Wednesday, 13 September 2017

Red Arrows, again

Some time ago, I posted about our pair of Red Arrow kites. Or, rather, about our three Red Arrows, as one came originally as part of a stack. Recently, I got my hands on a fourth Red Arrow, which prompted me to create a pair of 2-stacks. And here they are on our regular flying field in the New Forest:


Wind was quite variable, but we managed to get both stacks airborne.










And of course we had to fly them together!


As we had both stacks in the air, I heard the noise of approaching jet planes behind me. When I looked around, I saw the real Red Arrows fly past (as it later turned out, on their way to Bournemouth for their next show). What are the chances of flying Red Arrow kites just when the Red Arrows fly past??? Fortunately, I had my camera in my hand!


And mea culpa, I really couldn't resist photoshopping the two pictures together .... This is what it would have looked like if the Red Arrows had passed in front of us rather than behind! 



OK, back to our Red Arrow kites, you may have noticed in the first picture that there is a colour difference between the kites, with two being slightly more red and two slightly more orange. Here are the front kites of the two stacks again, side by side. 


The kite on the left clearly sports the Mettoy brand, whereas there is nothing indicating a brand name in that same location on the sail (or anywhere else, for that matter) of the kite on the right. 


And this is not the only difference between the kites. In each pair of photos below, the Mettoy kite is in the left, the unbranded kite on the right. And, by the way, the two kites within a stack are identical in every aspect. 

The tail end of the Mettoy kites have a strip of red tape reinforcing it, which is absent on the unbranded kites.

The diameter of the red circle in the wing emblem is larger (5cm) on the Mettoy kites than on the unbranded kites (4cm).











The leading edges of the Mettoy kites are not connected to the spine, whereas on the unbranded kites they are.










And the cut of the sail around the wing tip is different between the Mettoy and the unbranded kites.










So what's going on here? Are we dealing with two different versions of Mettoy kites, one of which does not carry a brand name? If so, why not? There is another possibility, though. One kite book mentions the Red Arrow kites first made by a company called Schofield, and later by Mettoy. So are the unbranded kites the earlier Schofield products, with Mettoy making changes to their design when they took over production? Flying them side-by-side showed that the Mettoy kites do fly a tad better, especially at launch. That would support them being a later, improved design.

But I'm purely guessing now. Does anyone reading this know more about these kites?

Friday, 8 September 2017

Back to basics

When we started flying kites, now almost 9 years ago, our very first dual-liner was a HQ Yukon. At the time, we weren't sure whether we'd like flying kites, so went for a relatively cheap kite which got good reviews as a starter kite.


As you're probably aware, things have moved on from those days and that very first Yukon .... Recently, we were thinking of ways to get the public interested in trying out pair-flying. Now I gather that one hurdle might be that people watching us fly at festivals think you need expensive kites in order to fly as a pair or team, and that that stops them in their tracks there and then. So how about showing the public that pair-flying can be fun with a basic ~£50 kite, and that you don't actually need £200+ professional 8-footers? In other words, given that Yukon sells for around £50, how about getting a second Yukon, and develop a simple routine for them to fly at festivals?

One problem quickly revealed itself: although the Yukon is still very much available, the 'cool' colour scheme is no longer produced. Pity, as flying kites with similar or identical graphics just has more of a visual impact. A call on Facebook for another Yukon 'Cool' quickly led me to HQ, who still had one in their warehouse and, when I explained my intention with the kite, were happy to let me have it (thanks guys, and also thanks to Chris Matheson, who put me in touch with HQ in the first place).

So here we've got both our Yukons together on our flying field in the New Forest!


We made no changes to the kites, but added double blue and purple Prism ribbon tails for increased visual impact (tails always appeal to the festival public). Also, we flew them on 35m lines (25m plus 10m leaders) to give us a somewhat bigger window to fly in as a pair than we would have with the 20m lines the kite comes with.

With both in the air, we only needed some minor bridle adjustments to make them fly at the same speed.


Obviously, they are not as precise as our ~£200 T5s, but we can do most things we normally do with them, including axels and half-axels. And that at roughly a quarter of the price.


