Saturday, 9 May 2015

Weymouth Kite Festival

Traditionally, Weymouth Kite Festival is the opener of our festival season, and this year it was no different. The forecasts leading up to the festival were pretty bad, and Sunday saw the most horrid and evil winds we've ever flown in at a festival. Brick walls, sudden gaping holes, extreme turbulence, strong gusts, you name it, we got it. We flew T5 Taipan standard kites, not because the wind was suitable for them, but because they were sort of in the middle of the sudden lulls (when you needed a super-ultra-light) and strong gusts (when you needed the mega-vents). We tried to fly our Ruthless Queen and Adiemus routines, we survived, although it was far from pretty ...

Monday was a lot better: wind a lot lighter, and coming off the water (as opposed to rolling over the hotels on the Esplanade, as it did on Sunday). T5 Cubans were the weapon of choice, and I think we pretty much nailed our routines.

Two other teams were present: Flame, the current UK dual-line team champions (including the pair Phoenix), and the Airheads, flying both as a 3-man team and as a pair.

And with three dual-line teams (and Barry) present, there is no way a mega-team doesn't happen. Seven kites this time, and we can truly say this was the most difficult mega-team flying we've ever done, due to the extremely blustery and turbulent wind. It really was a case of not losing concentration for even a fraction of a second ...

And in case you're wondering: no quad-line teams were present this year, as Weymouth clashed with Cervia.

In order to bring competition flying more to the attention of the public, STACK had decided to try out a fun competition: teams and pairs competing against each other, each flying one particular figure during their warm-up, and then flying one or more routines. Judging was done by the flyers of the other pairs/teams. So nothing too serious, but simply to give the public a bit of a taste for competing in pair- and team-flying. Phoenix won, with a total of 84 points, just pipping Flame to the post. Although Flying Fish finished fifth and last, we're very happy with our score of 70 points, which was only 7 points behind the Airheads, which finished fourth; not a million miles away from the UK top!

More pics of the festival, including Serpents, Swallows, and Smorg, are to be found here.

Picture credit of us flying as Flying Fish: Genoveva Martinez; of us flying in the mega-team: Valerie Hancorn

Wednesday, 22 April 2015

Double Martinelli!

Sometimes you just stumble across some kites, and the offer is such that you simply can't refuse ... I have to admit I'd never heard of a kite builder called Ron Martinelli, and had never seen a Martinelli kite until I saw a pair for sale at Windswept Kites, for a price equivalent to around £18 ... That's £18 for the pair! They looked like a smaller version of a Top of the Line Spin-Off, and they looked like they would be a hoot to fly as a pair when the wind picks up. Needless to say, the pair is ours now, and here they are at our primary pair-flying site:

I googled around, trying to find more information on the kites, at the very least the model name, but drew blanks all over. Until I got in touch with Ron himself, who told me that the kites were made in the 1980s, that only something like 15-20 were ever made (one of which is in the Weifang Kite Museum in China), and that they didn't have a specific name. So without knowing it, I got my hands on a pair of pretty rare Martinelli kites!

So what about their flight characteristics? They look like small Spin-Offs (wing span is 1.91m, as opposed to 2.47m for a TotL Spin-Off), and they fly like a Spin-Off ... on steroids. As you might expect, they do need a decent wind to get going, but once the wind goes above, say, 12mph, they are really in their element.

And what about flying them as a pair? Fast, noisy, and a hoot to fly together! A really fun pair of kites to pull out on a windy day, at the end of a practice session, and just have pure, unadulterated, fast and furious FUN!

Saturday, 4 April 2015

Double Skynasaur!

Few years ago, we got ourselves a Skynasaur Aerobat. Dating back to the 1980s, it's a small-ish and relatively heavy kite, which has the typical Rogallo shape when it flies. No stand-offs, though: the Rogallo shape purely comes from the pressure of the wind on the sail. It's a fun nippy kite to fly, but it does need a decent wind, both because of it being rather heavy for its size, as well as because it needs the wind to create the Rogallo shape.

Recently, we got our hands on a second Skynasaur Aerobat, via Windswept Kites. Same size, different colour, and bridled in a different way (second, orange Skynasaur has a control bar, which our first, red one lacks)  Now we're a kite-flying pair, we got a pair of essentially the same kites, so why not try and fly them together?

Turns out it works pretty well! The kites look rather small at the end of 40+5m lines, given that we're used to seeing kites with a wing span of around 2.40-2.50m at the end of our lines, and the Skynasaurs measure just over 1.30m. But they're pretty responsive to input, and simply fun to fly. We went through several figures with them, and even managed a few refuels! The one thing they don't like is anything that takes the wind out of the sails, even for a second. So they're not keen on boxes or any other sudden changes in direction. And they're really not keen on the edge of the wind window. All a result of them not having stand-offs, and so needing the push of the wind to maintain their shape.

So Flying Fish has another pair of kites to add to their team quiver! Not a pair we will use for official routines at festivals or competitions, but a pair to have fun with at the end of a practice session on a windy day. They're in our team bags now!

Monday, 23 March 2015

Anyone for a taste of team-flying?

Dual-line pair- and team-flying is not exactly a big sport in the UK, and it could really do with some fresh blood. But how to get people make the step from flying a kite alone to flying a kite as part of a pair or team? Even if someone is excited from seeing a pair or team display at a festival or practice field, it's not so easy to give that person a first taste of what it actually feels like to fly patterns and formations together. Simply because it's not a case of asking that person to take his or her kite and just join in. Very likely that he or she has a different kite from what the team is flying. Very likely that he or she flies on 25-30m lines as opposed to the 40+m lines required for team-flying. Different kites will fly and handle differently, and line length will influence the speed of the kite. And whereas experienced team-flyers can deal with different kites being part of a formation, for someone keen on getting his or her first taste of team-flying, it's pretty essential that the kites are all the same, and the lines all of the same length.

