Monday, 4 February 2019

Double Greens Diamond!

I've gotten a bit of a reputation for being interested in 'old' dual-line kites. Completely independent of each other, and on separate occasions, I was given two Greens Diamond kites. Now if you know us, you will know that Flying Fish will always try and fly (nearly) identical kites together. No reason to change that now!

Greens Kites Diamonds aren't the easiest diamond kites to fly. They're quite twitchy to start with, and really need decent and constant sail pressure to prevent them becoming almost unsteerable. And if the wind drops, they have a tendency to lie flat and then fly towards you (so it's not just a Stranger Level 7 doing that!).

So flying a pair of them, in rather variable wind, wasn't the easiest thing to pull off. Both came without a tail, and adding that will no doubt stabilise them a bit more.

Unless there is a specific reason, we're unlikely to bring them to kite festivals and fly a routine with them ...

Sunday, 27 January 2019

New competition ballet

When we started flying competitively, in 2014, our competition ballet was with music: flying various moves and patterns with music in the background, but not with every move specifically linked to something in the music. The feedback we got then, quite rightly, was that we should try flying more to music, reflecting the music with the movement of the kites.

We decided to implement this in two stages. First stage would be to take an existing ballet to music. This would help us flying to music, adapting the speed of the kite to make sure the kites were where they needed to be all the time, and doing what they needed to do when they needed to do it. Ron Reich's 'Chariots of Fire' was the ballet we used, and this became our competition ballet in 2016. Second stage would then be, having experience in flying to music, to write a ballet to music from scratch. The plan was to have this new competition ballet (to 'War of the Worlds') ready for the 2018 competition, but we had severely underestimated the time it took to write a kite choreography completely from scratch. The process of writing a wee bit, trying it out in the field, tweaking it until it's ok, then writing the next little bit, etc, took so much more time that in the spring of 2018, we came to a decision point: continue with the new ballet and still try to get it ready for the 2018 season, or abandon it for now, and tweak the 'Chariots' ballet for one more year. Given how much work was still needed on the 'War of the Worlds' ballet, given we'd never written a complete kite ballet from scratch, and given the limited time we had to complete it, we decided to keep 'Chariots' for 2018. As some of you know, that wasn't too bad a decision in the end, as we became Narional Champions with it!

As soon as the 2018 Nationals were behind us, we picked up the 'War of the Worlds' ballet again, and I'm pleased to say we have now completed the basic choreography!

As I'm writing this, we've flown the first two thirds in the field, and sticked the entire routine about a dozen times now. We still haven't flown the final ~45 seconds in the field yet, so it may still need a bit of tweaking here and there. But we have plenty of time to do this, so unless something disastrous happens, this will be our new competition ballet.

The main feedback we got on our 'Chariots' ballet was four-fold:

* not enough sharp corners - the new ballet has more of that

* music is too samey - the new ballet has more variation musically, so more opportunity for change of tempo

* kites are behaving too much the same, either parallel or mirrored - new ballet has more 'asynchronous' flying, with one kite doing something different from the other

* not enough excitement/risk - I would say the new ballet has more of that

Of course, it's up to the judges in the end to say whether we have upped our game with this new ballet, but we're quite pleased with it. Whether it will be enough to retain our title, only time will tell!

Wednesday, 2 January 2019

Double LiteFlite!

One of the first, if not the first, dual-line kite specifically marketed in the UK as an 'ultralight' was the Kite Store LiteFlite. Few years ago, I got my hands on a LiteFlite for very little (£15 if you want to know), as I was curious about this very early ultralight, officially stated to have a wind range of 4-15mph.

Let's just say I was underwhelmed by the kite ... I felt it was unresponsive, didn't turn well, and I really didn't click with it. To make a short story even shorter, the kite quickly disappeared in a kite bag, never to come out again ...

Fast forward, and I was more or less given another LiteFlite (I bought a Spin-Off from a fellow kite-flyer, and he basically threw in the LiteFlite). Just prior to that, I became aware that some early UK teams (The Blitz, Blast) actually flew LiteFlites for a while. Well, if teams like that considered the kite good enough to use, I ought to give them another chance, right?

