Friday, 24 June 2022

Seal Bay Kite Festival

Following our flying at the jubilee celebration in Croughton earlier this month, we had our first kite festival last weekend! Some time ago, we were asked if we were interested in flying at the inaugural kite festival at the Seal Bay Resort in Selsey. Is the sky blue? We went there earlier this year to try out the field and for some promotional photos and videos, and it's great to see a new festival come on the calendar, given how many we lost over the last number of years. 

Seal Bay Resort provided static caravans to invited flyers, and with Flying Fish's caravan and Twisted Bridle's caravan being across the road from each other, ....

... sticking for the L-katz routines took place Friday evening, lubricated by some fermented grape juice. 

Saturday morning, it was a case of putting up tent and banners, and deciding which kites to use. The weather turned out to be cloudy all weekend, with some rain or drizzle and winds varying a lot, especially on Sunday. 

The festival was split over two sites within the resort: a large field with an arena mostly for pair and team flying, and the pebble beach for large inflatables. I'll say a bit more about Flying Fish's and L-katz' performances later in this post, but who else was performing in the arena?

First of all our sister pair, Twisted Bridle. Due to several reasons, they had hardly flown together for quite a while, so it was great to see them back in action again!

Then there was Fracture, flying as a pair this weekend. Excellent routines, as you would expect from the reigning UK champions. 

The DDoGs added quad-flying to the schedule, and flew their usual calm relaxed routines. 

Simon Franks added multi-kite flying to the weekend, with some of his routines featuring tails. 

And then Flying Fish. We flew Airdynamics T5 kites for our pair routines, which included our 2022 technical routine flown with music, and our latest competition ballet. On the Sunday morning, due to the fast-dropping wind, we had to switch from standards to ultralights, and then again to Cubans, before we could actually complete our ballet; third time lucky .... We really nailed our final ballet of the festival, though!

With our L-katz team (Flying Fish + Twisted Bridle), we used KiteTech Impulse kites, and flew our technical routine with music, and our old ballet (for several reasons, our new ballet is still far from being finished). Our last performance of the weekend was hampered by kite problems developing during the routine (mostly bridle-related), so we had to finish as a pair; the show must go on!

Saturday's evening programme on the beach added illuminated kites to the festival. Sadly, due to the strong wind, the searchlight-flying (in which we would have participated) was cancelled, but at least we were present on the giant screen at the entrance to the beach!

And of course, both the Saturday and Sunday schedule included mega-team flying! Flying Fish joined with Twisted Bridle, Fracture and Simon Franks (plus, briefly, the DDoGs on Saturday) for some fast and furious flying to AC/DC.

More pictures of the festival weekend, including some from the illuminated kite flying, are here.

Picture credits: Alan Pinnock (Flying Fish and L-katz), David Caulfield (mega-team)

Thursday, 9 June 2022

Croughton Jubilee celebration

The year 2020 was a write-off in terms of kite festivals and other events, and in 2021 we only flew at one kite festival (Portsmouth). At the moment, it looks like 2022 will see a return to some normality, and the first event we were invited to come to and put on a kite display was a Jubilee celebration last Saturday in the village of Croughton. The Airheads had asked Flying Fish and two members of Flame to join them in putting on a range of kite displays during the afternoon. 

Contrary to the forecast, the morning saw rain, and the wind was, let's just say challenging. Very blustery, unpredictable, and anywhere between 6 and 21mph. Fortunately, the rain cleared early afternoon; just in time! We started off with a 7-strong mega-team, which showed that picking the right kite would be a bit of a problem ... But we pulled it off without any mishaps.

Then the Airheads flew their pairs routine, flying Airdynamics T5 standards.

We were up next, and Keith shouted "wrong kite!" immediately after their routine, allowing us to quickly switch to V1s. Glad we did .... First time we flew our 'War of the Worlds' ballet at a public event, and the wind picked up such that, despite the switch to vented kites, we struggled keeping the kites under control. But we did!

Next up was a slot inviting kids into the arena, letting them have fun with 'doves on sticks' and several other single-line kites. 

The final kite slot involved first Barry and Fran showing how to fly a dual-line sport kite, alone and in pairs, which was followed by another mega-team, this time with tails. Again, the blustery wind didn't make it easy, and we had one kite-tail collision, but we quickly recovered from that. 

Judging from talking to several members of the public, we put on a very enjoyable show over the afternoon. Several people told us that they'd never seen anything like that before, and one said he was inspired to get himself a proper dual-line kite. 

Keith and Vee, thanks for inviting us to join you, and for your very generous hospitality!

Mega-team picture (screenshot from a video) credit: Valerie Hancorn

Tuesday, 19 April 2022

Half a dozen Cheetahs

Once upon a time, we had a Rare Air Pro Cheetah Spectrum in 'rainbow' colours. Very nice kite to fly, very elegant, and very good for team-flying. Some time after, we managed to get our hands on another Spectrum, this time in the 'ice' colour scheme. Needless to say, they fly well together ...

