Saturday, 20 August 2016

Portsmouth Kite Festival

Flying at Portsmouth Kite Festival this year was a bit strange. Since we took up kite-flying, Portsmouth has always been the final festival of the year, so it always gave a bit of a bittersweet feeling: great festival to enjoy, but also the last one. This year that double feeling wasn't there, as we still have Exmouth in two weeks time to look forward to.

The weather was very kind to us: sun and clouds on Saturday, and more sunny on Sunday. Wind was very good on Saturday, coming over the water, and mostly varying between 8 and 13mph. Sunday started off with very light winds, which changed direction a lot, but around lunch time, the wind settled to come off the water again, though a bit less than the day before. So apart from a few hours first thing Sunday, when everyone was struggling, the wind was pretty good!

As always when I report on festivals, I focus on the pair- and team flying, and I'll start off with Team Spectrum, our friendly and loyal neighbours at every festival we both attend. They flew their usual threesome of routines (1-2, 2-2, 1-3), and the Saturday winds allowed them to fly their pairs routine with three tails on each kite. Poor Jan and Georgina had a lot of tail rolling-up to do!










Back at the festival scene after an absence of a few years, were Close Encounters. They flew one routine, their well-known 'Con Te Partiro' routine, on both Saturday and Sunday. The main reason why there were present will become clear later in this post.










Moving to quad-line teams, first of all the Decorators were there with a 7-(wo)man team, flying their always crowd-pleasing routines.










And making their debut at Portsmouth was Now'Air from France, the reigning national and European champions, both as a pair ...










... and as a 4-(wo)man team.










Their routines were exquisite, both in terms of choreography and execution; I thoroughly enjoyed them!

So on to Flying Fish, and we decided to do something special for the weekend. Every year, Portsmouth has a specific theme, and this year, that theme was 'Retro'. When this was announced, we decided to fly our routines with 'old school' kites for as much as the wind would allow us. For our first routine on Saturday, the wind was perfect for our Cerfs-Volants Azur Tandem kites, so we flew our 'Chariots of Fire' routine with them, and repeated that for our afternoon slot.



For our second routine we felt that this was the perfect time and place for the UK debut of our Superman & Lois Lane Spin-Off kites. Flown, as by Ron Reich in the late 1980s, to the Love Theme from the Superman movie. As far as I am aware, this was the first time in 28 years that these kites have been flown at a public event! Wind was perfect for flying them in our morning and afternoon slots.



On Sunday, as I mentioned above, the wind was very light initially, much too light for any old school kite in our quiver. We did try to fly our pair of Fire Darts when we arrived, but that didn't work, so we had to use our modern Airdynamics T5 Cubans in the morning routines ('Chariots of Fire' and 'Adiemus'). By the time of our afternoon slot, the wind had picked up enough for us to fly both these routines with our Fire Darts.

Of course, lots more kite flyers attended the festival, and lots more kites were flown during the weekend. Pictures of some of them are here. However, I do want to highlight one particular kites, or rather one group of kites: Kaixuan Kite Trilobites. Allan Pothecary, from Close Encounters, wanted to attempt to break the world record of a Trilobite Mass Fly. The world record was established in the US, and stood at 12; surely that could be beaten? With help from especially a Dutch kite display team (EQ Kite Team), and with willing kite flyers chipping in to fly them, we smashed the world record of 12, and set it at either 20 or 21 (there were 20 Trilobites flying together in the main arena, plus one in the arena next door, so it's not clear yet whether that one counts as part of the Mass Fly). But either way, we're now joint world record holders!


We flew the two blue/purple Trilobites in the picture above, and enjoyed flying them so much, that I'm not ruling out Flying Fish adding a pair of Trilobites to their quiver (has to be more than one; a lone Trilobite will simply pine away due to lack of company). Just don't tell Irma ...

Back to our pair flying. It may be due to us flying almost all our routines with old school kites, it may be due specifically to us debuting Superman and Lois Lane, it may be due to us flying the unique 'Aloha stack' of Fire Darts (owned by TC, who gave it to us to fly during the 'retro kites' slots), or it may be due to all of the above, but we were presented with the 'Best Theme Kite' award by Jon and Gill at the end of the two days. This award goes to the kite(s) that best represents the theme of the festival.



Our 'old school' flying was clearly appreciated, providing a great end to what was probably our best ever Portsmouth Kite Festival!


Picture credits of us flying: Roger Backhouse and Carl Wright.

Tuesday, 9 August 2016

The Berrington Hoard

One aspect of the Leominster & Hereford kite festival, which I didn't mention in my blog post on the festival was that two people attending had, between them, something like two dozen mostly old school dual-line kites for sale. I feel I really restrained myself; I ended up with half a dozen of them ...

So here's the 'Berrington Hoard'!










Let me introduce the individual kites to you, in the order in which we flew them.

Skynasaur Classic 96










As far as I'm aware, the largest Skynasaur dual-line delta. Typical old school kite, quite heavy, and it struggled in the 4-8mph wind we flew it in. Didn't like the wind dropping away, and certainly didn't like the edge of the wind window. In stronger wind, this kite will no doubt develop quite some pull.


Action Kites Super Sky Dart










Another typical old school delta. Like the Skynasaur Classic 96, it doesn't have stand-offs, so needs to have constant pressure in the sail and keep moving. Flew fine in the lightish wind, and will definitely develop serious pull when the wind picks up.


Longbottom La Hembra










A unique kite in that it is one built by Karl Longbottom, but not as a production kite. Karl made it from the plans in Stunt Kites II. La Hembra is an ultralight, which felt solid and nimble on the lines at the same time. Turns on a dime, with the merest touch of oversteer. And I really liked the bright yellow sail!


