Monday, 21 December 2020

Double Sky Cat!

About four years ago, I got my hands on a Sky Cat. Or, to give it its full name, a "Sky Cat RCWI Parawing Stunter Kite". 

Dating from the 1980s, it's easy to dismiss it as just another Peter Powell clone, but it's definitely not a complete copy. First of all, it doesn't have a cross spar, just a spine and leading edges. Secondly, the frame is much more flexible than that of a Peter Powell. You may think that increased flexibility will make it a rather flimsy kite to fly, the opposite is actually true. It flies very smoothly, the flexible frame absorbing variations in wind speed, needs minimal input, and doesn't oversteer nearly as much as many other dual-line diamond kites of that period.

The Sky Cat does come with a narrow ribbon to tie to the spine and use as tail, but it certainly doesn't need it for stabilising purposes. Without tail, it flies as smoothly as with it.

Fast forward by almost four years, and another Sky Cat popped up in eBay, with a princely starting bid of £8; I was the only bidder .... 

This one didn't come with its tail, but as the kite really doesn't need one, I didn't bother trying to find a matching ribbon.

Second Sky Cat showed the same smooth flight characteristics as its sibling.

Next step is pretty obvious, isn't it? Fly them together! And it will probably not have escaped you that the sails of the two kites are each other's mirror images: blue with a yellow 'butt', and yellow with a blue 'butt'.

They flew very well together, speeds completely equal (which is good, as the bridle isn't easily adjustable), and generally matched in terms of flight characteristics.

Sky Cats are obviously not kites we'll ever use in competition, but to have a bit of fun with after a practice session, they're a really addition to our quiver of paired vintage kites!

Saturday, 9 May 2020


The Hurricane is a vented kite designed and built by Adam Pallas. I first flew an early version at the northern round of the Nationals in 2016, following a demo by the Pallas Family Flyers there.

The kite is designed for strong and variable wind, and comes with a set of three patches, allowing the flyer to adapt it to the prevailing wind. I liked the kite I flew back then, although I felt the standard 6mm carbon frame was a bit too flexible. Adam said he was looking into using Skyshark spars.

Fast forward by three years and some, and we were looking for a second pair of vented kites at the extreme high end of the wind range, to be added to the Airdynamics Taipan V2 kites we already fly. I remembered the Hurricane and shot off a quick email to Adam. Yes, Hurricanes with Skyshark spars were indeed available!

Which of course brought us to the dreaded or cherished (depending on how you look at it) colouriser .... after playing around a bit, I decided I wanted a pair of kites that did not in any way conform to the colour schemes we normally use for Flying Fish. So no green/orange, no blue/red. Ultimately we decided on purple/grey, with the two kites only distinguished from each other by the shade of grey (light grey for Lex, dark grey for Irma).

So here they are!

As I mentioned above, Hurricanes come with three sets of patches, giving six possible permutations:

It will take some time to get a feel for what permutation is best for which wind conditions ...

Putting that aside for now, how do they fly generally?

Different from what we're used to with our V2s. Slower, and a bit stronger pulling. We still need to play with bridle settings a bit more to set them up perfectly for us. They definitely track well, which is of course a key requirement. Axels and half-axels will take time getting used to; the input required is definitely different from what we're used to with our Taipans and Impulses. But that's just a matter of spending more time in the field with them.

We also flew our pair of Hurricanes together with a pair of V2 when flying with L-katz.

That showed, first of all, that Hurricanes and V2s are not a good match. As I already mentioned, the Hurricanes feel slower, and that's exactly what happened in a straight comparison. It was very difficult to remain in proper formations when flying Hurricane - V2 - Hurricane - V2. Of course, flying such different kites together in the team was never an aim, but it was an interesting comparison. What that session also showed, and what I was already expecting, is that the Hurricanes without any patches seemed to go a wee bit higher than the V2s. When the wind picked up and Pea and Lisa were finding flying their V2s becoming uncomfortable, Irma and I had no problem with the Hurricanes, and when we then handed the lines of our Hurricanes over to Pea and Lisa to have a go, they confirmed the Hurricanes felt better under the prevailing conditions.

