Saturday, 28 July 2012


Since getting my SuperFly ten days ago, I've now had a chance to fly her twice, so here a first impression. Keep in mind that my trick portfolio is still rather basic, and that, obviously, it's my personal impression which may not match yours.

First time was in winds of 3-5mph, and it was really struggling to remain airborne. Fair enough, it's not an UL after all. Second time the wind was 6-12 mph, and that meant I could really start to get a feel for the kite.

So what does that feel amount to? Kite feels very direct, quick to respond to input. Slightest touch of oversteer. I could very easily go through the tricks I do have under my belt at the moment. Axels are easy, turtles deep, cascades no problem, half-axels steady and reliable. And then the fun started .... It has been said by a few early reviewers that the kites gives tricks away. It does, it really does! I've never been able to do a multiple lazy susan reliably, and was now doing them one after the other. Clearly, the kite was ignoring my current trick repertoire: it went into a yo-yo easily and I can't do yo-yos! Get the picture? This kite is going to be a tremendous amount of fun!

So was it worth the wait? For me, absolutely. Nuff said.

Wednesday, 25 July 2012

Our team kite quiver

Now that you have got a bit of a better picture of what we are doing at the moment in the world of kites, and how we got there, I felt that this might be a good moment to introduce the various team kites we have, and I'll describe them in the order in which we got them. So here goes! All photos were taken by me while we were flying. And believe you me, flying the kites and taking pictures at the same time is not always easy! I have plenty of pictures of empty sky to prove that ...

Fish & Shark

I talked about our first pair of team kites before. To be perfectly honest, they're not the best of team kites, as they have a tendency to wobble a bit at launch and at low (wind) speed. So they need some wind to fly properly, but they can't deal with too much wind. Narrow wind window, in other words. Also, their quality isn't that great; I've had to replace several broken leading edges, shattered spines and splitting stand-offs. Interestingly, none of the replacement carbon has broken; at least so far ...

But even if they're not the best of kites, they are our very first team kites and the origin of the name Flying Fish. So they have a special place in our heart and quiver. Fun as well, as seeing the shark chase the fish (or the other way around on occasion!) just puts a smile on your face.

We have a plan for a routine especially for these kites; watch this space!

North Shore Radicals

Our NSRs are not original Top of the Line Radicals, but the modern Skyshark-framed version made by Cutting Edge Kites. I bought one 2nd hand (but as good as new) via someone at the Gone with the Wind forum, and then ordered the other one new from Cutting Edge Kites. We were lucky, because they went out of business just after ours was shipped.

North Shore Radicals are one of the classical team kites, tracking beautifully, cornering sharply, and being very noisy on top of that! They need a decent amount of wind to fly, and will start pulling quite a bit when the wind gets strong. The other members of L-katz have several more Radicals between them (one original Top of the Line, and three self-made copies), so we do fly them with the team as well. Only issue is that because they're all different (i.e. from different manufacturers, using different material), getting them all to fly the same is hard, and tuning them to fly the same at a certain wind speed doesn't mean they will then fly the same at a different wind speed ...

Dream Ons

Relatively new on the market, the Dream On comes from the Skydog Kites stable, and is marketed as a "team kite". This suggests a full-size 2.40-2.50m wing span, whereas the Dream On actually has a 2.10m wing span, so probably better considered a 3/4 size team kite. Comes with a bridle which can quickly be changed from 3-point to turbo; we prefer the turbo setting, even though the 3-point setting is recommended for precision-flying.

We mainly use them for team flying, rather than pair flying, as everyone in L-katz has one (between us, we've got three black and two white Dream Ons). They're easy to fly, have quite a broad wind range, and perform pretty well in terms of tracking, sharp corners, etc. And their design really makes them stand out. Being 3/4 size makes it easier to fly 4 or 5 together, especially if the wind window is a bit narrow.

We bought ours from Kiteworld, by the way.

