Saturday, 19 April 2014

Scratch Bunnies!

Anyone seriously interested in team-flying will be aware that the World Championships took place in Berck this past week. Line-up consisted of 14 teams from around the world: Japan, China, Malaysia, USA, Colombia, Russia, Lithuania, France, and, of course, the UK, represented by Team Flame and The Scratch Bunnies.

And if you're interested in the World Championships, you already know that The Scratch Bunnies won the title, for the third time in a row, which no other team has ever done. Congratulations, guys!!

Thanks to Facebook, and to the many updates, score sheets, photos, and videos posted by competitors and others, as well as on the official WSKC Facebook page, we could stay up to date of what was happening, including the challenging winds on days 1 and 2, and the 'Goldilocks' winds on the final day. When the results were announced in real time via the WSKC Facebook page on Friday night, we had the iPad in my lap, refreshing the page every 20 seconds or so, as the placing of the teams, in reverse order, was made public. Every new placing was duly shared to the Flying Fish Facebook page, and a big shout went up when it became clear that the Bunnies had taken the gold!

A video of the Bunnies' final ballet (made by Helen Ribchester of The Flying Squad fame) is here, and a video of the ceremony (also made by Helen) is here.

Picture credit: Sumiko Yamashita

Sunday, 23 March 2014

Custom kite stakes

Following our acquisition of a full set of T5 kites, which got their own dedicated team bag, we wanted to add a set of kite stakes especially for this set of kites. Do we need those? No, of course not, as the old screw drivers we've been using do absolutely fine. But it's just nice to have something special for our full set, isn't it?

Looking around the internet showed that a few kite companies sell kite stakes, but none of these looked especially nice. Until I stumbled across LS Kite Accessories. They make really nice-looking kite stakes, and the price, including shipping from the US, was very reasonable.

And here they are!

They look even better than on the pictures, and come complete with holsters and carabiners.

Blue ones for me, red ones for Irma; and dark ones for on a beach, lights ones for on grass. Really nice set of sturdy and well-made stakes. And the cherry on the cake was that the parcel escaped the attention of HM Revenue & Customs!

Monday, 3 March 2014

Air-o-bian fighter kite

In a previous blog post, I talked about the Air-o-bian fighter kite, which was on the market in the 1920s and 1930s, and my plan to try and turn a modern box kite into a dual-line-controlled Air-o-bian. But of course, in order for that to happen, I first needed to find out how this Air-o-bian actually worked. Enter this wonderful web-site, Kite patents! It indeed had the original patent for the Air-o-bian, and here is the crucial page showing the construction of the rudder:

So, once I had this patent, I ordered two box kites from Spirit of Air, and the aim now is to add a rudder to these box kites, making them steerable in the same way as the Air-o-bian was.

Watch this space!

Sunday, 23 February 2014

A full set of T5 kites - part 4

After flying our new T5 Taipan Standards last week, the wind was perfect yesterday for trying out our new vented T5 Taipans. At first, the wind was around 15mph on average (though quite blustery), so out came the V1s!

As with our Standards last week, the V1s proved very responsive to input, and a pleasure to fly.

Very much the same feel on the lines as the SULs and Standards; they clearly came from the same stable!

During our lunch break, the wind started to pick up more, with gusts well over 20mph, so we decided to switch over to the V2s

Although they do feel a bit 'heavier' on the lines (for the very simple reason that they are: 394 grams vs 332 grams for the V1), again they are very easy to control and respond very well to input.

We first flew them with vent patches on, but the wind got increasingly gusty, so we took the patches off, to see what that would give us in flight characteristics.

Despite the increasingly blustery wind (we're now talking 25+mph), the V2 remained perfectly controllable, with relatively little pull on the lines.

We flew our basic Ruthless Queen routine a few times with the V2s and that worked absolutely fine.

Of course, the whole point of getting different versions of the same kite was to have the same 'feel' on the lines, independent of the wind. I hadn't fully realised how nice that feels until actually experiencing it myself, especially with the SULs, Standards, and V1s. The V2s feel a little heavier, but still require the same level of input to do the same thing. My guess is that the Cuban Zeros, as the other extremes, will also feel a bit different from the middle trio. Can't wait to find out!

