Monday, 19 March 2018

Monday, 29 January 2018

Double Skyraker!

As you may have seen on our Peter Powell Kite Collection blog, we now have a pair of Peter Powell Skyrakers, a 3-panel one and an 11-panel one.

Obviously, we had to fly them together ...

This happened with the wind gusting well over 20mph (on the ground, so add another 5mph or so where the kites usually are).

They do fly well together, but struggle with sharp corners. And despite their relatively small size (1.70m wing span) they develop quite a pull in winds over 20mph! 

We're not planning to fly them together in any specific routine, but I hope you agree with me that it just had to be done ...

Sunday, 21 January 2018

Double Venom!

This all started with Sue Storey posting two pictures of a rather unusual kite on Facebook. She wanted to know what it was, and who made it, as she was keen to get a second one for pair-flying.

No upper spreader, no spine, and a separate triangular piece of sail at the tail end of the kite. Somehow reminiscent of a Utopia ... Turned out that the kite is a Venom, made by Roy and Hayley from Kites Up. Their web-site didn't list a Venom for sale, but thanks to Wayback Machine, I did manage to find an old version of their list of kites for sale, which did have a picture of a Venom.

The unusual design is not obvious from the picture, due to angle at which the picture was taken.

I'm pretty sure you've seen this coming. Quick email exchange resulted in Hayley saying they still had the plans, and they'd be happy to make Venoms if people wanted them. She sent me samples of the range of ripstop colours they had available, and we spent quite some time playing with the colour options to arrive at designs for a pair of matching Venoms.

And here they are, a pair of yellow/gold and gold/yellow Venoms!

Their first time out, the wind was 0-2mph. Bit on the low side for their wind range (5-15mph, according to Roy). Occasionally, the wind gusted up to 6mph and we could briefly get the kites up for maybe 15-20 seconds.

When trying to fly both, they dropped out of the sky before we were able to take a picture ...

Next time we flew them, the wind was 5-10mph, and the kites liked that a lot better.

At light winds, the kites tend to oversteer, and they certainly need to have constant wind pressure on the sail; if that disappears (say, at the edge of the wind window), they may suddenly drop out of the sky. But as the wind gets a bit stronger (8+mph), their tracking improves considerably. Similar to the afore-mentioned Utopia, they turn very tightly. Curious how they will handle in winds of 12+mph; my guess is they will speed up quite a bit. Oh, and they really don't like (half-)axels, though that may well be due to us not giving the proper input; we'll keep trying!

By the way, Ken, Sue's pair partner, did get a red Venom to match her grey one. It's flown here by Ken at Fuerteventura:

The latest UK dual-line pair doesn't as yet have a name; join the Facebook group dedicated to sport kite pair/team-flying to be kept up-to-date on this and anything else related to the sport!

Picture credits - of her grey and red Venoms: Sue Storey; of us holding our pair of Venoms: Roger Backhouse.

Monday, 15 January 2018

Double Flash Angel!

We really like Rare Air kites. We got two pairs of Rare Air Pro Cheetahs, (a pair of Stealths and a pair of Spectrums), and they're great kites for pair-flying, with excellent tracking and generally a joy to fly.

Besides the two pairs of Pro Cheetahs, we also have a Flash Angel, which we got as part of the Berrington Hoard.

Like our other Rare Airs, is has solid tracking and is a real pleasure to fly. I wasn't actively looking for a second Flash Angel, but when one crossed my path ...

So here's our second Flash Angel!

The two Flash Angels are slightly different in their frame design in that the stand-offs of the orange kite are much thicker than those of the purple kite, resulting in a slightly stiffer frame and a slightly heavier kite (by about 40 grams) generally.

Of course, that's no reason not to try and fly them together!

Despite the difference in frame and weight, the Flash Angels match each other almost perfectly in speed, tracking and general handling.

A very nice addition to our pair quiver, for sure.

Saturday, 30 December 2017

Sport Kite Pair/Team Facebook group

You may have already seen it on Facebook, or, even better, you may have joined already. It's an idea I had in the back of my mind for quite a while, but I just never got around to make it reality: a Facebook group dedicated to pair- and team-flying.

Focus of the group is on getting as many sport kite pairs and team around the world represented, whether they're competing at world level, or just having fun in their free time. I'm especially keen to have all levels of competence as part of the group. Plus, of course, anyone not part of a pair/team, but simply interested in the sport. And just to be clear, I consider dual-line and quad-line kites both to be 'sport kites'; not going to be a line-ist!

I must say that only a month after starting this group, I'm very happy with the response so far. At the time of writing, the group has 191 members, and 69 pairs/teams are represented. A further 19 have been invited, and for 11 I don't have any contact details (yet). So that brings the total list to 99 pairs and teams, and I'm under no illusion I've found them all. So there will easily be well over 100 sport kite pairs/teams in the world!

Where are these pairs and teams based? If we look at continents first, just over half are based in Europe. Another third are from America, half of that again from Asia, and a single team (so far) from Australia. No doubt there is a bit of a bias in favour of Europe and America, as I'm more likely to be aware of pairs and teams from these continents; Asia is surely underrepresented at the moment, and I'd be surprised if there really is only one team in Australia.