The Spectrum wasn't the only Cheetah model. Depending on the number of sail panels, there was also a Stealth and a Shield. The Spectrum had the most sail panels, the Stealth the least. It didn't last too long before we also had a Cheetah Stealth pair .... 

Pair of Spectrums, pair of Stealths, one pair still missing, right? I wasn't actively looking for a pair of Shields, but when a dear friend of ours passed away, his entire kite collection was given to us, to fly and do with as we saw fit, and that set of kites did include a pair of Shield Cheetahs ...

Same elegance in flying as the other Cheetah models, and we're happy to have added them to our quiver. We'll always be reminded of our friend when flying them ...

Wednesday, 16 February 2022

Double Goblin!

I wasn't looking for more kites to buy, I honestly wasn't .... But when I saw a listing of kites for sale on the Skybums web-site, there was this pair of ITW Goblins just screaming at me: "Fly us, fly us!!!".So what can you do? 

I'd never heard of these kites, but they looked like miniature Speedwings to me. Speedwings because of the absence of a top spreader and their bridling, and miniature because of their 1.23m wing span. And that suggested to me they'd be a hoot to fly when the wind picks up. We do already have paired kites for just having a blast in strong winds: a pair of Martinelli kites and a pair of Psychos. These Goblins would be the smallest of the three pairs, and so possibly even more 'fast and furious'?

I tried to get information from Into the Wind, but unfortunately, they never responded to my email ... Several people in the Stunt Kite Classics group on Facebook could tell me that the kites were designed by Bob Childs, and date back to the 1990s (thanks; you know who you are!).

So let's fly them! We took them out on a rather windy day (up to 20mph winds) and decided to fly them on 25m lines. This is way shorter than the 45m lines we normally fly pair/team with, but, given their small size, the kites would visually just disappear on such long lines, and shorter lines would make them fly faster (which is the whole point of getting them!)

Flying them individually first showed that the kites really are fast! We really had to get used to the input required to make them turn. They very easily oversteer, so it's a matter if tiny inputs; you merely have to 'think' them change direction.

So now fly them as a pair! Once we got used to the tiny inputs required, they really didn't fly together too badly! Boxes often show a bit of wobble, though; they're not exactly precision kites ..... But, fast and furious as they are, they're a real hoot to fly together!

The prismatec centre panel sparkles when the sun hits it at the right angle, and it also has another fun effect: in a refuel you can see the back kite through the front kite .... 

Really fun addition to our quiver of pair kites!

Thursday, 12 August 2021

Portsmouth Kite Festival

Because of covid, all kite festivals we were invited to in 2020 were cancelled, and the same applied to several in 2021 .... apart from Portsmouth! And that meant that, for the first time in almost two years, we were flying at a kite festival again! 

Being back at a festival after a two-year gap, and seeing all our kite friends again, felt strange. Felt very 'normal' as well, as if it was just two weeks ago that we attended the last festival ...

So how did it go? Well, the weather was far from ideal: strong winds on both days (well over 25mph on Sunday), and torrential showers on Saturday. But we're kite flyers, so we fly!

Focusing on pair/team-flying, as always in my blog posts, who else was there, besides us?

First of all, Team Spectrum. In Brian's absence, Carl was doing the full honours himself this time, flying routines with two and three kites. Weapons of choice, given the strong winds, were his Cheeteyes.

And then, of course, the Decorators! Don't think I've ever been to Portsmouth without them flying in the arena. Using their most vented Revs. they still struggled a bit at times, but nevertheless provided a solid performance.

Flying at Portsmouth for the first time, Fracture, flying CR Fury kites, as a threesome. Two very nice routines to music, which, because of the strong wind, caused them to work hard on getting the stalls and axels just right.

Flying Fish flew routines to 'Rise of the Phoenix' and, for the first time at a festival, to a Carmina Burana mix. The latter routine was basically our technical routine, adapted to fit the Carmina mix.

After flying our pair routines, we were immediately joined by Pea and Lisa, and so flew two more routines as L-katz: our old Gloria Estefan ballet, and a 'make up as we go along' routine to the Targaryen Theme. 

We flew our first slot on Saturday with KiteTech Impulse (mid-vent) kites, but then switched to Airdynamics T5 V2 kites for the remainder of the weekend (and added nappy brakes on Sunday). Flying to music was far from easy, though, and we weren't the only one struggling. Because of the strong winds, it was often difficult to hear the music from the PA system, and that made us miss vital cues in the music more than once. You really need those cues, especially if you want to land right at the end of the music!

Both days were concluded with mega-teams. The Decorators basically formed their own mega-team, and L-katz and Fracture joined for a dual-line mega-team.

