Wednesday, 16 August 2017

Portsmouth Kite Festival

And so we came to our final kite festival of the 2017 season, which, as so often in previous years, took place on Southsea Common. It's not our final event, as we still have one or two on our calendar, but it was our final kite festival.

Weather was cloudy on Saturday and gloriously sunny on Sunday. Wind was mostly 9-16mph on Saturday, whereas Sunday started off with very little wind, after which a light, but oh so deliciously clean, 5-9mph wind settled itself for the rest of the day.

As usual in my festival posts, I focus on the team-flying, and there were lots of pairs and teams present! First of all, Team Spectrum, flying their usual sets of three routines (Carl flying two kites, Bryan and Carl flying a pairs routine, Carl flying three kites).

And then there was the appearance (on Sunday only) of the reigning UK dual-line team champions, Flame.

Moving to quad lines, Amalgamation, the reigning UK quad-line pair champions flew their Phoenix kites.

And the Dunstable Downs Old Gents flew their very chilled 'Albatross' routine.

On to quad-line team, The Decorators made their appearance.

As did The Flying Squad.

I want to single out one of their routines, which, for me, was one of the highlights of the festival: a 4-man routine flying 7-stacks with tails. Absolutely beautiful to watch!

And then to Flying Fish (yes, Flying Fish is our name, despite Paul Reynolds having more and more difficulty remembering it; it started quite innocently at Exmouth Kite Festival, but I'm now starting to get worried about him losing it, one shiny marble after the other ...).

We flew a total of nine routines, six different ones; this basically continues what we've been trying to do this season: expand the range of routines we fly at a festival, combining general routines with more kite-specific ones. We flew 'Chariots of Fire' three times, 'Adiemus' twice, and 'Ruthless Queen' once; all these with our T5s (V1, Cuban and UL).

Then we flew our 'Superman' routine, with the customised Spin-Offs, once on Saturday, as well as our 'Thriller' routine with the VampDevils.

And we were really pleased to be able to debut our 'Jaws' routine in our final slot on Sunday!

We've been working on it, on and off, for so long now, and it was great to finally be able to bring it to the public. Judging from the reactions from kite flyers as well as members of the public, it hit the spot.

Portsmouth wouldn't be Portsmouth if it didn't end with a Revolution mega-team; the '26' indicating this was the 26th Portsmouth Kite Festival..

Lots more pics, including many single-line kites, are here. One picture I post here: I was pleased I finally got to meet Kate, the kite-flying dog. And get a few doggy cuddles from her.

She wasn't flying any kites at Portsmouth, but this video shows what she can do:

Portsmouth was a fantastic final kite festival of 2017 for us; bring on 2018!

Picture credits of us flying: Franca Perletti, Carl Wright, Marian Linford

Wednesday, 9 August 2017

Exmouth Kite Festival

Our third consecutive appearance at Exmouth, and it was a good one! Weather was a mixture of clouds and sunshine, dry, and with decent winds (stronger on Saturday than on Sunday).

Besides Flying Fish, two other teams flew their routines in the arena. First of all, the Airheads flew as a 3-man team:

And The Decorators flew as a 6-man team:

As Flying Fish, we flew a total of six routines, five of which were different! Never flown so many different routines at a single festival. With out T5 Taipans, we flew our 'Chariots of Fire' routine twice, and 'Adiemus' and 'Ruthless Queen' each once. On Saturday, we used our Standards and V1s; on Sunday our Ultralights and Standards.

And then we flew our Peter Powells to 'Heart of Courage' on Saturday. The wind was just enough to fly them properly, and the low speed they flew actually matched the music pretty well.

And we flew our VampDevils to 'Thriller' on Sunday. Again, the wind was on the light side for them, but they kept flying throughout the routine.

Besides flying as a pair, we also teamed up with the Airheads, under the name of Fish Heads, or Airfish, or Fish(y) Tails, or Prawn Sandwich, or Fish Fingers. And I possibly forgot one or two now; Paul Reynolds was coining them faster than I could remember them!

Sticking to Fish Heads for now, we flew another six routines as a combined team; two as a 6-man team, without tails, and four as a 5-man team, with tails. One hairy moment occurred when as a 5-man team we flew T5 Standards and the wind really picked up, but we got through it without any breakage and without getting tails tangled.

Lots more pictures of the festival are here, including Paul Reynolds and David Ellison providing commentary from The Terminator ...

Picture credits of us flying, in order of appearance in this post: Bridget Batchelor Design and Photography, Alan Pinnock, Franca Perletti (2), Marian Linford

Wednesday, 2 August 2017


I've mentioned before that we are always on the look-out for something 'different' to do in our arena slots in addition to typical choreographed routines, flown with high-end professional kites. Something that will appeal to the public, and maybe even make them pick up a kite.

One possibility I thought about takes us back to the early days of our kite-flying. We then bought a Prism Micron, and shortly after, a stack of five Microns. The single Micron is mental when the wind picks up, whereas the 5-stack, with its colourful presence, always put a smile on our faces.

So could we actually fly the single and the 5-stack together in a routine? They sure fly differently, have different flying characteristics, but can we make use of that in a routine? It would certainly be something not seen at kite festivals!