Breaking things down into countries shows 21 countries are represented in the group at the time of writing. Nine European countries (UK, Netherlands, Belgium, Germany, France, Spain, Italy, Lithuania and Russia). UK, France and Italy make up the bulk of Europe. Of these three, the UK is overrepresented (simply because I know all UK pairs/teams personally) and France is currently underrepresented (there are at least another ten or so French pairs/teams I know about who are not yet represented in the group). Pairs/teams from three American countries: USA (providing the majority of American pairs/teams), Canada and Colombia. Eight Asian countries (China, Taiwan, Thailand. Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, Philippines, Japan), each represented by one or two pairs/teams. As I mentioned above, Asia as a whole is definitely underrepresented; I know of several more pairs/teams in China and Japan, for instance. And then one team from Australia.

So which parts of the world are conspicuous in their absence? No representation from Africa, and I'm not aware of any African pairs/teams. Best chance of there being one is maybe South Africa? Lacking from Europe is Scandinavia as a whole, nothing from central Europe, and very few from eastern Europe. Only three countries from America; no representation from central America and the Caribbean, and only one south American country. I do know of an Argentinian team which I've invited, but nothing from Brazil or Chile? Spread of countries from the Far East (and, as I said, I'm sure I've missed many from that part of the world), but nothing from India? Nothing from the Middle East; anything happening in Israel? And, as I said, I'd be surprised if there is only one team in Australia.

If you're reading this and you would like to be part of the group; simply go here, and request to join. And if you know of any pairs/teams in parts of the world not represented in the group yet, feel free to drop me a note.

Thursday, 7 December 2017

El Pronto

If you know me as a kite-flyer, you may well know I have a weak spot for 'unusual' kites. Years ago, when I stumbled across a Cerfs-Volants Azur Tandem for sale, I couldn't resist. It turned out this kite is a very good team kite, so when I had the opportunity to get my hands on a second one, I pounced. Since then, we really enjoy flying our pair of 'Azurs' together!

Cerfs-Volants Azur was a Canadian company, producing kites in the 1990s. Their top-of-the-range 'Tandem' team kite (it sold for well over $300 in those days, so far from cheap!) had an unusual design with an extra pair of winglets near the bottom end of the spine. As I mentioned above, they are excellent 'old school' team kites, tracking extremely well, and with little variation in flying speed across a wide range of wind speeds.

The company produced more models, most of which were pretty normal-looking dual-liners. Except one ....

In an attempt to break into the emerging trick kite market, Cerfs-Volants Azur produced the El Pronto. Where the Tandem has a pair of extra winglets near the bottom of the spine, the El Pronto has a flat 'stabiliser' at the tail. Currently it's a very rare kite; I've seen just a few pictures on the web, and only ever come across one for sale. That one, you guessed it, is now in my possession (thanks for giving me first dibs, Charly!).

The El Pronto really is a gorgeous-looking kite! Against the sky, because of the use of ripstop as well as mylar in the sail, the kite appears to made of stained glass.

In terms of flight characteristics, it doesn't feel as solid on the lines as the Tamdem. Slightly nimbler, but it has the same level of tracking as its older brother. In terms of tricks, it does axels and half-axels easier than the Tandem, but that's not very difficult to achieve: the Tandem can be coaxed into flying (half-)axels, but only very reluctantly (and that extra pair of winglets is always ready to snag your line if you don't give plenty of slack). Keep in mind that I'm not a trick flyer, and my tricking skills are pretty basic.

Given the looks and flying characteristics of the kite, I'd be very happy to add a second El Pronto to our pair quiver should I stumble across another one; colour not important!

Saturday, 25 November 2017

Tails, tails, tails ...

Flying at a festival with tails attached to your kites is always appealing to the public. The tails clearly add something to the visual spectacle. When we fly our Peter Powell routine, we obviously fly with tails, and the same goes for our VampDevil routine.

But what about dual-line deltas?

When we fly with the Airheads, we occasionally fly their tails, but as Flying Fish, we have not really flown dual-line deltas with tails at festivals as of yet. We do, however, have a pair of Tramontana's fitted with 100' black/red/blue transition tails ...

... and a pair of modern North Shores with 100' rainbow transition tails.

Recently, we decided to expand our options flying with tails. First, we got ourselves organza ribbons in green and orange to use as wing tip streamers on our Cubans.

We first flew them on a bright sunny day in very light winds.

The organza wing tip streamers were shimmering in the sunshine, and turned out a perfect match to the partly translucent Cuban kites!

Boosted by this, we got some 25m satin black ribbons, again with the aim of using them as wing tip streamers, but in stronger winds than the organza ones.

We flew them off our T5 ULs,

we flew them off our Rare Air Stealth Cheetahs,

and we flew them off our Cyborgs, not as wing tip streamers, but as double tails off the X in the centre of the frame.

For our Stealth Cheetahs, we also got 30m satin tails, in lilac and pink to match the non-black colour of the kites.

This gives us the option of flying the Stealth Cheetahs with a single tail as well.

And of course, we can also fly kites with both tails and wing tip streamers. This looks best on our Tramontanas:

For the upcoming festival season, we will try and fly our 'Adiemus' routine primarily with tails, and we now have a wide range of options for that, depending on the wind: from Cubans with organza wing tip streamers to Tramontanas with tails as well as wing tip streamers.

For our Cyborgs, however, we have a special plan ...