Monday, 20 March 2017

Festival dates 2017

It's officially spring now, so time to look ahead at the 2017 kite festival season. Where will Flying Fish be flying? Below the ones we'll definitely be at.

Minchinhampton Kite Day - April 2
New event for us! The organisers are keen to make this a bigger event, and invited a few dual-line teams, Flying Fish among them.

Streatham Common Kite Day - May 14
Our third appearance at this community-run festival. Always a very nice atmosphere.

Basingstoke Kite Festival - June 3 & 4
I lost count how often we've flown at Basingstoke. Guess we're almost part of the furniture now!

Brighton Kite Festival - July 8 & 9
Happy to be back at Brighton, after last year's absence due to work. Brighton gave us our very first invited festival performance, so it has a special place in our fishy hearts ...

Dunstable Kite Festival - July 29 & 30
Always a great festival to be at and fly at. Excellent site, and lots of other flyers to mingle with, chat with, fly with.

Exmouth Kite Festival - August 5 & 6
Our third invite for Exmouth; wind can be challenging, but always a great variety of invited flyers.

Portsmouth Kite Festival - August 12 & 13
Essentially our local festival, after the demise of Southampton. Great memories of attending and flying here.

There are one or two more events in the pipeline, but these are not 100% confirmed yet. And, in addition, there will be a few rounds of Nationals to attend.

Hope to see some of you reading this at one of the festivals this year; do come say hi!

Saturday, 11 February 2017

Elliot Mystic

I'll say it before someone else does: this is probably a bonkers idea .... So, with that now out of the way, here it is:

Last year, I was given an Elliot Mystic. Yes, given, for nothing, nada, noppes. It needed a bit of TLC and one spar needed replacing, but if I wanted it, it was mine. Bit of a no-brainer, right? Getting a spar replacement turned out to be not as easy as I thought, as it has 12mm spars. But once the kite was R2F, I took it out for a spin.

So how did I manage this 4.20m wingspan beast? Well, I was slightly apprehensive, but it proved easier than I thought. I flew it in a 8-12mph wind, which was perfect. Kite takes some effort to launch: big sweep with the arms, and run backwards a few steps. Once flying, it didn't pull as much as I feared it would, but it's still a handful; no doubt this monster will develop serious power when the wind goes above 15mph and goes towards 20mph.

You need to keep the kite flying; it doesn't like stalling at the edge of the window. Also, it has a huge turning circle, so I had to make sure all turns down were initiated high up. Flight is slow and serene. In all, it was quite an experience flying this beast!

So what's the bonkers idea? Well, what if we had another Mystic .... Would we be able to fly a bit of a pairs routine with them? Felix Mottram, of The Decorators fame, told me he once flew an impromptu pairs routine with two Force 10 kites, and these have a 4.50m wing span. So flying these massive kites in a pairs routine can be done ... Whether we will be able to do it is another matter, and there's one way to find out ... Anyone have an Elliot Mystic gathering dust, looking for a new home and up for a challenge with a sibling?

Monday, 9 January 2017

A pair of special Phantoms

If you're asked, as Flying Fish, to become custodians of a unique pair of kites, which have relevance to the history of team-flying in the UK, you're not going to say 'no, thanks', are you?

Here's the story ...

Cast your mind back to 1989. A UK kite team, called 'The Decorators', becomes interested to move from flying roks to getting into dual-line team-flying. They contact Tim Benson with a request to make them a set of dual-line kites. Tim builds a set of four Phantoms, in a custom colour scheme, which is different from the graphics that Phantoms became best known for.

This set of Phantoms brought 'The Decorators' international success.

With the introduction of the Revolution, 'The Decorators' switched to quad-line kites, and this is still what they're rightly famous for.

So what happened to their set of Phantoms? Bill Lancashire, very interested in and knowledgeable about the history of Phantom kites, got hold of two of the four 'Decorator Phantoms': the yellow and green ones; the whereabouts of the other two (red and orange) remains unknown. The kites were in pretty bad shape, but he restored them to the best of his ability, and with original spars and parts as far as possible.

