Wednesday, 8 June 2016

Basingstoke Kite Festival

We've come to Basingstoke Kite Festival every year since we took up flying kites in 2009, so this was our eighth time attending, and our fourth year as invited flyers.

Saturday was overcast all day, with very light winds (mostly 2-7mph), whereas Sunday gave us a gorgeous sunny day, with a bit more wind (mostly 3-9mph); the rain and thunderstorms forecast for Sunday never materialised! On both days, the wind had the tendency to drop away to almost nothing at times, and there were holes in the wind throughout the weekend.

Flying Fish flew five slots in total (three on Saturday, two on Sunday). Our weapon of choice was mostly our ultralight Airdynamics T5 Taipan, though we had to switch down to our Cubans once. On Saturday, we struggled a lot with the finicky wind, several times almost running out of arena. but on Sunday we flew a few cleaner routines.

Who else was there in terms of pair/team-flyers? First of all, our regular neighbours at kite festivals throughout the season, Team Spectrum. Carl and Bryan flew their usual set of routines: Carl flying two kites -> Carl and Bryan flying as a pair -> Carl flying three kites. They weren't very lucky with the wind this weekend, as they had to stop and restart their routine a few times due to running out of arena.

In terms of dual-line teams, Sky Symphony attended with a 3-man team on Saturday:

And Flame flew on Sunday, also including a pairs routine as Phoenix in their slots:

And the third team flying at Basingstoke was L-katz! Back to fully flying at a festival this year (after last year's single-day appearance at Brighton). On Saturday, we made some errors, and Neil dropped out of the sky once due to the wind dropping away completely. Sunday was a lot better: we flew a pretty smooth routine in the first of our two slots (with a perfect cascade!), and were very lucky in the second ... Just prior to L-katz flying, we'd flown as Flying Fish and had to switch down to Cubans because of the wind dropping. Now for the L-katz routine, we had to switch back up again to ultralights, simply because Neil doesn't have a Cuban. I called the shots to try and fly, as I didn't want to give up without trying. As we launched, and the kites struggled to rise, I thought I'd made the wrong call .... but then the wind did pick up a bit, just enough for us to fly a clean routine, and just as we landed, the wind switched off. Talk about a lucky 4 minutes!

Of course, with several dual-line teams present, a mega-team is part of the programme. On Saturday, the mega-team consisted of two members of Sky Symphony, Carl from Team Spectrum, Flying Fish, Fran from Flame, and Chris Goff flying the latest Benson kite on 25m lines .... all went well! Sunday had a brief mini-mega-team, consisting of Flame + Flying Fish.

For the first time since we've been attending Basingstoke, there was no quad-line team; hope The Flying Squad will be back flying again next year. Although not flying, some TFS members were present: Simon doing the commentary and Hezz womanning the music system.

Of course there were lots more flyers and lots more kites; pics are here. I do want single out one kite: the absolutely gorgeous Phoenix, made by Karl Longbottom. Glad I got to fly one!

Pictures of Flying Fish and L-katz: credit Carl Wright.

Thursday, 19 May 2016

Streatham Common Kite Day

We flew at Streatham Common Kite Day for the first time last year, and they must have liked us, because we were asked back! Like last year, there was a very relaxed community atmosphere. The mostly sunny weather ensured that loads of people attended, with many flying their own kites around the arena.

And like last year, the wind was extremely difficult to fly in ... very light to start with, full of holes and turbulence, often turning direction up to 90 degrees in seconds, and with very little oomph even when it seemed to pick up.

Still, we did what we could, flying three slots with our new "Chariots of Fire" choreographed routine, and our 'make it up as we go along' routine to "Adiemus".

I mentioned the wind turning directions. In our second slot, the wind turned such that we couldn't hear the music from the PA anymore, and I can tell you that it is really really difficult to fly to music you can't hear!

We did go out on a high, though, because in our final routine of the day, we managed to do the double catch! I think Chris Goff was rather surprised at the ending of our routine.

Team Spectrum, our regular and loyal kite festival neighbours (they had even reserved a space for our tent next to theirs!), was also present, and they flew their usual sets of three routines (Carl flying two kites, Bryan and Carl flying pairs, and Carl flying three kites).

They also struggled a lot with the wind, and had to restart their routine more than once after the kites dropped out of the sky.

I didn't really have the opportunity to take many pictures, but a few more pictures of the day are here.

And finally, there were two tv stations present, who wanted to film the event, and interview us! First, we were interviewed by Eleanor Cunningham, of London Live. I can't seem to embed the video, but a link to the report and interview is here.

And then we were filmed and interviewed by Ben Tavener of BBC Russia for his ‪#londonблог‬. Not only that, but he also asked me to fly his self-made sled kite. As you will see in the vlog, there wasn't enough wind for me to fly it properly, and I had to reel it in from a long launch really fast to get it airborne.

An 'extra' edition features more of the actual interview:

Picture credit of us preparing and flying: Graham Webb

Saturday, 7 May 2016

Weymouth Kite Festival

As has been the case for a number of years now, Weymouth was once again the opener of our festival season. Sunday saw sunshine and a wind that was all over the place (in other words, normal Weymouth KF wind), while Monday saw cloud cover turn to drizzle and then rain, and a wind that was, you guessed it, all over the place.

Weymouth saw the debut of our new 'Chariots of Fire' routine! First run on Sunday wasn't a success, as the lines of my kite got tangled in the line of a Trilobite lifter several times, and that doesn't really help if you fly a routine timed to music ... Subsequent runs went much better, but we're still not happy with the end sequence, so that needs some more tweaking prior to the next festival.