Second LiteFlite was first flown on its own, in a mostly 6-9mph wind.

It certainly didn't fly as bad as I remembered. Quite slow flight with reasonable tracking; little oversteer or understeer. But it really struggled with lack of constant wind pressure on the sail. If that occurred, say, at the edge of the window, the kite would become totally unresponsive and likely to flutter out of the sky. My guess is that this at least partly caused by the kite being pretty flat. It does have long stand-offs, but these are not at a 90 degree angle with the sail, thereby creating a clear 3-dimensional shape; rather, the angle is more like 30 degrees, resulting in said flat sail.

Keeping their weakness in mind, time to fly them as a pair!

There was no need to tweak the bridle of any of the two: they were matched in speed from the off.

It's clear that I wrongly dismissed the kite as unflyable a few years ago. We could fly basic pair shapes without too much problems, though we had to take care to always keep wind pressure in the sail. Something vaguely resembling axels and half-axels could be squeezed out of them, but they clearly weren't happy doing those (the flat sail again ...).

It definitely was interesting to fly a pair of these very early ultralights. If someone would like to see them in a festival arena (TC? Andy King? Paul Reynolds?), they only need to ask and we'll bring them.

Thursday, 27 December 2018

Double Swallowtail!

A number of years ago, through eBay, I got my hands on one of Tim Benson's earlier creations: a Fizz Swallowtail. I really liked the way it looked in the sky, with the large 'tail fin'. We do have something with kites and tail fins, don't we?

Anyway, due to our increasing focus on pair-flying, the Swallowtail didn't leave the kite bag very often. There is, of course, a very simple way to remedy this: get a second one, so we can fly a pair of Swallowtails! These kites are not exactly common on the 2nd hand market, so I asked the one person in the UK who would know where I might be able to get my hands on a second Swallowtail. To make a pretty short story even shorter: said person was willing to sell one of his own (almost unflown) Swallowtails, knowing where it would find a home. Thank you; you know who you are!

So here's our pair of Swallowtails:

The blue-green kite is the one we already had, and will usually be flown by me; the pink-black kite is our new one, usually to be flown by Irma.

You have to admit they really have presence in the sky, don't you?

Saturday, 22 December 2018

Spin-Offs galore (Hawaiians part 2)!

Recently, I posted on the rapid increase of Hawaiians in our pair quiver. Well, that blog post was only part of the story .... keep in mind that the Top of the Line Spin-Off is officially called Hawaiian Spin-Off!

Our collection of Spin-Offs started off quite innocently, with two early 'plain sail, no stand-offs' kites.

That allowed us to fly Spin-Offs as a pair, which we have done on our own, but so far never at a festival:

And then I got my hands on a unique pair of Spin-Offs, custom-made for and originally flown by Ron Reich. You can read the full story on these kites here.

Again we had a pair of Spin-Offs to fly, and this time we did fly them at festivals, with their UK debut at Portsmouth in 2016.

Things were quiet for a while on the Spin-Off front, until I was basically given another (plain) Spin-Off, this time with a pink sail, ...

... followed by a (plain yellow) Spin-Off sail ...

... which, of course, was duly framed.

Having four plain Spin-Offs, in four different colours, enables us to fly them with our L-katz team (I'll take some pictures when all four are in the sky together).

Now if you thought that was 'it' in terms of Spin-Offs, think again, because things didn't stop there ... Completely independently from each other, and almost at the same time, I was asked if I was interested in a Spin-Off, in excellent condition. These two Spin-Offs were of a later version, with a more elaborate sail design and with stand-offs, and they were a very good match in terms of colours: they were identical ... what are the chances of that happening?

Fellow kite-flyers around the world, we do have enough Hawaiians now, both Hawaiian Team and Hawaiian Spin-Off. So not looking to add more to the pair/team quiver. Until the next one with an unusual sail design and/or sail colours pops up. Then all bets are off. Just don't tell Irma, ok?

