Sunday, 23 August 2015

Portsmouth Kite Festival

Even though Portsmouth was moved two weeks earlier, it was still the close of the 2015 festival season for us. As I've written before, that always gives a bit of a double feeling, and we were determined to go out with a bang at the biggest festival for us this year. We most certainly did, but more on that later!

Weather gave us a mixture of sun and clouds, and it remained dry all weekend. Wind varied between 6-12mph on Saturday, but much much lighter on Sunday: 3-4mph at most, but often down to nothing ... Warming up on Saturday was with our Airdynamics T5 Taipan Standards, but at the last moment before our first display, we switched down to our ultralights; good call it appeared to be and we stuck with these kites for the rest of the day, for both our 'Ruthless Queen' and 'Adiemus' routines.

On Sunday, with the much lighter winds, it was further down, to our Cubans. There were times during our various regular routines that there simply was no wind to speak of. But with a lot of walking backwards where necessary (aided by TC calling out how much space we still had; thanks TC!), and running forwards where possible, we kept the kites flying, and kept within the arena boundaries. Good no-wind practice for sure!

Over to the other teams present. First of all, our regular neighbours at kite festivals, Team Spectrum.

I've said it before, and I'll say it again: I simply can't get my head around how Carl can fly three kites at the same time; he must have three separate brains ... but very glad he is doing this at festivals (and glad he flew his Chi Mai routine on Sunday!)

The one team I was really looking forward to see was the Chinese Dalian Storm team. Simply because I'd never seen them fly before, and because I'd heard very good things about them.

They certainly didn't disappoint, and I'll let you watch one each of their team and pair performances for yourself, both from Saturday. Note the synchronised half-axels and axel-cascades!

Doubling the number of lines per kite brings us to the two Revolution teams present: The Flying Squad ...

... and the Decorators

Do they really need further introduction?

Of course, with both of these top teams present, a mega-team is the traditional close of the day at Portsmouth.

I said above, we went out with a bang, and here's why .... As the traditional close-of-the-day Revolution displays and mega-team were about to happen Sunday afternoon, Gill asked us if we were willing to fly one more routine. Happy to oblige, of course! We decided to fly our 'Ruthless Queen' routine once more. Why? Because we had already decided to retire this routine as our main festival and competition routine following Portsmouth, and start work on a new routine for 2016 (more on that in an upcoming blog post). So this was a perfect opportunity to say goodbye to 'Ruthless Queen', especially because the wind had picked up just a tad. As we launched, it was clear that the wind put just enough pressure on the Cuban sails to fly a slow, flowing and gracious routine, and I think we really nailed it. A worthy send-off for 'Ruthless Queen' and we both got a bit emotional when we flew the final heart pattern before landing the kites.

Following on from the last routine, the organisers of Portsmouth, Gill and Jon, always hand out a few trophies (winner of the altitude sprint, best kite, etc). We were really really chuffed when the trophy for 'Best Team Display' was given to .... Flying Fish! Really didn't expect that, going out with such a big bang, and it made the farewell for 'Ruthless Queen' that much more special!

Many more pics of the festival are here. One of these in this blog post, though: the moment when five Rolf Zimmermann Wyverex kites were up in the sky together; absolutely awesome sight!

Picture credits: of us flying on Saturday: Marie Coombs; of us flying on Sunday and receiving our trophy: Joe Brown

Sunday, 2 August 2015

Dunstable Kite Festival

Following our first performance at Dunstable Kite Festival in 2014, we were very happy to be asked back this year. Saturday gave us sunny conditions, and a pretty strong, but consistent wind. Unusually for a kite festival, the arena programme kicked off with a mass fly, which included a 7-strong mega-team, consisting of the Airheads, Carl from Team Spectrum, and Flying Fish. First time we flew together with Carl!