With that in mind, we wanted to add one kite to our wide range of paired team kites, so that we would have a trio, and so could offer anyone interested a first taste of team-flying: kite's there, lines are of the right length, so all ready to go!

Question: which kite? Actually, we didn't have to think about that for very long. We have a pair of Dream On kites, which really are perfect for a first introduction into team-flying. They're a bit smaller than a typical team kite (2.21m wing span as opposed to the usual 2.40-50m), are very easy to fly, and don't pull much.

And not only do we as Flying Fish have a pair of these kites, the other members of L-katz also have one each, and we regularly fly them with the team, especially if we want to try out something new. Because of their smaller size, they provide just that wee bit more space in the sky to test out new patterns and formations.

So decision made, we got an extra Dream On via Kiteworld, and here she is, in the sky together with our earlier white one.

We also made a set of lines and leaders at the correct length, so it really is a case of kite and lines being ready to go. We can take someone along with the two of us for flying in a team of three, or go up to a team of six, if all other members of L-katz join in.

Extra Dream On and associated lines will always be standard in our team bags from now on. So if you are able to control a dual-line kite and want to get a first taste of team-flying, what are you waiting for?

Saturday, 14 February 2015

Double Cyborg!

When I first saw a picture of an Aerialogics Cyborg kite, I knew I just had to have one. Took me quite some time, as, first of all, they're pretty rare; and second, because of the central 'cross', they're expensive to ship.

I certainly never aimed to get a second Cyborg, but when one was offered for sale for a very decent price on the Gone with the Wind forum, I jumped at the opportunity.

So here's our pair of Cyborgs! The green kite is the one I got a few years ago; the red-and-yellow kite the one I just got. Because of the colour pattern, the red-and-yellow Cyborg sort of resembles a shark (ok, it's mostly my imagination, but I do see something 'toothy'!) so that links back to our very first pair of team kites.

In terms of flight characteristics, they're relatively slow flyers, good in tracking and circles, but not so good in sharp changes in flight directions. The frame, not having an upper spreaders, flexes too much for that. But that doesn't stop us from enjoying flying them, and I think they look great in the sky together!

Saturday, 7 February 2015

Festival diary 2015

I know it's still February, and it ain't exactly nice and sunny out there, but let's look ahead at the 2015 Kite Festival season, and where/when Flying Fish will perform.

May 3-4: Weymouth
Following our Weymouth debut in 2014, we look forward to being back there. And besides flying as a pair, Flying Fish will join Solent Kite Flyers in a mass-launch of Cobra-Serpents.

May 30-31: Exmouth
New festival for us; we look forward to exploring new grounds and meeting new people.

June 6-7: Basingstoke
This will be our third consecutive year flying at Basingstoke.

June 13-14: Dunstable Downs
Not a kite festival, but the UK National Championships; we've got a trophy to defend!

June 21: Streatham Common
One day festival; also new one for us.

June 28: Herne Bay
Another one day festival, and again a new one for us.

July 11-12: Brighton
We're practically part of the furniture there: debut in 2012, and been flying there ever since.

July 25-26: Dunstable
Very glad to be back at Dunstable Kite Festival; good memories on that field!

August 15-16: Portsmouth
We flew here unofficially in 2013, and were officially invited for 2014; very happy to be back again this year!

OK, those are the confirmed festivals for us. In addition, we're hoping to fly at Bristol (August 22-23) and Malmesbury. Whether Malmesbury, where we've flown the last two years, happens, we don't know, as we've not had a confirmation of a date yet.

So if everything confirmed plus everything in the pipeline happens, we'll be flying at 10 festivals this coming season, plus the UK Nationals. We're going to be busy over the summer!

Monday, 5 January 2015

Marcin Klysewicz documentary - the making of

You may already have seen the short documentary on us and our flying on our Facebook page. Whether you have or haven't yet, here's a bit more of the story behind it ...

It all started with a chance encounter. We were practicing our routines on our regular flying field, and I saw from the corner of my eye that someone stood behind us, watching our flying. After we landed, I looked behind me, and saw a guy with his young son. He introduced himself as Marcin Klysewicz, and said watching us fly was fascinating. We talked some more, and it turned out that he was a passionate photographer and documentary maker. He asked us whether we would consider being the subject of the first of a new series of documentaries he was planning to make on people and their passions. We'd never done anything like that, and it sounded like fun, so definitely, yes!

Email addresses were exchanged, and a few weeks later we met up with Marcin and his collection of cameras and other gear.

We spent two days filming, both at home and in the field, including one day when Marcin's brother Krystian joined us with his quadcopter-mounted camera for some aerial shots.

In addition to the filming, we also spent a morning recording voice-overs at home.

Marcin was keen to tell a 'story' in the video. Us preparing at home to go flying, setting up in the field, some stick practice, plugging in our radio system, flying our routine (obviously!), and then packing up at the end of the day. In the voice-overs, we basically talked about how we got started, why we enjoy flying kites, and what our goals and aims are for the future, Between filming, we usually discussed the next scene he wanted, and regularly 'acted out' the same scene which he then filmed from different angles. So there was lots of ".... aaaaaaand ACtion!"

Specifically, he asked us to fly the same routine many times, every time filming it from a different angle (including from the air), or just focusing on the two of us. That way, he could splice together footage of us flying our routine from different viewpoints.

Following the actual shooting, there were a few weeks of editing for him, plus composing the music to accompany the video. From all the footage he shot, and the voice-overs he recorded, it must have been really difficult to decide what to use and what not. We're very happy with the end result, but judge for yourself, if you haven't seen it yet!