In summary, we're very happy with this addition to our pair-flying quiver, and look forward getting more time with them. And I also feel our choice of purple and grey works really well. Kites look great in the sky, and also look great together!

Friday, 13 March 2020

'Psychotic' fun

Anyone who has flown a Flexifoil Psycho will agree that the name of the kite is well-chosen. When the wind picks up, this kite becomes a fast and furious one, and flying (half-)axels with this kite in a strong wind is, well, let's say 'exhilarating'.

Of course we have a Psycho in our quiver. You can't call yourself a serious sport kite flyer if you haven't at least flown one at least once.

Now it just so happens that a kite-flying friend of us has several Psychos. That opened the opportunity of adding a second Psycho to our quiver, and do some pair-flying with them. Crazy idea? Sure, but if you've been following Flying Fish over the years, you know that we're keen to pair-fly kites that aren't your normal team kites ...

Said friend was willing to let one of his Psychos go when I explained what we wanted, and here's his Psycho joining ours at our regular flying field in the New Forest.

By design, Psychos oversteer massively; they are are everything a team kite shouldn't be. But that does make it a lot of fun to try and do something with them that sort of resembles synchronised sport kite flying.

We tried simple things such as boxes (very wobbly boxes!) and ladders, and then moved on to parallel half-axels and contra-axels. Surprisingly, they refuel quite easily! But when it comes to flying STACK figures with them .... well, let's just say any judges present wouldn't really have needed their pencils ...

Nevertheless, flying them together really is a hoot, especially when the wind picks up. Psychotic kites indeed!

Saturday, 18 January 2020

A kite game!

Some years ago, I got a small Rhombus 'Fisch Fighter' kite, which flew surprisingly well given its very simple structure and material.

Shortly after I got this particular kite, I became aware that the kite was also sold as part of a 'kite game package'. Took me a few years to get my hands on that package (no thanks to Rhombus, who never bothered to reply to my emails), but I did succeed in the end!

The full package consists of two 'fighters', a lifter kite, and a hoop with a fish 'wind vane' attached to it. That hoop is the key of the game: aim is to fly the fighters such that their noses go through the hoop.

The hoop is meant to be on the line flying the lifter. We tried both the lifter that was included in the pack (a small yellow kite) and a larger Go Fly a Kite Shark. The small yellow kite struggled to lift line and hoop, whereas the larger Shark had no problem with this. However, the Shark bucked quite a bit in the blustery wind, which didn't help keeping the loop in one place ...

One of the two fighters included in the pack is almost identical to the 'Fisch-Fighter' we already had; the only difference is in the little nose ball, which is black rather than blue. The other fighter is a bit more shark-like, but with an identical frame.

We first flew the two (near-)identical Fisch-Fighters together ...

... followed by the two that were included in the package.

And then to the aim of the game: trying to fly the kites such that their noses entered the hoop. This was far from easy, as it's quite difficult to judge distances that way (we flew the kites on 25m lines), so it involved quite a lot of walking forwards and backwards. What also didn't help was that, due to the prevailing wind, the position of the hoop constantly changed. But, with some practice, we did get pretty close and succeeded in pushing the nose through the hoop once or twice.

I don't expect STACK will make this part of the annual National Sport Kite Competition cycle, but it's fun thing to try and do something different!

Thursday, 2 January 2020

Double Bullet!

In the early days of our kite-flying, when we were exploring what types of kites and what kinds of kite-flying we liked, we got ourselves a Flexfoil Bullet 2.5. Flew it a few times, and it sure gave us a good upper body workout.

As we gravitated more and more towards dual-line kites and pair/team-flying, the Bullet didn't come out to play ... That is, until I saw another one listed on eBay recently, as-new, and for a very reasonable price. Having two Bullets would allow us to do something different when pair-flying ...

So after the second, green, Bullet was put through its paces on its own, it was time to try out flying a pair of them.