While flying the first of the two Adiemus routines on Monday, as we were getting in position for the double catch at the end of the routine, I slipped in the loose sand and fell on my back. I was fully determined to make sure the kite did not crash, and managed to steer it towards Irma's hands for a catch while half-sitting, half-lying. People said I had a very determined look on my face!

As last year, both Flame and Airheads were present again, flying several routines each on both days.

And with three dual-line pairs/teams on the beach, mega-teams were unavoidable! We flew four times, with between 8 and 10 kites in the air at any one time.

Not too many errors, despite the really challenging wind, but Barry's idea of an 8-man wrap didn't quite work out as planned ... (or maybe it did; he has a wicked sense of humour ...)

Alan Pinnock put together a really nice video, with footage of the mega-team between 5:20 and 6:21:

More pictures of the festival are here, but I want to pick out one picture for this blog post:

What happened was the following: we saw someone fly this large fish kite, and being Flying Fish, we walked over for a chat with the owner of the kite. To make a not-so-long story even shorter, after we'd walked back to our tent, he came after us and gave us the kite: a flying fish for Flying Fish! Just goes to show yet again what great people kite flyers are; thanks again, John!

Picture credit of Flying Fish and the mega-team: Helen/Stephen Jones (via Facebook)

Saturday, 30 April 2016

2016 event schedule

Quick overview of where Flying Fish will fly this year:

Weymouth Kite Festival - May 1/2
As usual, the opening of our festival season.

Streatham Common Kite Day - May 15
Flew there last year for the first time. Guess they liked what we did as we were invited back.

Basingstoke Kite Festival - June 4/5
We've been attending Basingstoke every year since we took up kite-flying in 2009, and this will be the 4th time we're part of the invited line-up.

STACK National Championships, southern leg, Dunstable - June 11/12
STACK National Championships, northern leg, Sunderland - July 2/3
Third year we're competing in the nationals, and this year over two legs. We've been working on a completely new competition routine over the winter; hope it results in a significant improvement of our scores!

Dunstable Kite Festival - July 30/31
Our 3rd time flying at this festival; hope the weather is better than last year!

Portsmouth Kite Festival - August 13/14
Another festival we're been going to from the start of our kite-flying life. This year will be the 3rd time we fly there as invited flyers.

Exmouth Kite Festival - August 27/28
Our 2nd time at Exmouth; again, they seem to have liked what we did last year, especially, so I heard, our impromptu 5-person tails display with Airheads.

There are one or two other events still in the pipeline potentially. And in case you're wondering why Brighton Kite Festival is missing from the list above: I have to work all that weekend, so Flying Fish can't be there (sadly, as Brighton gave us our first festival invite in 2012). Irma will be there though and hopefully fly with Neil as a 2-person L-katz.

Saturday, 16 April 2016

Congratulations to Start'Air!

If you're into team-flying, you will know the 2016 World Championships dual-line team-flying took place last week in Berck-sur-Mer. Unfortunately, work made it impossible for us to be there ...

Line-up this year consisted of 13 teams, from France, USA, China, Malaysia, Russia, Colombia, and, of course, the UK (represented by Flame).

So, after the retirement of three times world champions the Scratch Bunnies, who would take their crown? Thanks to active posting on Facebook by many people, we could stay up to date as to what happened during the three days of competition. Wind was mostly light, and several wind recesses had to be called. And those three days of competitive flying resulted in the following ranking:

Congratulations to Start'Air!

And well done to Flame on becoming fifth in the world!

Below are videos of the routines of the bronze, silver, and gold medal winners. Enjoy!

Aerial photo credit: Garder Le Kap (?)
Start'Air photo credit: RICV Berck-sur-Mer

Monday, 4 April 2016

Drone footage of practice

During a practice session last week, we took a bit of a break. Guy walks up to us, introduces himself as Ken, and asks if we would be ok with him flying a drone with camera above us, and capture the kites flying from up above. Bit of a chat to make sure he was aware that the propellers of the drone would rip the kite apart if they touched the sail, but he said he was fully aware, and his drone costs well over £1000, so he wasn't going to risk anything anyway!

So off flying we went, and up in the air the drone went. Ken was kind enough to share the footage, in two files; one lasting about 40 seconds, the other a minute and a half.

We didn't fly a specific routine, but combined infinities, wraps, jumps, waterfalls, etc in the hope of creating something that looked varied from above.

Judge for yourself; it certainly isn't every time you can see yourself fly from 80m up!

Video credit: Ken Spooner

Saturday, 2 April 2016

Several pairs of vintage Peter Powells

You may have seen on our recently-created sister blog (Peter Powell kites collection) that we got our hands on a job lot of vintage Peter Powell Stunters.

Of course, we already have a pair of Peter Powell Mk III Stunters, customised for us by Mark and Paul, and signed by Peter himself.

But the job lot gave us the opportunity to add a few vintage Peter Powell Stunters to our team quiver. First of all, we now have a pair of black Mk I Stunters, with fibreglass frame.

We decided to attach new silver tube tails to these black kites, and especially when the sun catches the tails, the black and silver colour combination works really well!

A few more pics of these black Stunters are here.

And then the two yellow, one red and one blue Stunter you see in the picture above. Also Mk I, but with an aluminium frame and fibreglass cross spars. These were bridled and stacked as a 4-stack, and we decided to split them and so create two 2-stacks.

Flying these two 2-stacks together worked really well and they looked great together.

Go here for a few more pictures of these 2-stacks.

As this was the first time that we flew stacks with tails together, we had to get used to keeping enough distance on the ground as well as in the air, in order to avoid the front kite of the leading stack catching the tail of the back kite of the following stack. We almost got away with it, but did have a tail catch, which we managed to get out of quickly again.

Happy with the vintage additions to our pair quiver!