Matrix Mega-vents

Although our Radicals can take quite a bit of wind, there comes a point where flying them becomes more a case of surviving than flying, even with brakes. So to have kites that we can move up to when the wind really picks up, we were looking for a pair of vented team kites. And these are not exactly the most common kites around! We finally got ourselves a pair of second hand mega-vented Matrix kites, made by Carl Robertshaw (no link, as, alas, Kite Related Design went bust not too long ago). We bought them off Keith Griffiths at the Brighton Kite Festival last year for a very reasonable price. They used to belong to the Matrix Management team, and are clearly used, but have plenty of life in them yet. Mega-vented Matrices have several mesh panels, some of which can be (un)covered so the kite can be adapted to quite a wide wind range, but of course, being vented, they do need a good breeze to start with.

Roger, Tony and Neil also have a mega-vented Matrix, so we can fly these kites with the team as well. Still struggling with the fine-tuning to make them all fly and handle the same, though.

Azur Tandems

Cerfs-Volants Azur Tandems are Canadian team kites from the early 1990s, and they weren't exactly cheap in those days. I bought one (the blue-and-pink one) quite a while ago from someone at the Fractured Axel forum. Trying to find a second one proved to be pretty difficult, as they're very rare. I finally managed to buy a second one (the purple-and-blue one) from Charly Whitaker via Kite Classifieds.

Azur Tandems have a rather wide wind range, and fly slowly, no matter the wind speed. They do make some noise, and it sounds as if they're on fire. Besides their predictable speed and good tracking and cornering, their appeal to us is simply that they look so different in the sky with the extra winglets coming from the spine. Almost as if a smaller kite is about to detach from the mother ship. Now that would be an interesting part of a routine!

Hawaiian Teams

Team flying started with Hawaiians, so we just had to have a pair of them to add to our quiver. I bought a 2nd hand (but as good as new) black/rainbow modern replica, made by Chicago Kite, some time ago from someone at the Gone with the Wind forum. The yellow one is an original Top of the Line, which I bought from Charly Whitaker via Kite Classifieds.

Hawaiians track well, but are not as crisp as more modern team kites in cornering. Still, flying them in formation, they are a sight to behold! And Roger also has a TotL Hawaiian, so we can fly three together. When the wind picks up, they pull like a truck, and the usual wrist straps really start cutting in your skin, so we have Sky Claws for flying our Hawaiians under those conditions.

T5 Taipan SULs

We had the higher wind speeds pretty much sorted in terms of pair/team kites, but when the wind dropped below ~5-6mph, we were stuck. So clearly, we needed to add a pair of (S)UL team kites to our quiver. To make a long story of scouring the internet for candidates short, the only viable option was a pair of T5 Taipans, made and sold by Peter Taylor / Airdynamics. These are the kites built for, and used by the Airheads team, and come in a range of versions, from Zero to V2. We opted for the SUL version, and spent hours agonising about the colour scheme (colourisers are evil!!). But the agony was worth it, as they look gorgeous in the sky!

Our Taipans perform beautifully at low wind, and then only need small inputs (which took some getting used to!). Roger also got a T5 Taipan at the same time we got ours, and he already had a T4, so we have a set of four SUL team kites between us. All we need to do now is convince Neil to get himself a T5, so we can fly them with the whole L-katz team ...


Cheetahs were made by the Rare Air company, which was based in South Africa, but is now defunct. They came in several versions, mostly distinguished by the number of sail panels. Our Cheetah Spectrum has the multiple rainbow-coloured panels and was bought from The Kite Den. Quite recently I bought an almost all-black Cheetah Stealth (the version with the fewest sail panels) via eBay.

The Cheetahs are our largest team kites (2.55m wing span), but because they are so elegant, you don't really notice this. Flight is graceful, which makes them especially suitable for a flowing routine, and they fly best at moderate wind speeds (up to, say, 12mph). Of the team kites we have, these two are best suited for flying with tails, due to their graceful flight, so we have several rainbow-coloured flat 'transition' tails, in two different lengths, allowing us to fly the kites with one, two, or three tails each.