So we now have a pair of decent basic kites, to be flown with music appropriate to the kites and hopefully connecting with especially the younger members of the public, and with a commentator explicitly explaining pair-flying is not only fun but can also be affordable.

I must also admit that it's appealing to have our very first kite now in our festival team bag!

Friday, 1 September 2017

Web-site!

You may have seen the announcement on Facebook already, but if not, I've decided to create a simple web-site for Flying Fish. Not to replace this blog or our Facebook page, but to serve as a portal for access to both, and as a platform for more static information which tends to get lost in more dynamic platforms such as a blog or Facebook page.

As I have zilch expertise in creating web-sites, I followed the example of our friends from Team Spectrum and created a basic free web-site through weebly.


For some reason, blogger doesn't allow me to create a clickable picture, but you can see the new Flying Fish web-site here. It currently has basic information on us, including pictures from most of the festivals we flew at over the years and an overview of the kites we've flown at events. There's a bit about our competition flying and us flying as part of larger teams. It has an overview of our 2017 events, with links to blog posts, and of confirmed 2018 events. And it has a few videos. No doubt more will be added over time, and the current content and layout will be tweaked as I get a better feel for what is and isn't possible with free weebly web-sites.

Tuesday, 22 August 2017

Northampton Balloon Festival

Prior to competing in the first round of the UK Nationals at Billing Aquadrome, the management of the holiday park had already asked us whether we would be able to provide sport kite demonstrations for the Northampton Balloon Festival hosted by them later in the year. And with 'us', they meant Flying Fish plus Airheads, given that we are used to flying and demo-ing together.

So, for us, our first 'support act' for a balloon festival! Similar to when we flew at Billing Aquadrome at the Nationals back in May, the wind was challenging to say the least ... Horrible on Saturday: blustery, full of holes and bumps. And lighter but still very variable on Sunday. We had to have all our kites out and flew all bar the V2 at some point during the weekend.


Unlike at a kite festival, where we normally get 10-20 minute slots, we were asked to provide an hour long demonstration in the morning, and half an hour in the afternoon. To give you a feel for what we decided to do, here's the basic demo schedule we used over the weekend, which we tweaked as and when necessary:

* - Team warm-up: 5-human 'Fisheadz' team (in "Fish Finger" formation: AH - FF - AH - FF - AH) going through the standard STACK warm-up sequence. This to make sure we are aware of the conditions and to check we got the right kites on the lines for the current wind conditions.

* - Individual dual-line ballet to music: Peter did the honours, flying to Evanescence.


* - Individual quad-line ballet to music: Vee flying her Phoenix accompanied by Mozart. 

* - Pairs ballets to music: Flying Fish in the arena; 'Chariots of Fire', 'Adiemus' and 'Ruthless Queen' routines all came out.


* - How to fly a sport kite? Mick demonstrating the basics of flying a dual-line kite, followed by Vee doing the same for a quad-line kite. 

* - Second pairs ballet to music, flown by Keith & Vee to 'Another Way to Die'.










* - Team ballet to music, with tails, flown by Airheads (Peter, Keith, Vee); 'It's Got to be You'.

* - Mega-team: 'Fisheadz', in the "Fish Sandwich" formation (AH - AH - FF - FF - AH - AH) and to Crowded House. We decided against using tails, given the turbulent wind ...


Switching the mic around to whoever wasn't flying in the arena at that time, we provided our own commentary around all our demos, explaining what was going on. Several members of the public came up to us afterwards to ask questions about sport kites, or kite-flying in general, so it clearly struck a chord with some.

But what about the balloons, as this was first and foremost a balloon festival! Due to the wind conditions, the balloons could only fly once, early (6am) Sunday morning. When we woke up in our caravan on Sunday morning, I heard these regular 'whoomph' noises. It took a wee while for the fog of sleep to lift and realisation to kick in: what we heard were the burners; the balloons were launching! Quickly got dressed and walked over to the arena, where we watched the last dozen or so balloons take off. Wonderful sight in the early morning light!











 


Loads more pictures, mostly of the balloons, can be found here.

Picture credit of us flying as a pair and in the 'Fisheadz' team: Valerie Hancorn.

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 teams, 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