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!

Sunday, 13 November 2016

Double Flexi-stack!

More than 3 years ago, I blogged about a Flexifoil Stacker 6 2-stack we got, and said we'd be looking for a second 2-stack, to fly them as a pair. Well, time flies when you're having fun! We've actually had a second pair of Flexifoil Stacker 6 kites for quite a while, but simply didn't get around to flying it, and testing out whether two 2-stacks would work for pair-flying.

So here finally is our second Flexi-stack, in the Midnight colour scheme!

And as we now have two 2-stacks, next step was testing out their suitability for a pair routine.

Turned out it worked fine! Of course, they're not as snappy as a dual-line delta kite, but we could easily fly synchronised circles, loops, ladders, jumps, wraps, and boxes with round corners. And no, they don't axel ...

What music to fly them to? One thought that crossed my mind is Jean-Michel Jarre's Oxygene IV.

It has the right speed and rhythm, and the 15 seconds of 'air' before the actual music starts would give us opportunity to get the kites launched and in the air before the 'routine proper' begins.

Another bow to our string, possibly coming to a festival near you in 2017!

Sunday, 6 November 2016

Another Double Dunford

Dunford Flying Machines came in three sizes: with a 41', 51' and 61' wing span. Flying Fish already has a pair of 'small' (41') Flying Machines:

And we also have a single 'large' (61') Flying Machine:

It's pretty clear what's missing from our quiver: a 'medium' (51') Flying Machine! Cue a fellow kite flyer, who handed me a bag with sails and dowels at Basingstoke Kite Festival: free if I wanted them. Upon opening the bag, I found myself in possession of two Dunford FM sails, and more than enough dowels and other essentials to frame them several times over. Thank you, you know who you are!

The first outing of our pair of 'medium' Flying Machines was in rather extreme conditions: the wind was gusting over 40mph. Very soon after launch (and I'm talking seconds in one case), the two kites suffered from a broken cross spar and spine, respectively ....

The dowels were easily replaced (the bag contained plenty of spares, remember?), and finally both 'medium' Flying Machines were ready to fly together. The wind was much more more benign now, up to 18mph.

Compared to the 'small' ones, the 'medium' Flying Machines are a tad slower, and don't turn as fast. But they really feel as you would expect from a Dunford Flying Machine.

To complete the set, we just need one more 'large' Flying Machine ... But that will have to be in a different colour from what we already have. So no blue, orange, yellow, red or green. Did Flying Machines come in pink, purple, brown, white or black???

Saturday, 15 October 2016


Being Flying Fish, we have a bit of a soft spot for fish-shaped kites, so when I stumbled across a Fisch-Fighter, made by Rhombus, I couldn't resist it and its cheerful smile ...

It's a small kite, 1.07m wing span. Ripstop sail, thin fibreglass spine and cross-spreader. Plus a funny little ball on its nose! More on that nose later, but how did it fly? First of all, it can be flown as a fighter, on a single line, or on two lines. I opted to flying it as a dual-liner.

To be honest, given how thin the spars were, I expected the kite to be very twitchy and skittish. But lo and behold, my expectations were well exceeded! Of course, it doesn't compare to a full-size sports delta in any way, shape or form, but as long as it had wind pressure on the sail, it was certainly steerable and far less twitchy than I thought it would be.

Back to the little ball on its nose. It could of course simply be there to cushion the effects of a lawn-dart. But I've never seen something like that on any kite, and I reckon there might just be a bit more to it .... When looking for more information on this Fisch-Fighter, I stumbled across a mention of this kite also being sold as part of a set, which includes a ring through which the ball on the nose must be flown ... Thoroughly puzzled, I emailed Rhombus, but never got a reply. I'll keep looking for details on this larger set, and how the nose should go through the ring. If you beat me to it. let me know, ok?

Sunday, 4 September 2016

Exmouth Kite Festival

With Exmouth kite festival now behind us, we've yet again reached the end of a festival season. It seems only weeks ago that we had the opening of our festival season at Weymouth. Since then we've flown at Streatham, Basingstoke, Brighton (Irma only), Leominster & Hereford, Dunstable and Portsmouth. Plus competed at the Nationals, of course.

Exmouth is often said to have a bit of a microclimate of its own, and conditions were definitely challenging at times. Saturday was cloudy, with the wind variable, both in terms of speed (0-11mph) and direction. Sunday again saw varying winds (0-16mph), some sun, but also intermittent showers throughout the afternoon. Especially the variable wind speed meant it was very difficult to plan ahead which kites/routine to fly ....

Focusing on team-flying, as I normally do in this blog, we first come to the Decorators, who were present with a 6-(wo)man team. At the start of their first slot, the wind died down completely, which led several of them to fly multiple 360s, just to have something happening in the arena to entertain the public. When there was wind, they flew their usual professional routines.

The Airheads flew several 3-(wo)man routines, with and without tails. They also struggled with the wind dying down to nothing at times, especially when they were flying with tails.

And the third and final team flying at Exmouth was Flying Fish. Interestingly, all three teams had one woman in the ranks .... For two of our four slots, we just hit those 5-10 minutes when the wind died down to virtually nothing, but we did what we could, flying our 'Chariots of Fire' and 'Adiemus' routines. They weren't the best performances we ever gave, but given the conditions, they weren't too bad.

Just before our Sunday morning slot, the wind picked up quite a bit, enough to risk flying our Peter Powells to new music. We almost got away with it, but had to abandon maybe half a minute or so before the end, when the wind dropped down so much that the kites fell out of the sky. Still, a routine debut! More information on this is found in our sister blog.

With Airheads and us invited, a combined team slot was on the programme. Rather than the 'fish sandwich' formation we used several times this year, where Flying Fish is sandwiched between two Airheads on either side, we flew in a slightly different formation, with the three Airheads and the two Flying Fish alternating; this new formation was quickly dubbed 'fishfinger sandwich' ...

Of course, lots of other flyers performed in the arena over the weekend (Paul Thody, David Ellison, Gill Bloom, Nick James, Trevor Reeves, Cao Quan, Martin Lester, Alfie Jobbins, Tim Rohn, to name just a few). And one of them might just lead to a very special pair of kites for Flying Fish .... watch this space over the next few months. What I felt was also a very good idea was to have slots for the public to come into the arena, and fly 'professional' kites (Nick James' Angels), helped by the invited flyers. After all, if we as flyers don't inspire the next generation to take up the hobby/sport, kite flying will be extinct within a generation. Lots more pictures of these flyers and their kites, plus a few of rain recess entertainment in the form of Vee catching bubbles, are here.

Pictures of us and 'fish finger sandwich' flying, credit Marian Linford, Trevor Reeves, Valerie Hancorn 

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!