Tuesday, 20 June 2017

UK National Championships 2017

For the 2017 National Championships, competition was run over three rounds, with the best two counting. As last year, the competition would include compulsory figures, a technical routine, and a ballet. Following last year's feedback, we worked hard over the autumn, winter and spring to add more technically-challenging elements to both our technical routine and ballet. Both now included several axels and half-axels, and we had completely re-choreographed the end sequence of our ballet.

Round 1 - Billing Aquadrome - May 20 & 21

With one round run over a weekend, precision and ballet were split up over the two days in each discipline. So, for instance, in dual-line pair, precision was flown on Saturday; ballet on Sunday. Wind conditions were really tough both days: lots of holes, bumps and turbulence. In addition, Saturday had its share of squally showers ...

In dual-line individual, there were four competitors. Besides the expected Tony Shiggins and Fran Burstall, Irma and I also chipped in. This was a one-off, mostly to increase activity in the arena, given that one round of competition was spread across two days.

No surprise that Tony ended up at the top of the leader board, and that Irma and I, with quite some distance, were third and fourth. Keep in mind that we had never practiced the individual figures, and did not have a technical routine or a ballet. Making it up as we went along was all we could do!

Two entries for dual-line pair: the usual suspects Phoenix and Flying Fish. No pictures of either pair this round, and no surprise that Phoenix beat Flying Fish by a wide margin .... The Phoenix routine did contain my personal highlight of the weekend: a perfectly executed refuel landing! As to our own flying, we really struggled with the wind conditions, made mistakes, and definitely flew well below what we felt we are capable of.

One entry in dual-line team: Flame

Guess who topped the table at the end of the round?

No entries for any of the multi-line disciplines, no entries for multi-kite, no entries for freestyle. Basically, there were only five individuals competing across three disciplines; a pretty meagre showing ...

As you might expect, each day was concluded with some mega-team flying.

The full results of round 1 are shown here, and a few more pictures here.

Rounds 2 & 3 - Dunstable Downs - June 17 & 18

The weather during rounds 2 and 3 was sunny and hot, very hot .... Wind on Saturday was mostly 3-8mph, whereas on Sunday we got 0-6mph. Note the '0' .... upon arrival at the Downs on Sunday morning, there was absolutely no wind, and I felt there was a genuine risk the competition would be called off for the day. Some air movement did happen soon after, and it was decided to give things a go. Throughout the day, the wind often got thermal, often dropped away completely, and there were frequent calls for 'wind check', resulting in 'wind is bad' and a wind recess called.

Apart from that, did I mention it was hot?

Dual-line individual saw three competitors enter: Tony Shiggins, Fran Burstall (one round only) and Josh Mitcheson.

Multi-line individual had a sole entry: Josh Mitcheson.

The usual two dual-line pairs: Phoenix and Flying Fish. Phoenix' 2nd round routine presented the highlight of the weekend for me: the lower leading edge of Tony's Fury broke, resulting in the remainder of the leading edge coming out of the ferrule. Despite having a badly-wounded kite at the end of his lines. Tony completed the routine!

As to Flying Fish, we had our ups and downs. The real down was crashing out of one of the compulsory figures (Boomerang, if you want to know): in the first half-axel, Irma's kite just got too low, and the ground jumped up to grab it ... The up was that we felt that our Saturday ballet was the best ballet we ever flew in public. Not perfect, of course, but it clicked, it felt right, and we hit almost all the axels and half-axels. Made up for the zeroed Boomerang! During our Sunday ballet, we probably covered the most ground ever due to the turning 'wind': walking backwards a lot, first into one corner and subsequently into another when the wind changed direction. We finished the routine, but only barely, and far from pretty.

Only one dual-line team competitor: Flame.

And only a single multi-kite flyer entering the competition: Josh Mitcheson.

What about multi-line pair/team? No multi-line team to be seen, but we did bully the Dunstable Downs Old Gents into doing a demo in the arena, outside the competition.

If they had agreed to enter the competition officially and be judged & scored, they'd have become UK National Champions ... Maybe next year?

The full results of round 2 are here, and of round 3 here, and some more pictures are here. We did fly mega-team on Saturday (no pics; sorry ...), but on Sunday, because of the heat, no one could be bothered (the lack of wind would have made it very difficult anyway).

And that brings me to the

UK National Champions 2017

Tony Shiggins
Josh Mitcheson
Josh Mitcheson

Of the two competitions with more than one entry, the dual-line individual was closest. In dual-line pair, Phoenix beat Flying Fish easily, despite the extra elements we added ... we'll need to up our game next year, but, with an extra year of scores under our belt, we at least strengthened our #2 UK ranking:

Monday, 5 June 2017

Basingstoke Kite Festival

And back at Basingstoke we were, for the 9th time in a row, and for the 5th time as part of the arena displays. Weather was mostly sunny on Saturday, more cloudy on Sunday, with rain the last hour and a half or so. As to the wind, it was the typically challenging Basingstoke wind, especially on Saturday.

We flew our current competition routine ('Chariots of Fire') and our make-it-up-as-we-go-along routine ('Adiemus'). We didn't fly well, far from it, but we tried as well as we could. Especially on Saturday, we really struggled adapting to the wind as it changed so quickly. Just prior to our first slot the wind was suitable for our standards, so we briefly warmed up with them. Wind then dropped and we switched to our ultralights. And then just as we were about to fly our first routine, the wind dropped even more, and we had to switch again, to our Cubans.