For our own performances, we stuck to the Airdynamics T5 Taipan V2 we flew in the 'warm-up' mega-team for our Ruthless Queen routine. Great kites, and they had no problems whatsoever with the strong wind. We didn't even need to take off the patches, so they can take a lot more.

For our second routine to Adiemus, we switched to our Peter Powells. The consistently strong wind really suited them!

As to other teams present, I should first mention The Flying Squad, given that Dunstable is their home and practice ground. Solid performances, and you wouldn't expect anything less from them.

I already mentioned Carl from Team Spectrum; he and Bryan flew their usual three routines.

Besides the warm-up mega-team, the Airheads flew two different routines which I both managed to capture on video. Because of the sun shining in my eyes, I couldn't always see what's on the screen of my iPad, so there are a few times when the kites leave the frame. Still, I got them most of the time!

In stark contrast to Saturday, Sunday started off with a much more blustery wind, plus rain, which was pretty heavy at times. Together with the Airheads, we tried to fly a bit, but soon gave up, especially given that there was absolutely no public.

Shortly after noon, the second day was cancelled, everyone packed up as soon as they could, and left. Real pity, but the weather was decidedly unpleasant, and we did try ...

More pictures of the festival, almost all from Saturday, are here.

Picture credit of the mega-team: Jan Wright; of Flying Fish: Simon Dann.

Wednesday, 15 July 2015

Brighton Kite Festival

Brighton Kite Festival occupies a special place in our kiting hearts. It was the first festival that invited us to fly in the arena 3 years ago, and so it's the festival we've flown most often at. On top of that, it just has a very pleasant atmosphere. Our fourth attendance as invited flyers offered us two very different days. On Saturday, it was wonderfully sunny, with winds gradually increasing during the day.

On Sunday, it hardly ever stopped raining or drizzling, and the wind was extremely variable and all over the place. I guess the pictures really show the difference!

Also invited, as usual at Brighton, were Team Spectrum. And rather than show a few pictures of them flying, I thought I'd do one better, and embed two videos of Bryan and Carl flying as a pair; one from Saturday:

And one from Sunday:

I do admit to shirking my usual ground crew duty to make these two videos ...

Normally, Team Spectrum and us provide the dual-line precision-flying, but this year, Brighton saw a dual-line team in the arena in the shape of L-katz! Yes, L-katz is back flying at a festival, as a 3-man formation, with Neil in #3 position. I have to admit to being a bit sneaky in making this a reality: Neil had said he'd come and watch on the Saturday, so I phoned him up Friday evening asking him whether he'd be ok with flying an improvised 3-man routine in the arena, given he'd be there anyway; just bring your kites .... It was an offer "he couldn't refuse" ...

L-katz flew twice on Saturday. First run was rather shaky, especially because Neil had to fly several patterns in a mirror image compared to what he's used to when we fly with four (and he flies in #4 position). Second run went a lot better.

Hopefully, this is the start of the return of L-katz to festival-flying (and who knows what else ...).

Because of the bad weather on Sunday, the large inflatables (including the dragons), fighter kites, etc couldn't fly, so Team Spectrum and Flying Fish flew more slots than usual, just to make sure there was usually something happening in the arena.

Did I mention dragons? Smorg, Angalor, and BKF's as-yet-unnamed blue dragon all flew on Saturday:

More pictures of the triumvirate of dragons, who didn't always get along nicely, and other kites, are here.

Picture credit of us flying as Flying Fish and in L-katz: Carl Wright (Team Spectrum).

Wednesday, 1 July 2015

Herne Bay Kite Day

Herne Bay was the third new festival we flew at, and participated in this year, and it certainly was the festival furthest from home so far. Also, it was a unique festival for us. But more on that later.

It turned out to be a relaxed day of flying kites, with the public coming and going. The wind was a bit iffy, going up and down quite a bit through the day, but I think we adapted ok. We flew our now usual pair of routines twice, to Ruthless Queen with our Airdynamics T5 Taipan ULs, and to Adiemus with our Cheetahs first, and Fire Darts later, in both cases with 100' tails. Which reminded us of one of the drawbacks of flying with tails ...