Wednesday, 12 December 2018

Gibson Girls

Any kite flyer reading this will very likely have heard of the 'Gibson Girl' kite. A single-line box kite which was part of the survival kit on board war planes during WWII. In the event of an accident, the kite, carrying an antenna, could be launched, and the accompanying radio could then be used to request rescue. More information on the Gibson Girl kite can be found here.

Gibson Girls pop up on eBay quite regularly, often in very good shape, and at some point in the past, I felt I ought to have and fly one. Here's our very own Gibson Girl, on the ground, and where she belongs.

The kite, being quite heavy, needs a good breeze to fly properly, but is very happy especially when the wind goes north of 20mph.

Gibson Girls on eBay vary a lot in their asking price, with some listed for well over £100. I wasn't at all planning to get a second one, but when one popped up with a Buy-It-Now price of £15, my finger decided for itself ....

So Flying Fish now has a pair of Gibson Girls!

Of course, being single-line box kites, they're not suitable for any sort of choreographed routine, but they do offer the option of something different to fly for Flying Fish at festivals, in an appropriate single-line slot.

By the way, in case you're wondering: the origin of the name 'Gibson Girl' lies with the American graphic artist Charles Dana Gibson. The Gibson Girl represented his ideal for feminine beauty, with a strong emphasis on curves.

The reason that the name got attached to the kite was due to the radio transmitter. It had some of the 'hourglass' curves of the real Gibson Girl.

So the name 'Gibson Girl' went from actual women to the radio transmitter to the kite, losing all curves in the process!

Saturday, 6 October 2018

Hawaiians galore!

As you may be aware, the Top of the Line Hawaiian Team, usually simply referred to as 'Hawaiian', was essentially the kite which established the sport of team-flying. So, obviously, we had to have at least a pair of them. Our first Hawaiian was not an original Top of the Line, but one made by Chicago Kite, with Skyshark spars and modern connectors. The clear link with Top of the Line was that the sails were sewn by the same people responsible for the original Top of the Line sails.

Pretty soon afterwards, we did get our hands on an original Top of the Line Hawaiian ...

... so we had a pair of Hawaiians to fly! There is a clear weight difference between them (460gr for the Chicago Kite Hawaiian; 582gr for the original Top of the Line kite), caused by the yellow original Hawaiian having thicker heavier spars, but with some bridle tweaking we managed to get them to fly (almost) the same.

It then was a bit quiet at the Hawaiian front, until I was basically given another original Top of the Line Hawaiian ...

... which, of course could be flown with another of our two Hawaiians. This one had lighter spars than our earlier yellow Hawaiian, giving it a weight of 429gr, and it flew best together with the modern black rainbow kite.

And then all Hawaiian hell broke loose ... first of all, we were given a pair of Top of the Line Hawaiians on indefinite loan.

Striking sail colours, and they look fantastic in the sky together.

Very shortly after that pair, I was asked if I was interested in buying a set of three 'old skool' kites, one of which was a Hawaiian. Is the sky blue? Does a Rev have four lines?? This particular Hawaiian had a simpler sail design than all the others we had, with just green and blue panels:

Interestingly, those same green and blue panels were also present in a Hawaiian owned by a team member ...

... which made me think that the two together would be perfect for a 2-stack. To make a not very long story even shorter: said team member hadn't flown his green Hawaiian for ages, and was quite happy selling it to me. So we had a Hawaiian 2-stack!

The two green Hawaiians look and fly well together, and the pull is a bit less than I expected (which may actually say something about my expectations rather than the actual pull)

And, of course, following on from our earlier experiment flying a single kite together with a 2-stack, we also have that opportunity now with Hawaiians!

As far as Hawaiians go, this wasn't the end of it. I was again offered a Hawaiian to buy, and it would have been rude to have refused, wouldn't it? So here's our latest Hawaiian, which is another 'heavy' one with thicker spars, virtually identical in weight (578gr) to our yellow Hawaiian, and also more or less the opposite to that one in terms of colours:

And you have to admit that the two look pretty good together, don't they?

Going back to the early days of Hawaiians and team-flying, here's the classic "Battle Hymn of the Republic" routine of the Top of the Line team; enjoy, whether you've seen it before or not!