Credit for those pictures showing the two kites flying together, and the one of Irma ripping off the patches: Roger Backhouse

Sunday, 16 February 2014

A full set of T5 kites - part 3

If you've seen our Facebook page last week, you'll know our full set of Airdynamics T5 kites has arrived! So today, with a mostly 5-12mph wind, the standards got their first airing.

We spent many hours working out our ideal colour combination, and you always have to wait and see whether what seems to look good on paper or a computer screen looks equally good on the actual kites outside. In this case, it didn't: it looked even better on the real kites!

Must say that we're also very pleased with the panels showing the printed Flying Fish logo. As the standard kites are meant to be the ones we expect to use most often, we wanted these to be extra special. Printed panels were made by Roy and Hayley, by the way.

Most importantly, though: how do they fly? We put them through their paces, flying several of the patterns we normally fly, and we were very pleased to see that they fly just as we were used to for our T5 Taipan SUL kites. And that's of course the whole point of getting a full set of team kites from the same manufacturer: not having to get used to a different type of kite when you switch kites due to different winds. So, the bottom line is that they completely matched our very high expectations.

And of course, all T5s now have their own dedicated team bag!

Watch this space for flight reports on the Cuban, V1 and V2!

Friday, 14 February 2014


Arguably, the Winter Olympic sport that's closest to pair-flying is ice dancing. Two people (check) performing a routine to music (check) during which they move around the space (check) and show intricate manoeuvres (check). Even the length of the routine (4 minutes plus or minus 10 seconds) is in the same ball park (another check). Of course it isn't exactly the same as skating on ice clearly isn't flying a kite in the sky. But you get my idea (I hope).

With that in mind, watching some of the ice dancing in Sochi in recent days inspired me with an idea for a future routine. Now of course, we have several other routines to practice, and a few more ideas in the pipeline, so this is for the mid-term future, for sometime in the next few years.

So here's the idea: what about writing a kite routine which tries to take, for as fas as possible, moves performed during an ice dance routine, and translates these into kite patterns? Ice dancers skate around, sometimes following each other, sometimes close together, sometimes twisting and turning, sometimes in parallel, sometimes doing different things and then coming together again. All of that is possible with a pair of kites in the sky ...

Now the one ice dance routine that will forever be etched in my mind is the one performed by Jayne Torvill and Christopher Dean at the 1984 Sarajevo Olympics, exactly 30 years ago today. Of course, I'm talking about their famous 'Boléro' routine, where they broke and bent several of the then rules of ice dancing, and nevertheless won Olympic gold. Wouldn't it be great to write and fly a kite routine to the Boléro music, inspired by their ice dance? As you may know, the Boléro in its entirety would be way too long for a kite routine (Ravel's original version lasts more than 17 minutes), but I do have the arrangement that Torvill & Dean used in Sarajevo, which amounts to just over 4 minutes, the perfect length for a kite routine ...

And in case you want to refresh your memory, here are Torvill & Dean, 30 years ago, in Sarajevo. Enjoy.

Sunday, 12 January 2014

Box kites: Gibson Girl and Air-o-bian

Box kites are an old type of kites, which have played a key role in the early development of the airplane. We have an old box kite, called a Gibson Girl, which was used in the second World War by pilots who had crashed their plane (and survived that crash, presumably ...) to send an aerial up and so call for help. A nice article on these kites appeared in issue 93 of The Kiteflier

Gibson Girls were named after the shape of the actual radio, and the kite pops up on eBay quite frequently; you can get one for £30-40. Sometimes the whole set (kite + radio + aerial) is offered, but for that, you'll need to fork out quite a bit more ...

Now what does this girl, or box kites in general, have to do with pair- or team-flying? Well, there is a link of sorts, but a very tenuous one .... bear with me!

In the 1920s and 1930s, a very unusual box kite came on the market, the Air-o-bian. What was unusual about this box kite? It was a dual-line box kite, designed to be steerable. Here's an old ad:

And here's a small piece from the Pittsburgh Press, dated June 5, 1930:

So here's my plan ... I think I can safely assume that original Air-o-bians don't exist any more, and even if they do, they'll cost an arm and a leg. So what I want to do is, first of all, find out how this Air-o-bian worked. It had some sort of rudder, which, I guess, was controlled by the two lines. Then, get a modern box kite and turn it into an Air-o-bian. And if that works, repeat the exercise for a second box kite, and we'll have a very unusual pair of kites to fly!