The second of our Ruthless Queen routines was flown with our Dream Ons, and here's why ...

The organisers, Kent Kite Flyers, had asked us whether we would be willing to give some basic pair/team-flying tuition to a few club members. Answer was yes, of course, and that meant we had come full circle ... in August 2010, we received our first pair/team-flying tuition from Allan & Marilyn of Close Encounters, and less than five years on, we were at the teaching end. Only difference was that we got our first taste of pair/team-flying out of the public eye, while Barbara, Mike and Tim did so in the middle of an arena at a kite festival! Here are the three brave souls in action:

We decided to use our trio of Dream On kites, so as to make sure we had identical kites with identical long lines. I would first fly some basic pair-patterns with Irma, explaining what we're doing to the public via a roving microphone. Irma would then hand over her kite to one of the three, and I'd fly basic patterns with them. Then Irma would join in #3 position, giving each of the three a real taste of what it is to fly in the middle of a team.

I think they'd agree with me when I say they were struggling (the wind dropping at times didn't help), and there is of course a limit to what I can do in the roughly 15 minutes I had for each of the three in the arena schedule. It just goes to show that even if you know the basics of how to fly a dual-line kite (which all three did), flying it such that you do exactly what is needed when it's needed is something different. All three told me afterwards that they found the experience mentally exhausting but exciting at the same time (exactly how we felt when we started pair/team-flying), and I sincerely hope they'll take things further, as a pair or team. Offer made to any or all of them to come our way for a day of coaching stands!

Immediately following the tuition session, we flew our Ruthless Queen routine with the Dream Ons, just to show that it can be done with these kites in the prevailing low wind.

More photos of the day are here.

Wednesday, 24 June 2015

Streatham Common Kite Day

First time we were present at Streatham Common Kite Day, and it really felt different from the kite festivals we usually attend and fly at. Much more a community atmosphere, and there was another clear difference which I'll come to at the end of this blog post. Matching the relaxed atmosphere was a very laid-back attitude of the organisers with regard to the arena programme, which was essentially put together in real-time as the day progressed.

As Flying Fish, we had three arena slots across the day, in which we flew our now-usual "Ruthless Queen" - "Adiemus" pair of routines. The wind was difficult throughout the day: very bumpy and turbulent, and it caused me to make the wrong initial call as to the kites to use. During warm-up, the Airdynamics Taipan T5 V1s were spot-on, but the wind came down during our first routine, so we were really struggling to keep the kites in the air. Switch to the T5 Standards for our second routine, and we stuck with these kites for the rest of the day. Because of the difficult wind, our routines most surely weren't the best we've ever flown, but we did ok (I think). And no, the 'double catch' at the end of the "Adiemus" routine didn't work, because the wind didn't have enough oomph at the end of the window to keep the kites there for long enough.

Team Spectrum has been present at Streatham for many years, and it was thanks to them that we were invited in the first place. They also struggled with the wind, especially when Carl and Bryan flew North Shore Radicals with tails, when they couldn't complete their routine a few times due to the kites falling out of the sky.

Flame was the third dual-line team present, fresh from retaining their UK National title. And even they had kites fall out of the sky a few times. So if even the national champions struggle with the wind, we don't have to feel too bad about flying below our ability!

The end of the arena programme consisted of a mini-mega-fly, initially consisting of Flame and Flying Fish, who were subsequently joined by Chris Goff. Interesting mega-fly for sure, because Chris was flying one of his own more trick-oriented kites, on much shorter lines than the others. On the other hand, he's not a member of the reigning World Champion team (Scratch Bunnies) for nothing! It did mean we were sandwiched between the UK National Champions and a World Champion; hope some of their skills rubbed off! We must have done something right, because when talking to a few members of the public after the mega-team performance, they couldn't believe that we hadn't been practicing the mega-team routine for hours and hours, and that we (that is, Barry) simply made it up as we flew. Mega-team was most definitely appreciated by the public!