Some people will wonder why we don't just have two sets of SUL - UL - Standard - Vented - Super-Vented versions of the same kite. Undoubtedly, that's better if you're serious about competition flying, but there are several reasons why we don't have two of such sets. First of all, the composition of our team kite quiver as we have it wasn't planned from the start; we were simply opportunistic in adding to it and trying to get a quiver to cover the entire wind range in the process. Second, we simply enjoy flying all kinds of different kites. And third, there are very few full-size team kites on the market right now which come in a wide range of versions; Airdynamics is basically the only realistic option. Maybe we'll invest in two full sets of Airdynamics kites one day, but not at the moment.

You will also have noticed that in each of our pairs, the kites are at the very least subtly different in terms of their colour scheme. The main reason for that (besides the difficulty of trying to get exactly-matching sets of kites that are long out-of-production) is that it just makes it easier for us to see which kite we're flying, which can become a bit difficult in some patterns (for instance, when they involve wraps) with identical kites.

We do have more kites than the team kites introduced above, but as this blog is focused on our pair/team flying, I thought I'd limit myself to the kites we have two of. But in addition to the team kites, we've got trick kites for a range of wind conditions, a few power kites (foils and deltas), several unusual quads, and some SLKs (including a few fighters). Anyone interested can see most of our quiver here (we're a bit behind taking pictures, a few more are to be added).

Tuesday, 17 July 2012


Even though this blog is focused on Flying Fish, and pair/team-flying, I do reserve the right to blog about other kites and other aspects of kiting (sue me!). And one of these 'other kites' is the SuperFly, designed and built by multiple UK, European and World Champion, Chris Goff. The SuperFly was made available to order on 11/11/11, and I got mine today. Yes, it took a while, much longer than expected, mostly because Chris had thoroughly underestimated the interest in the kite, and the whole logistics of setting up a kite-making business while at the same time attending university. At several kite festivals this spring, Chris offered me one of the SuperFlys (SuperFlies?) he had brought to try out, but I kept saying 'no', because I wanted my first flight of a SuperFly to be my own! So here's my very own SuperFly, signed by Chris, and in all her glorious pinkness! And before you ask, flo pink is a custom colour, but one which may become stock in the not-too-distant future (I wanted something different, and Chris really seemed to like the pink).

Judging from a first glance-over, the sewing looks fine; I couldn't find any fault. I can't wait to fly 'Her Pinkness', and will post again once I've had her on the lines for a bit.

On a tangent, in real life I'm a biologist at Southampton University, doing research on fruit flies, and specifically how they evolve resistance to parasites and pathogens. So, essentially, my research involves the evolution of super-flies! All the more fitting that I added a SuperFly to my quiver, don't you think?

Sunday, 15 July 2012

How it all started - 3 of 3

In earlier blog posts, I described how we got started in flying dual-line kites, and our first experiences flying as a pair. The third key step ultimately leading to our Festival début came in the shape of two people. To be more precise, it came in the shape of Allan and Marilyn Pothecary, aka Close Encounters.

It must have been the second time that we met up with Roger, Tony and Neil at Stokes Bay that Tony mentioned a Better Flying Day, to be run by Allan and Marilyn at Stokes Bay in a week or two. Wouldn't cost anything, all you'd need to do is show up. That sounded like a good deal, so we duly arrived at Stokes Bay two weeks later. After introducing ourselves to Allan and Marilyn, and making clear that we had barely done any team-flying, Allan asked what kites we had. We had brought our Fish & Shark kites, of course, plus a few others, among which was a Prism Hypnotist. Allan was, shall we say, 'underwhelmed' with the Fish & Shark kites, and pulled out a Prism Mirage to match our Hypnotist. But first, using two of their Eolo Over kites on 40m lines, he took us both separately through some pair-flying basics: infinities, ground pass, boxes; and how to call and react to calls.

And then it was practice time! Using our Hypnotist and Allan's Mirage, we tried out these basics with the two of us, which wasn't the easiest of things. 