Twice we had to abandon our routine before the scheduled end, though .... The first time was on Saturday: the wind speed (or, rather, lack of it) and direction had created a 'Corner of Death' in the south-west corner of the arena. Once you got near it, you simply had to keep walking backwards to keep the kite flying, but as you walked backwards, the wind got worse ... in other words, once you're in it, you can't escape from it any more. And we weren't the only ones caught ... The second time we couldn't finish our routine was on Sunday when an Indian fighter kite swooped down over us as were flying, and circled around my lines. To avoid my lines getting cut, I immediately let my lines go slack and landed the kite. Fortunately, no damage to my lines, but I really can't understand why a kite 'flyer' (I use the ' ' deliberately ...) feels it is fun, or even acceptable, to sabotage a kite performance. To say I was unhappy is putting it mildly ...

Besides Flying Fish, the other dual-line pair was of course Team Spectrum, They flew as a pair ...

... and Carl flew two and three kites solo. Carl also got caught in the 'Corner of Death' on Saturday, by the way.

Two quad-line pairs at Basingstoke this year. First of all, the reigning UK quad-line pairs champions Amalgamation, Josh and Tom:

And secondly, a pair I'd not seen perform officially in a festival arena before (though I know Graham and Bill): the Dunstable Downs Old Gents:

As usual for my festival reports, my focus is on the pair-flying, but of course there were lots more kites in the sky. Pictures of most of these can be found here. And this lifter kite obviously belongs to us ...

Picture credit of us flying: Carl Wright

Saturday, 27 May 2017

One Aer-o-bat, two Aer-o-batses ...

Some of you reading this blog will know I'm very interested in early dual-line kites, and am trying to build up a bit of a collection of these kites. Quite recently, I spotted an Aer-o-bat on eBay, and managed to get my hands on it for very little dosh.

Taking it out for a spin showed it to be a kite which is pretty fast when the wind picks up, but handles reasonably well.

Not long after, at Minchinhampton Kite Day to be precise, a very generous fellow kite-flyer gave me an earlier version of the Aer-o-bat to add to my collection (thank you, you know who you are!). This kite has an aluminium frame as opposed to the fibreglass of my first Aer-o-bat. Although used, it only needed some minor TLC on a few tears in the sail.

In terms of flight characteristics, the aluminium Aer-o-bat handled very similar to its fibreglass descendent.

Of course, having two Aer-o-bats, we had to fly them together!

Wasn't easy flying them together (and definitely wasn't easy to take a half-decent picture while flying!). The kites are quite fast, and not as easy to control as, say, a Peter Powell, So I don't think we'll fly them as a pair too often, but they do make a very nice addition to my 'museum' of early dual-liners!

Monday, 15 May 2017

Streatham Common Kite Day

Our third appearance on Streatham Common. Mostly sunny day, which brought loads of people to the event. I've said it before, but what I really like about this Kite Day is the community atmosphere. More than on any other kite festival we fly at do you get people walking up to you, asking questions about your flying, your kites, or kites in general.

Wind was typically Streatham: varying between 2 and 15+mph, extremely variable, gritty, bumpy and full of holes. Basically, you could be certain that, whatever kite you picked, it would be the wrong one most of the time. We went for standards, and that turned out to be the right call. Or, I should say, the least wrong call ...

Like our previous Streatham attendances, we flew three sets of two routines. Well, we flew one more routine, but more on that later. During our first set, we really struggled with the wind conditions, and Irma flew into a hole, which meant she could do nothing more than see the kite slowly drift to the ground. Second and third set went better, mostly because we were anticipating the conditions better. We've certainly flown better, but given the circumstances, it wasn't too bad.

Also present were our trusted festival neighbours, Team Spectrum. They mostly flew their usual sets of three routines (Carl flying two kites - Bryan and Carl flying as a pair - Carl flying three kites).

And just in case you haven't noticed, here a close-up of Carl's new shoes in full action:

I said we did one more routine, didn't I? Here's the story behind that one ... Zack de Santos, who we first met at Streatham two years ago, is trying to build up a group of London-based kite flyers, with the ultimate aim of getting into team-flying. Earlier this year, he came to Stokes Bay for a day of team-flying with L-katz. Since then, he's been building a set of Sixth Sense kites, to be used by the London group. When I asked him a few weeks ago whether he was coming to Streatham, I suggested he bring three Sixth Senses, with the aim of letting him join Flying Fish in an impromptu display, and so give him his first experience of flying in the arena at a kite festival. Zack indeed brought his Sixth Senses, so the game was on!

Zack really got a baptism of wind in the very challenging conditions, but he held it together, and managed to get out of a few tricky situations without causing a crash. Well done, Zack! Talking of tricky situations, I had to face one myself midway through our 3-(wo)man scratch display .... all of a sudden, the kite I was flying seemed to implode. I half-felt, half-heard something snap and immediately the kite lost its shape and became really hard to fly. At the time, I didn't know what broke, but something definitely did! The moment it happened I remembered Chris Goff flying at Portsmouth with a broken leading edge. Don't get me wrong; as a mere mortal, I'm not trying to compare myself to Chris, but I did make a snap decision to try and keep flying, and see whether I could complete the display. And yes, I could, and I was pretty chuffed about it. A video of most of the "Flying Fish ft Zack" display (credit: Zack's mother), can be found here; see if you can spot when my kite breaks ... By the way, if you're wondering what actually happened, one of the lower spreaders half-snapped close to the t-piece ...

More pictures of the day are here, though I didn't really have time to take many pictures. Besides flying ourselves, and crewing for Team Spectrum, we also did three interviews. One for a 2nd year student doing a project for her BA in Film and Television:

And two for local media, one of which, from SWLondoner, is here (we're about 55 seconds in):

Photo credit of us flying: Carl Wright (Team Spectrum); of us being interviewed for a BA project: Neil Lover