I mentioned above that there was another clear difference with our usual kite festivals. And this was that we had many more members of the public approaching us with questions about kites and kite-flying. And obviously, we're only too happy to talk kites and help people enter the sport!

More pics of the day, including Batman and Batwoman, Swallows, Dragons, Policemen, and Spirits (including the Spirit of Jamaica), plus a crazy Jamaican, are here.

Picture credits of us flying: Carl Wright (Team Spectrum); of the pyramid formation in the mega-team: Sharon Savell; of the kites of the mega-team in the sky: Carl Wright (Team Spectrum); of the mega-team on the ground: Mike Urban

Thursday, 18 June 2015

UK National Championships 2015

The 2015 UK National Championships at Dunstable Downs June 13 & 14 threw up an interesting challenge: fog. Besides the weather alternating between drizzle and rain, there were times when it was near-impossible to see the kites at the end of the lines .... Despite this rather challenging weather, there were still two full rounds of the dual-line individual, pair, and team; and quad-line individual and pair competitions, plus a single round of multi-kite flying (on Saturday) and a single round of freestyle flying (on Sunday).

To a large degree, the winners from last year retained their titles: Tony Shiggins won dual-line individual, Phoenix (Tony + Fran) won dual-line pair, and Flame (Tony + Fran + Barry) won dual-line team. So another triple for Tony!

The only 'other' winner compared to last year was Bryan Beasley, who took the freestyle title.

Multi-kite flying saw its d├ębut at the Nationals, with four entries, and the first UK Champion in this discipline is Graham Lockwood.

Quad-line flying was back at the Nationals after a number of years. Josh Mitcheson became the UK Champion in quad-line individual, and Tall & Small (Josh + Ellie Eades) secured the national title in quad-line pair. So a double for Josh in his debut to flying national competition!

And how did Flying Fish do? With only two entries in dual-line pairs, no surprise that we came second, like last year, and retained our Experienced Class title. Our scores were essentially the same as last year, and we are aware that we need to do something different for our ballet to improve our scores. This will almost surely include more flying 'to' the music than we're doing in our current competition ballet, which is essentially a number of patterns and figures flown with music in the background.

The above would have essentially have been the content of this blog post, if it hadn't been for an unexpected twist .... At the pilot's meeting on Saturday morning, it was clear there was only one entry for dual-line team. In order to make sure Flame at least had to work for their essentially inevitable title, we were asked by Keith Griffiths of the Airheads whether we were up for forming a 3-man scratch team, quickly dubbed 'Fisheadz'. Obviously, we'd never practised the team compulsory figures together, and even more obvious, we didn't have a ballet ... As Keith had experience with the figures, he'd call these, and I'd then switch with Keith to the #1 position to call the ballet. We decided to use our Adiemus music, and string together some elements of our Adiemus routine with some elements of the routine we flew with Airheads at Exmouth Kite Festival a few weeks ago. We also decided at the last moment to try and include our 'double catch' ending, and it worked, under competition conditions! Only on Saturday; we didn't manage it on Sunday. Even though Fisheadz is officially the runner-up dual-line team in the UK in 2015, we were far far behind Flame. Don't think we dishonoured ourselves, though, and Andy Taylor was very enthusiastic about our double catch ending, referring to it as a rare novel move in dual-line flying.

And as we're back with teams, here's a video of Flame flying their ballet on Sunday:

I don't know if pictures were taken of Flying Fish or Fisheadz while they were flying, but if any such surface, I'll update this blog post. Because I was mostly either line judging, ground-crewing, or flying, I didn't have the opportunity to take many pictures myself, but what I took is here. The full results are available on the STACK web-site.

Credit of the picture of one half of the 'double catch': Andy Taylor