Also, we had to go back to our own 25m lines, as Allan needed the 40m lines for the next few flyers to be instructed. Going back from 40m to 25m really showed how important long lines were for pair/team-flying!

But we tried, and definitely showed improvement over the few hours we were there. We went home excited, and immediately ordered lines and related stuff to make ourselves two sets of 40m lines.

About a month after this Better Flying Day, Allan invited us over to one of their flying sites near Stonehenge for some more flying instructions. We had done some practicing in the mean time, and he first cast a critical eye on our flying progress, with us flying the Hypnotist-Mirage pair of kites again, but now on our own 40m lines.

Next up was flying in a team of three! Back to Eolo Overs. Main difficulty for us now was to keep track of which kite we were flying ...
And to make life a bit more interesting, Allan now started to throw in more commands, including for several patterns we'd not flown before, and were only explained seconds before execution!

But we survived without too many problems. And if flying in a team of three wasn't exhilarating enough, we then went to flying with all four of us. With more kites in the same area of sky, trying to keep track of what your own kite is and where you need to go next, and not crash into the other three kites, with all kites flying at speed, was a big challenge, but it also left us with a real buzz being able to fly in a team of four! Sorry, no pictures of the 4-strong team, as flying in a team of four and taking pictures at the same time was a bit too much of an ask ...

Since these two days, we have flown with Allan and Marilyn on several occasions, including an 8-kite mega-fly, which I'll say more about in a future blog post. But first, a big public THANK YOU to Allan and Marilyn. Guys, without your enthusiasm, support and motivation, we wouldn't be where we are now!

Pictures of us flying the Hypnotist and Mirage were taken by Roger. The picture of Allan critically looking over our shoulders was taken by Marilyn.

Monday, 9 July 2012

Brighton Kite Festival

The Brighton Kite Festival weekend turned out to be slightly different from what we anticipated ... We went there on Saturday expecting to do what we normally do at kite festivals: enjoy the routines and other displays, talk to people, and possibly ground crew for one or two teams (Close Encounters was one of the teams announced to be present on the Brighton Kite Flyers festival web-page, and we've helped them on several occasions).

Shortly after we arrived, one of the organisers of the Festival came up to us, and said that he had heard we flew as a pair, that there was a gap in the program (due to an apparent misunderstanding, Close Encounters wouldn't be there this weekend), and whether we could maybe .... Well, we could, but there was one slight problem: not expecting to fly, we hadn't brought any kites ... OK, that did make things a wee bit difficult, but if we brought kites and music tomorrow, we would definitely get an arena slot. Our first invite to fly at a kite festival!! Yes, of course we flew at Southampton a few weeks earlier, but as we participated in the organisation of that festival, and I was partly responsible for the arena program, our flying there wasn't really an invite; I'd simply allocated some slots to us.

In the absence of Close Encounters, the only team performing on the Saturday was Team Spectrum, and you can always rely on them to deliver a solid, flowing performance, both with Bryan and Carl flying as a pair, and with Carl flying two or three kites on his own.

Back on Sunday, and we were on the program!

The wind was infuriating, changing speed and direction all the time, so we had to have a range of kites, for different wind conditions, ready. Our first routine of the day started fine, until all of a sudden a big hole in the wind appeared. I was on the edge of the hole and just managed to pull out, but Irma hit it full on and her kite just flipped over and fell to the ground. Thanks to Bryan, who quickly put the kite back in launch position, Irma could take off again almost immediately and we could finish our routine (thanks again, Bryan!). On our way to lunch (selection of bhajias with tamarind chutney; yummy!) we were asked by Simon Dann, who did his usual excellent job at the PA, if we wouldn't mind flying again later on .... Simon, are you serious? Does a Rev have four lines??

Just as we were about to start our second run, the wind dropped and I decided to switch to SUL kites. Call turned out to be a good one, as even the SULs struggled at times. But we got through our routine without any mishaps, even though I slightly misjudged the timing at the end due to the kites flying so slowly. Neither of our two performances was perfect (although apart from Irma's kite falling out of the sky, the public wouldn't have noticed the errors; of course, you're always your own worst critic), but we were still quite happy and most definitely flying at another festival was good experience.