Rare Air Flash Angel










It's a Rare Air kite; need I say more? Rock solid, excellent tracking. And unusual sail design on top of that.


Rare Air Pro Cheetah Stealth










Another Rare Air; this one built in the UK before the company relocated to South Africa. A joy to fly, and the graceful shape with backswept wings make it look stunning in the sky.


Rare Air Pro Cheetah Spectrum










The third Rare Air in the hoard; need I say I snapped up all Rare Air kites available? Like its Stealth brother (sister?), it's a joy to have on the lines.

Now if you've read this post up to this point, you may start to wonder why I write about these kites in the Flying Fish blog, which is meant to be focussed on pair- and team-flying. Wonder no more ... In one of our earliest blog posts, I introduced the paired kites we had at that point. And among those was a pair of Rare Air Pro Cheetahs, one Spectrum and one Stealth, which we happily flew together as a pair ... But with these last two additions to our quiver, we now have a proper Stealth pair:


Only a minor bridle tweak was required to get the two Stealth Cheetahs matched in flight.


And we have a proper Spectrum pair:


They flew very well together, right out of the box!



Thursday, 4 August 2016

Dunstable Kite Festival

Last year's kite festival at the Dunstable Downs saw bad weather cancel half of it, so we were very glad that the forecasts for the weekend were pretty good: some sun, some clouds, light-ish winds, and no rain!

Focusing, as always, on the team-flying in this post, we were joined by the usual suspects:

the Airheads,










Team Spectrum,










and The Flying Squad,










who all put in their usual solid performances.

Coming to Flying Fish, we were very pleased with our flying at Dunstable. Why? Two reasons. First of all, especially in our Saturday afternoon slot, we really nailed our competition routine. Probably the best public performance of the 'Chariots of Fire' ballet we ever did. And it wasn't just us feeling pleased. Several knowledgeable people afterwards complimented us on it. The second reason is that we decided to debut our VampDevil routine. We'd been talking about flying this at festivals, but for different reasons, it didn't materialise. Until now, that is!



Given that we'd never actually flown this routine to music, we really didn't do too badly. Yes, it needs more work, more variation, and a bit more thought as to when and how to use the 'wing-flapping' in beat with the music (we heard you, Vee!), but for a first time we could have done a lot worse. And several people said they really liked it, so who are we to disagree with them?

No video of our 'Chariots' routine was made, as far as I know, but there is a 30-second video of part of our VampDevil routine here.

With Airheads and us present, we of course had to come together again as 'Fish sandwich' to open and close each day with a mega-team.


On one occasion, the sandwich was flame-grilled ...

Loads more pictures of the festival weekend are here, but I do want to highlight one particular kite. Or rather collection of kites: Cao Quan's Vietnamese Flute kites. We participated in the Vietnamese kite challenge, and flew several of these unique kites (more pics of them in the linked album).



















Picture credits of us flying the VampDevils: Marie Coombs and Carl Wright; of Fish sandwich: Carl Wright.

Thursday, 21 July 2016

Leominster & Hereford Kite Festival

In 2012, after our festival debut, Flying Fish was asked to come fly at Leominster & Hereford Kite Festival. Unfortunately, the festival was subsequently cancelled because of the grounds being flooded. Fastforward four years, and we finally made it to Berrington Hall! Only for a quick splash-and-dash on Saturday, though, as we had other, non-kite-related commitments on Sunday.

Leominster & Hereford Kite Festival is different from other festivals we fly at, for three reasons: 1) no programme; 2) no arena; and 3) no PA. Basically, it's a case of join in and fly, what you want, when you want, and where you want.

The Airheads were there as well and basically violated 2) by pacing out an arena for dual-line flyers, just to make sure we could actually do some team-flying without interfering with the single-line flyers. As we got flying, all using Airdyamics T5 kites (ultralight or standard, depending on the wind), it just so happened that Irma and I ended up flying in-between Keith and Vee on one side, and Peter and Mick on the other side. The name 'Fish sandwich' didn't take long to emerge!


And when Dave Salmon from Sky Symphony joined in, it quickly became 'Fish sandwich with extra salmon'.


Basically, we flew as a team, with between four and seven members, throughout the day. And you have to admit that the spacing in the wrap isn't too bad, huh?



After a break for lunch, we were joined by Martin Crowther, who had been flying his Peter Powell 5-stack in the arena prior. He had never flown as part of a team, and was keen to have the experience. Vee took him along for a bit of basic pair-flying, after which Irma and I joined in to really give him a feel for what flying in the middle of a team was.


Given that Martin had never flown in a pair or team before, he really impressed with how well he coped. Kept things going even if he made a mistake, didn't panic, didn't take out any other kites. Martin, if you read this, you did fantastically well for a first time!


Our first experience at Leominster & Hereford Kite Festival was definitely a positive one, and we'll be back in future years, hopefully for the whole weekend. We got to fly a lot more than on a typical kite festival, and it was also especially good for me. Why? Because when I fly in Flying Fish or with our L-katz team, I always lead and call. Now, I flew the entire day in the middle of a team (usually in #4 position), which is not something I'm used to. So very valuable team-flying experience!

Besides as part of 'Fish sandwich with or without extra salmon', we also flew a few recently acquired Peter Powell kites: a Mk I with aluminium frame, and 'The Monster'; pictures of these and other kites and people (plus very interested cows) are here.


Picture credits: fish sandwich (with and without salmon) - Valerie Hancorn; spacing in the wrap - Alan Pinnock; flying with Martin Crowther - Anne Crowther.