Sharon Savell; video credit: Marianna Dimakopoulos; drawing credit: Violet