Given that this blog is focussed on pair- and team-flying, and for the sake of completeness, I should also mention two members of the Brighton Kite Flyers who were christened 'Weekend Pilots'. They didn't fly a specific routine to music, but did some impromptu pair-flying with their HQ Trion kites on Sunday.

Of course, it wasn't all pair/team-flying! Several other people of 'kiting repute' performing this weekend were Chris Goff and Piero Serra (trick kiting), James Robertshaw (Revolution flying), Karl & Sara Longbottom (Pterodactyls, pants and knickers) and Paul Thody (flying his stack of 24 (!) Flexifoil Stackers). Some photos showing them and/or their kites, and giving a more general impression of the Festival over the weekend are here.

To end this post, I want to highlight what was the performance of the weekend for me: Carl Wright of Team Spectrum flying his two eggplant Prism Zephyr kites. I've seen him perform quite a few times over the last few years, flying two or three kites on his own, and often using his trademark "Barcelona" or "Goldfinger" music. This time, he flew a routine I hadn't seen before, to Escala's version of "Chi Mai". Partly it was due to the achingly sorrowful beauty of the music, but Carl managed to fly the kites so much in tune to the music that the whole was far more than the sum of its parts. From the corners and circles matching the first notes, right down to the kites' speed slowly dying as the music died, it really touched me. I don't think a video of this routine exists anywhere, so until you come to a kite festival and see it for yourself, you'll have to do with a photo of the two Zephyrs, and a link to the music, and add your imagination.

Carl, if you read this, I raise my hat to you, sir!

Photos of us flying taken by Carl Wright.

Thursday, 5 July 2012

Leominster/Hereford Kite Festival cancelled :(

Sadly, the Leominster/Hereford Kite Festival, where Flying Fish was asked to fly, has had to be cancelled. The grounds are not suitable for a kite festival as a result of the recent rains .....

Obviously, we're disappointed as we were really looking forward to flying there, possibly joining in another mega-fly, and in whatever else we could participate in.

Tuesday, 3 July 2012

How it all started - 2 of 3

In an earlier post, I described how we started flying dual-line kites as the first of the three key steps leading to our Festival début. The second significant step was getting our first pair of team kites. This happened after someone on the Fractured Axel forum (incidentally, the premier UK forum for anything having to do with dual-line and quad-line trick and precision kiting) posted a link to a German kite web-shop which listed two kites, designed by Joel Scholz and made by Goflyakite. The kites were in the shape of a fish and a shark, and the poster suggested that it would be great to see the shark chase one or more fish around the sky (no point linking to the shop, as they don't offer these kites for sale any more, and anyway, the kites are no longer in production). I very much agreed with the poster, and thought it might indeed be fun for us to order a pair, and see whether we might enjoy flying kites in formation, something we had never done before.

Irma agreed, and not long after, we had in our possession a pair of Fish & Shark (or Neptune & Jaws, as they're officially called) kites!

Getting the kites is one thing, flying them in formation quite another .... By that time, we had been to a few Kite Festivals, so had seen performances by kite display teams such as Team Spectrum and Close Encounters. What seemed to be one of their simpler moves is when the two kites keep following each other along a path resembling a figure-of-eight lying on its side (also called 'infinity'). So we decided to try flying such an infinity. Kites launched, Fish turned to the right, Shark followed. So far so good! Fish turned down, around, and then up to fly to the top left of the wind window, Shark followed. The lines are crossing, what do we do now??? Help!! PANIC!!! And the kites came crashing down ...

It took us a wee while to get our brains around the fact that it doesn't matter at all if the lines are partly wrapping around each other. Simply keep flying, ignore the crossing of the lines, it makes no difference. Once that 'clicked', we managed to fly our first infinities. Tracking was far from perfect, but we could now go round and round flying infinities without crashing!

So, a new kiting team was born! What to call the new team? Obvious: Flying Fish!