And this is where Flying Fish comes in: Bill contacted me, asking if I was interested in taking custody of this unique pair of kites, and for Flying Fish to fly them in public on selected occasions. Why Flying Fish? Mostly because of our enthusiasm in flying at UK festivals, and our interest in the history of dual-line kites. Bill, did you honestly expect me to turn this down???

So, shortly after xmas, the postman delivered a long parcel, and here are the 'Dec Phantoms' on the ground of our regular flying field in the New Forest!

And here they are in the air ...

... and, as they're obviously meant to flown together, with both of them in the same shot!

When we flew them, the wind was mostly 1-4mph, so very light winds. They were struggling at 1-2mph, but started to fly solidy, though slowly, at winds of 3mph and above. They really are a dream to fly, tracking excellently. We went through most of the STACK pairs figures with them, and they had no problem flying these. Given the spars they're framed in (Beman light), and the fact that they're old sails, they need to be handled carefully and I wouldn't like to fly them in winds above 8-9mph; most definitely not with winds in double figures.

Bill, we feel honoured to be given custody of these unique kites, so thank you for trusting us with them. We'll bring them to selected festivals, and, who knows, one day we may fly them as part of a mixed dual/quad-line 'Decorator and guests' line-up!

Wednesday, 28 December 2016

9 Trlbys and 9 Aces

If you're seriously into kite-flying, you will have heard of a Trlby, an American Peter Powell-like dual-line kite, with a fibreglass frame and plastic sail. Of course, a Trlby had to be part of my collection of early-dual line kites, and it didn't take long to get my hands on one:

Not long after, I stumbled across two additional Trlbys, so I could stack them together to fly as a Trlby triple-stack:

Good things come to those who wait ... keeping a regular eye on eBay resulted in six more Trlbys, and the triple-stack could be extended to a 9-stack:

Now why am I writing about these Trlbys in our Flying Fish blog? Well, because some time ago, I got my hands on a job lot of early dual-liners, and that job lot included a 9-stack of Ace kites, the UK equivalent of the Trlby.

So, clearly, Flying Fish had to fly the two 9-stacks together!

Apologies for the less-than-perfect picture of the two 9-stacks flying together, but flying one of the stacks, trying to avoid it catching its own tails on its stacking lines, trying to avoid the tails of the two stacks getting tangled and taking a picture at the same time was a bit of a challenge. This was the only picture with the two stacks more or less in focus ...

One thing was clear: if we are ever to fly these two 9-stacks at a festival, we will need a dedicated ground crew to help us set up and take down.

Tuesday, 20 December 2016


During the past festival year, I've become more and more convinced that if we want to attract new people to the sport of kite-flying, we really need to inspire them to pick up a kite and start flying. A technically challenging routine with dual-line delta kites may not be the best to inspire the next generation of kite-flyers, as it may appear to be unachievable for someone who has never even flown a kite. Of course, dual-line kite routines will remain at the core of our festival portfolio; we have no intention at all of abandoning that. We have already become more focused on expanding what we can do in the arena at festivals. Adding a quad-line routine to our portfolio, as we did at Dunstable Kite Festival, is part of that expansion, as is flying our Superman & Lois Lane Spin-Offs, which got their UK premiere at Portsmouth Kite Festival. Reactions to both of these additions to our portfolio have been very positive, with one kite flyer telling us he really liked to see competition teams having a wider range of non-competition routines under their belts for festivals.

Given that big inflatables are always very popular with the public, we are now also looking more at possibilities and opportunities to do more with soft kites and airfoils. As I blogged about recently, we now have a pair of Flexifoil 2-stacks that we can fly if the conditions are right.

Earlier this year, we got ourselves a pair of single-line whales, which pop up on eBay very regularly, and for very little money. Idea was to try and convert them to dual-line flying.

Did that work? Uhmmm, no, not at all. I replaced the existing single-line bridle with a dual-line bridle, played a lot with relative lengths of the various bridle lines, but none of the tweaks resulted in a kite which was even remotely steerable ... Oh well, can't win them all!

Looking around for other options for dual-line soft kites, there are airplane-shaped airfoils, which I'd seen being flown at several festivals before we got serious about flying at festivals ourselves. These would certainly spark the imagination of the public at festivals.