One way to find out: fly them together ...

We tried it with me flying the single Micron, and Irma flying the 5-stack. So the stack is following the single kite. We flew them on 25m lines with and without 5m leaders; 30m in total works better for flying both together. Any longer (like our standard 45m), and the kites just vanish at the end of the lines due to their small size (remember, they have a wing span of just under a meter).

The kites are fast and skittish, especially the single Micron. So we would not create a classic fully choreographed routine, but that was not our aim. There are certainly possibilities, with the stack in fast pursuit of an even more frenzied singleton.

Key question now: what music to fly it to? It must be fast and furious, not too long (less than 3 minutes ideally; it takes quite some concentration to avoid crashes with these fast kites) and clear hooks are not so important (as we simply use the music as backdrop). I have some ideas myself (e.g. Flight of the Wounded Bumblebee, or maybe Heart's Barracuda), but happy to hear suggestions!

Monday, 31 July 2017

Dunstable Kite Festival

And back at the Dunstable Downs we were, after the hot and mostly windless Nationals. Unlike then, the weather gave us intermittent showers and a rather variable wind. More on that later ...

Besides Flying Fish, the festival saw pair/team performances from Team Spectrum (with Georgina taking another kite-flying lesson; did we witness the birth of a new UK dual-line pair?):

The Airheads were present as a pair, and flew their new 'Sunday Morning' routine on Sunday morning:

The DDOGs (Dunstable Downs Old Gents) performed a smooth flowing routine (if you saw them fly, don't you feel they're ready for flying competition next year?):

And of course, The Flying Squad (do they really need further introduction?):

On to Flying Fish! We were keen to try and fly a few specialised routines, wind-permitting. We flew our main 'Chariots of Fire' routine in all our slots, and 'Adiemus' a few times as well. All those using our Airdynamics T5 Taipans, either Standards or V1s (with brakes on occasion). 

On Saturday, the wind just about allowed us to fly our Superman and Lois Lane routine, using the unique pair of customised Spin-Offs we have for this. Second time after Portsmouth last year that we flew them in public.

And on Sunday, picture this ... In the half hour before our first arena slot of the day, the wind is pretty strong, and we decide to get our Peter Powells out for the second routine in the slot. First routine flown with V1s, with brakes. During that first routine, the wind starts to drop a bit, but still plenty of wind for the PPs. Ground crew switches the kites over after the first routine; Peter Powells now on the lines. Music starts. We launch. Guess what? Yes, wind dies down rapidly, and we're really struggling to keep the Peter Powells in the air, let alone fly anything that looks like a halfway decent routine. Running out of arena due to the constant walking back, kites come down. Ground crew pick kites up again and run back. We try to launch again, virtually no wind ... Our struggles were recorded for posterity (thanks Mike!):

Several video clips were made of us flying, one of which is 30 seconds of our Superman routine. I've merged the four clips together; the Superman clip is right at the end.

More pictures, featuring kites from Gill and Jon Bloom, David Ellison, Nick James, Paul and Helen Morgan, and Carl Robertshaw can be found here.

Credits: Carl Wright (us with T5s), Mike Palmer (us with Superman & Lois Lane, and struggling to fly Peter Powells), Neil Lover (video clips of us flying)

Tuesday, 18 July 2017

A.R.C. Reflex

As some of you reading this blog will know, I have a soft spot for unusual kites. Make that a very soft spot. It's fun to fly something that looks different in the sky, kites that you don't see anywhere else.

So you can probably understand that when a pair of A.R.C. Reflex kites was offered for sale, I jumped at it. I knew absolutely nothing about these kites, had never even heard of them, let alone come across them, but their unusual shape, with a single curved leading edge, appealed to me. Add to that that the seller only asked me to pay for postage: no way I could say no!

So here they are in the field, ready for take-off (notice the very long stand-offs!):

The Reflexes don't need much wind, and the spars also clearly send out the message that these are kites for lighter winds. We first flew them in 6-10mph winds, and that was perfect for them. They speed up quite a bit when the wind approaches double figures, so around 10mph is pretty much their maximum. They do tend to oversteer, especially on take-off, and especially if the wind drops. So a relatively narrow wind range.

Obviously, we had to fly them together!

Flying the two Reflexes together showed that they weren't a perfect match. The black/yellow kite was a bit slower than the blue/yellow kite, and handled slightly differently in general (less easy to steer than the blue/yellow kite, for instance). The bridle consists of three separate lines on each side, so no easy option to change the angle of attack by moving the two point slightly up or down. Having the two in the sky close together also made clear that the shapes of the two kites are subtly different: the blue/yellow kite shows a wee bit more curvature. And indeed, when measuring their wing spans, the black/yellow kite had a larger wing span by about 20cm (2.50m vs 2.30m).

And that brings me back to the question of what the story is behind these kites. Searching the web resulted in exactly nothing. According to the seller, these kites are prototypes of a kite that never went into production. The fact that the two kites aren't exact copies of each other, and that only one sports the name A.R.C. Reflex also attests to that.

Obviously, if anyone reading this knows more about the story behind those kites, and who actually made them, I'd very much like to hear from you!