A video of the Sunday mega-team is here. We started out with Fracture leading the mega-team, but it became clear that their Fury kites were slower than our T5 V2 kites, so we switched around during the flying (you can see the switch at 1:40 in the video). Hard work in the prevailing wind, but it was fun!

It looks as if Portsmouth will be our only kite festival appearance this year, but at least we're back!

Picture credit of Flying Fish, L-katz and mega-team: Carl Wright

Sunday, 25 July 2021

Double LiteFlite Radial

One of the LiteFlite models, marketed by The Kite Store in the past, was called 'Radial'. It was a unique dual-line kite, due to the fact that it had a 'sliding bridle'. Anyone who has ever flown a Radial, will probably agree with me when I say "why?????". 

We did get a Radial quite a few years ago, for very little. Simply because I was curious. Flew it a few times, but really couldn't get used to it .... Fast forward, when I was basically given a second Radial; you see where this is going, right?

Yes, we flew the two Radials together, if you define 'flying together' as 'being in the air at the same time and sort of near each other'.

Don't expect a Radial routine from us at a festival ...

Sunday, 16 May 2021

Kata - A. Pallas Kites

We regularly get asked by people interested in getting into flying sport kites, at festivals and via email, what would be a good kite to start with. Obviously, a high-end, custom-made, £200+ kite is not necessarily something you'd recommend to someone who has never flown a sport kite and isn't sure yet that that is really for them. 

The Skydog Dream On is a kite I have often recommended in the past, due to its price, use of 'simple' carbon spars (rather than Skyshark or similar), and wide wind range. Unfortunately, coming from the US, the kite has gradually increased in price in the UK and prices will only go one way post-Brexit. Also, the sole UK source is often out of stock, being dependent on imports. 

When I was asked again very recently by someone who got very interested in getting into sport kite flying, I looked for options in the UK. Key aspects for me were: 1) wing span of more than 2m, as larger kites are easier to fly for someone new to the sport; 2) price below £100, to keep it affordable for someone who is not sure yet whether they like it; 3) use of simple spars, so breaking one won't break the bank; 4) wide wind range, so the person new to the sport can fly it as often as possible without having to be overly concerned that the wind isn't 'right'.

Using the above criteria, I homed in on the Kata, designed and made by Adam Pallas. Wing span of 2.10m and for a price just under £100, you even get to pick your own colours! Based on Adam's reputation as a kite builder (we bought a pair of Hurricanes from him last year), and based on the experiences from other flyers who have Katas, I felt confident to recommend the Kata to 'you know who you are'.

I must admit, it did feel a bit strange recommending a kite I'd not flown myself .... You surely see where this is going! Yes, we ordered a pair of Katas for ourselves, customised using our usual green/orange colours and they arrived earlier this week.

Note the matching kite sleeves .... example of Adam's attention to detail ...

Several reasons for getting a pair of Katas, even though we don't actually really need them, having full competition sets of Airdynamics T5s and Impulses we regularly fly with. First of all, we really want to get to know this kite, so we can recommend it properly, based on actual personal experience. Secondly, several people new to sport kite (pair-)flying have recently bought Katas, so having a pair of our own means we can give these people a taste of team-flying (and maybe even join in a Kata mega-team at some point). And, last but not least, the UK has very few designers and builders of sport kites, so any excuse to promote a member of this increasingly rare species

Enough talk, let's get the kites out and fly!

When we arrived on our regular flying field in the New Forest, there was no wind, zilch, nada. Forecast was that the wind would gradually pick up in the early afternoon, and that gave us the opportunity to get a feel for the minimum wind speed they need to fly. When the wind had reached 5-6mph, the Katas were flying, though with some walking back and forth.

As the wind increased a wee bit more, going up to 11mph, we could get a good feel for how they fly, individually first. And that was pretty much how I expected them to fly. They feel stiff and solid on the lines, with very little oversteer. Axels and half-axels come very easily.

Flying them as a pair is next of course!

Tracking is good, and they come out of sharp corners best following a pull-turn as opposed to a push-turn. With more wind, this may be different, though. Refueling is easy, and we went through a range of figures, which they flew without any problems. Of course, we want to test them out more, in stronger winds (they can certainly take quite a bit more than what they got today), see how they perform and what their full wind range is.

Choice of colours was spot on: when the sun came out, the green and orange panels really lit up, and the dark grey started to shimmer a bit.

As you probably gathered, we're very happy with our pair of Katas. The build quality is very good, as I've come to expect from Adam. In terms of flight characteristics, they have the perfect balance for someone getting into sport kite flying between tracking and tricking. Excellent value for money at just under £100, and I was absolutely right recommending this kite; I will continue to do so at every opportunity. 

And finally, just to showcase Adam's level of customer service and attention to detail, this. Together with the kites, he sent us an embroidered patch showing our pair of Katas, which has now been sewn onto the kite bag they sleep in.