Flying a Bullet and taking pictures at the same time proved almost impossible, but, fortunately, a fellow kite-flyer just happened to be close to where we were flying, and took a few pictures (thanks, Andy!).

Turned out that the two Bullets didn't fly exactly the same (the purple one is a tad faster). I did manage to get a bit of video footage, using a head-mounted phone camera; here it is, warts and all.

With a bit more practice, we can surely see ourselves flying a pair of Bullets at a festival.

Picture credit of us flying the Bullets: Andy Taylor

Monday, 16 September 2019

A quartet of 4-Ds

If you've been following this blog over the years, you may well be aware that, as Flying Fish, we're always on the look-out for kites that are slightly out of the ordinary, to fly at festivals. Whereas we have a wide range of such 'other' kites for intermediate wind ranges, when it comes to really low winds, our options are more limited. We do have a pair of Inner Spaces, though, and recently added a pair of Kaijus to our low-wind pair quiver.

Flying Fish is half of the L-katz team (the other half is our sister pair, Twisted Bridle). And if low-wind options are limited for Flying Fish as a pair, they're even more limited for the team. Basically, as a team, we only have our T5 Cubans for when the wind drops down to almost nothing.

Now it just so happens that Twisted Bridle has a pair of Prism 4-Ds, and we have a single 4-D. Three isn't that far from four, is it? Twisted Bridle's 4-Ds were 'Ruby' and 'Cobalt', whereas ours was 'Amethyst'. Just need one more 4-D, in a different-but-matching colour scheme, and we're done! So we got ourselves another 4-D from Kiteworld, in the new 'Graphite' colour scheme, as that matched the other three best.

Now we had no idea whether they could even be flown in pair or team formation, so getting that fourth one was a bit of a gamble. First test was with two being flown as a pair. The 15m lines they come with are far too short for any formation flying, of course. We tried 25m and added 5m leaders, and felt that 30m was the right length to fly them as a pair. Long enough to give us space to do things in, but not so long that the small kites (1.47m wing span) struggle in very light winds to pull the lines along.

The main thing you notice when flying 4-Ds as a pair is how twitchy the kites are. This means input has to be really minimal. We flew them with finger straps rather than wrist straps on the lines, and that does help towards keeping input minimal. Once you get used to that, you can basically do anything you would normally do with much larger team kites. Boxes can't be too sharp, or the kites oversteer and wobble. Axels and half-axels are easy, but refuels, on the other hand, are really tricky, because it's difficult to keep the lead kite stable enough for the following kite to 'dock'.

Two plus two makes four, right?

So the next test was to fly all four together. We stuck to 30m lines, and that worked fine in team formation; no need to go any longer.

Flying them in a team basically worked as well as flying them in a pair. Minimal input is absolutely key; sometimes you barely need to do more than just think about a move, and the kite will do it. We went through almost all our team patterns, including more complex ones such as jitterbug and quadra dazzle, and they all worked with the 4-Ds.

The 'Graphite' having a darker main sail than the other three actually works fine visually, as the 'Graphite' is the lead kite most of the time. And we intent to work more on some patterns where the 'Ruby', 'Amethyst' and 'Cobalt' kites are doing something together, different from the 'Graphite' one.

Of course, 4-Ds aren't designed to be team kites, and they'll never perform nearly as well as our T5s and Impulses. And we will never ever fly them in competition. But they do give us a different option when flying at festivals with the team in very low winds. Coming to a festival near you next year, maybe?

Sunday, 8 September 2019

UK National Championships 2019

The 2019 competition season was always going to be a transition year for us, and it indeed turned out to be just that, for several reasons.

The main transition is that we wanted to compete with an entirely new ballet. For our first two nationals, we flew our ballet 'with' music ('Ruthless Queen'). For the next three nationals, we flew 'to' music, using an existing choreography ('Chariots of Fire') that we tweaked and changed a bit. The obvious next step up would be to write our own choreography from scratch, to a shortened version of 'Eve of the War' from War of the Worlds. Writing a ballet from scratch turned out to be very challenging, and it took us much longer than we anticipated to complete it, and so we had less time to practice it than we hoped. Big question would obviously be whether the judges liked it in the first place ...