Although I've never seen them myself being flown as part of a pair routine, this video shows it certainly is possible!

Another dual-line airplane airfoil I stumbled across is this one inspired by Wallace & Gromit:

I can certainly see us fly one of these at festivals, to the theme music of Wallace & Gromit, obviously. Just need to get my hands on one ...

And if we're seriously talking about dual-line airfoils, there's always the 4.5m wing span PiraƱa ...

Chances of adding one of these to our quiver are close to zero, especially as they're not sold commercially, and my kite-making skills are most certainly not up for a challenge like that ..... Question is actually whether a dual-line airfoil as big as that will actually be able to fly loops and circles; maybe a pair at half size would be better?

Back to airplanes, we have actually flown one of these, once, at Malmesbury Kite Festival in 2013. It was quite a bit larger than the standard airplane, and we both had a go at flying it, and trying to get it to fly a full circle. Great fun, but it certainly wasn't easy to get the line length differential between left and right hand enough for it to turn. If we ever get our hands on a large airplane kite like this, we may well fly one with the two of us, each controlling one line. That should make flying loops and circles easier, and it would certainly add something novel to the UK kite festival scene. I bet we'd need to practice two people flying one kite!

If anyone has one or a pair of dual-line airplanes for sale, please get in touch. And if anyone has other ideas for dual-line soft kites which would spark the public's imagination and with which we could fly routines at festivals, I'd be interested to hear! 

Saturday, 10 December 2016

A pair of Trilobites

When we flew at Portsmouth Kite Festival, we participated in establishing a world record; a mass fly of Trilobite kites. Doesn't matter that, since then, the world record was broken again, and is now back in the US. One thing was clear on the day: we had to have a Trilobite as well, to allow us to participate at Trilobite mass flys at future festivals. And, obviously, as one Trilobite will pine away, it had to be a pair ...

Anyone who has spent time with a kite colouriser knows what happened next: many hours of playing with colours and patterns. We wanted a pair of Trilobites which were ever so slightly different from what you normally see. In the end, we opted for a white back (to allow the body colours to come out crisper) and matching white pygidium (the tail end; black on the majority of Trilobites), while the 'antennae' were also different from what you normally see. Making use of the full range of colours offered by the Kaixuan Kite Company, we ended up with nine different colour schemes.

Next step: which two to pick? Irma was diametrically opposed to my suggestion to just get all nine; saves having to pick and choose! After lots of uhm-ing and ah-ing, we finally decided on the blue and pink/purple one, and justified us getting a pair, because they would be Irma's birthday presents.

I must say the service from Kaixuan Kite Company was excellent. Monica Lou was always quick to reply to emails and very helpful from start to finish. Once the order was in, she kept me up-to-date of what was happening, and sent me photos of our two Trilobites on their factory floor, ready to ship:

Irma's birthday having arrived, our pair of Trilobites could be released from the bags they've been waiting in for the last two months or so!

They flew very easily, and put on a great show together!

Happy birthday, Irma!

By the way, as you're probably aware, there are two people in Flying Fish. And they both have birthdays ....

Saturday, 19 November 2016

A new pair of T5 Cubans

If you've been following this blog for some time, you'll be aware that we have a full set of Airdynamics T5 kites, which includes a pair of super-ultralight Cubans. So that's the situation for Flying Fish, and we can fly with almost any wind. With L-katz, we're mostly flying North Shore Radicals (plus VIPs and Konas), and the other members of the team also have an ultralight T5 Taipan for when the wind drops below what the Konas can deal with. But if the wind drops further down, we're basically stranded as a team ....

With that in mind, we decided to get a new pair of Cubans for Flying Fish, and then move our earlier pair to the L-katz team bag, so we can keep flying as a team even if the wind drops to almost nothing.

We've had our new Cubans for some time now, but every weekend since we got them, the wind was too strong for their maiden flight. Until today, that is, when the wind struggled to get above 4-5mph, so here's our spanking new pair!

You may notice that our new pair has only grey cuben in the sails; this is simply because white cuben isn't available any longer.

Obviously, we flew them together, and they behave exactly as you would expect from these kites.

Look forward to flying them much more, and also together with their older siblings as part of an L-katz display!