Only two rounds of the nationals this year, at Dunstable Downs on June 15 & 16, and at Pontefract Racecourse on August 31 & September 1. The weather at both rounds was far from ideal. Very strong blustery wind (with gusts of well above 20mph) and occasional sharp showers on each of the four days of competition .... not the best conditions to fly our new ballet, for sure!

Let me first quickly summarise what happened in the disciplines we did not compete in, before going into a bit more details on the disciplines we did compete it.

Multiline individual

Two entries in this discipline: Dan Hoath and Josh Mitcheson. Over the two rounds, scores were very close between them, and Dan grabbed the title with only 0.1% of a difference!

Multiline pair

Also two entries: Fracture (Josh and Ben Taylor, formally known as Wey Aye Quad) and The Flying Squad (Dan and Stephen Hoath). The Flying Squad took the title convincingly, with a fabulous ballet, full of content, using every possible aspect of the music, and with some humour thrown in for good measure. For me, and many others, by far the ballet of the championships.

Multiline team

A single entry: Fracture. No surprise that they retained the title they won under the name Wey Aye Quad last year.

Dual-line indie

Four entries: Fran Burstall, Josh, Cameron Blair (back into competition after a long absence) and Dan. Fran retained his title.

Dual-line pair

Four pairs competed for the dual-line pair title. Besides Flying Fish, these were Fracture (Josh and Dan, flying under the name Wey Aye last year), Twisted Bridle and Skytracks (only at Pontefract). Good to see two novice pairs enter!

We didn't deal with the strong blustery wind well, especially when flying our ballet, so Fracture deservedly took the title from us. Twisted Bridle, our sister pair, earned their first sport kite title in the 'battle of the novice pairs'.

Dual-line team

Up to a week before the Dunstable round, it looked as if Fracture (formerly known as Wey Aye) would be the only dual-line team this year. But then we decided to enter with L-katz.

Being a novice team, we had the right to drop either the technical routine or the figures; we chose to drop figures, for the simple reason that we had hardly practiced any of them. Fracture (flying as a 4-man team at Dunstable, and a 3-man at Pontefract) of course took the title, but I feel we can hold our heads up high about L-katz' performance; besides picking up the novice title, we even scored higher than Fracture in the technical routine at Pontefract! We clearly had less content than Fracture, but we flew it cleaner, and that helped us score higher (if only just).

First of all, congratulations to all 2019 champions, and especially to Dan for picking up five national titles!

I mentioned 2019 being a transition season due to our new ballet. It was also a transition season due to us being in the process of switching over to Impulse kites as our main competition kites. Our ballet at Pontefract was flown with full-vent Impulses, and, given that we only had flown them for 5-10 minutes prior, using them in a competition ballet may, in hindsight, not have been the wisest decision.

So where do we go next? What are we going to focus on? For Flying Fish, we really need to get better flying under power, especially with regard to landing and (half-)axeling. Having the autumn, winter and spring to work on that, getting more used to our Impulse kites at the same time, should put us in a better position come the competition season next year. We want to go over our technical routine, adding some difficulty, and removing parts that don't really do anything for our scores. As to our ballet, we really feel we haven't done it justice; there's a lot more in it that we just couldn't put in front of the judges when it counted. As we don't plan to write a new ballet, we have a lot of time to work on our current one, and tweak it a bit here and there. Aim is obviously to take the title back from Fracture!

For L-katz, we need to start practicing figures, of course; next year, we'll be in the Experienced Class after all. Some changes to our technical routine, for sure. And as to our team ballet, we have the beginning of a fully choreographed team ballet, which we started during a team boot camp back in March. Hopefully, we'll be able to complete that in time, but I'm well aware how long writing a ballet can take. Aim is to improve significantly; we're under no illusion regarding any title!

Full results are available here. Even though we lost our dual-line pair title, we're still ranked #1 in the UK. And L-katz now also have a UK ranking: #4.

picture credits: Helen Ribchester