Thursday, 9 August 2018

Exmouth Kite Festival

Back for the 4th time at Exmouth, as always brilliantly organised by David Ellison and the Rotarians. The weather was mostly sunny, whereas the wind was typically not as forecast (Exmouth tends to have its own microclimate where the wind is concerned!). Light but smooth and sweet coming off the estuary on Saturday (180 degrees different from forecast ...) and more changeable in strength and direction on Sunday (again, not as expected).

Waiving the pair/team-flying flag at Exmouth were three pairs and a team, and as can be expected, some cross-fertilisation between them, and with other flyers.

First of all, the Ex-Grads, flying their 'factory' Airdynamics T5 kites. Ex-Grads won 'Exmouth' as part of the new STACK Festival League (more on that in a future blog post).

Add Peter Taylor to the mix, and you get the Airheads, also flying T5 kites.

New to Exmouth was Twisted Bridle, flying at only their 3rd festival, following their festival debut at Brighton.

Amazing to think that less than a year ago, they'd never flown together, and Lisa had never even flown a dual-line kite. Just shows what can be achieved if you're keen! Guess what they flew? Right: Airdynamics T5!

And then of course Flying Fish, flying (surprise!) T5 kites as well (there is a theme here, isn't there?). It was definitely nice to be introduced as the UK National Dual-line Pairs Champions! We flew a standard set of routines: Ruthless Queen and Adiemus. Interesting challenge on Sunday, when we set up for our slot with our backs to the estuary, and actually flew our routines facing the estuary; wind turned 180 degrees in a space of minutes.

As I said, considerable cross-fertilisation took place. Tom Greenfield flew with Brian Williamson and two or three members of the Airheads, under the name 'Easy Tom and the Exmouth Flyers'. One of their routines was a 2 + 4, featuring two dual-lines kites and two quad-line kites!

And then there was the unavoidable mega-team, consisting of, you guessed it, the Airheads, Flying Fish and Twisted Bridle.

More pictures of the festival are here, but as I do often, I want to highlight two other aspects of the festival. First of all, the Open Arena slots, in which the public (kids as well as grown-up kids) were invited to come into the arena and fly their kites. David had also made 30-odd rainbow deltas available for this. If you want to try and get people to take up kite-flying, just putting on a show they passively watch is not going to do it. They need to be actively involved, feel the connection. And the smiles on kids' faces during these slots are testament to this.

And then the rokkaku fights, on Sunday accompanied by Japanese drumming by Taiko Journey. That really added a whole new dimension to rok fighting!

Picture credits: Franca Perletti (Twisted Bridle, Flying Fish); Valerie Hancorn (mega-team)

Friday, 3 August 2018

Two flyers, three Scorpions

One of the classic kites that, for some reason, I hadn't even flown yet until recently, is a Flexifoil Scorpion. And then, as if the universe wanted to make up for that, I ended up with three Scorpions in a very short space of time ...

Scorpion #1 was a SC06:

And Scorpion #2 a SC04:

At that point, I thought we'd simply have a pair of Scorpions to fly. Until I got my hands on another SC06, and that triggered an idea ...

How about stacking two of the Scorpions (one of the SC06s and the SC04), and then fly that 2-stack side-by-side with a single Scorpion (the other SC06)?

First create a stack, of course, which turned out to be pretty simple.

I sort of guessed the length of the stacking lines, but they behaved really well together at the first attempt!

Even though the wind was quite light (6-9mph), they developed quite a bit of a pull.

So, time to get the single Scorpion involved!

My initial guess was that the stack would fly a bit slower than the single kite. Twice the weight, but less than twice the effective sail surface area. Turned out my guess was right: the stack indeed flew noticeably slower than the single kite, though not by much.

And the fact that the single kite flew a bit faster than the stack just screamed 'refuel' at us. Could the two of us fly a three-kite refuel?

Turned out to be pretty easy; certainly easier than trying to take a picture of a refuel while flying it!

As you may know, as Flying Fish we're constantly looking for unusual kites to fly at festivals. I think being able to fly three Scorpions like this counts as unusual.

Tuesday, 31 July 2018

Dunstable Kite Festival

Dunstable turned out to be a festival of two halves ... On Saturday, the weather was mostly sunny, with some clouds, and the odd spat of rain. Wind was variable and blustery, 6-22mph. On Sunday, on the other hand .... well, I'll get to that!

In terms of pairs and teams present, first of all of course the 'home team', The Flying Squad.

Second quad-line team in the arena were the new UK multi-line team Champions, Wey Aye Quad (with Stephen Hoath as guest flyer).

Moving to dual-line pairs and team, Team Spectrum was of course present, flying their usual set of three routines.

The Airheads flew their usual 3-person tails routines.

Twisted Bridle appeared in their second kite festival, following their debut at Brighton.

And then Flying Fish, of course!

Besides flying two 'normal' routines, using our Airdynamics T5 Taipan V2 kites, we also took advantage of the strong blustery wind to fly one routine with our Peter Powells and one with our Dunford Flying Machines. These vintage kites (~45 years old) had their festival debut, and brought back memories to several of the invited flyers. Music these were flown to? Had to be 'Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines', of course!

I don't know if any pictures were taken, but will update this blog post if any surface.

And then there was Sunday ... forecast was for persistent rain all day, and for very strong gusty and blustery winds (up to 40mph) .... forecast turned out to be spot on ...

After a pilot's meeting, it was decided that the festival would not be cancelled, but that no schedule would be used and that people would simply do what they felt able to do under the circumstances.

For the AirheadsTwisted Bridle and Flying Fish, that meant one thing, and one thing only: mega-team! Up to eight Airdynamics T5 Taipan V2 kites in the air together, occasionally slowed down a bit with nappy brakes.

More pictures of the festival are here. One kite really summed up the Sunday: Josh Mitcheson took a Rev frame, and added a few strips of electrical insulation tape. It flew, and that tells you all you need to know about the winds we had to deal with on Sunday ...

Picture credit of us flying: Helen Ribchester; of the mega-team: Jeremy Wharton

Thursday, 26 July 2018

UK National Championships 2018

The 2018 STACK competition season was expected to bring changes, as all dual-line titles were up for grabs (more on that later). Five rounds this year: the first one at Berrow, with dual-line individuals only, as most other potential competitors were already committed to flying at Basingstoke Kite Festival when the round was announced. Rounds 2 and 3 were held at Dunstable, which saw sunny skies and rather variable, sometimes blustery winds. Rounds 4 and 5 were up at Druridge Bay, which again had plenty of warm sunshine, and winds varying in strength as well as direction. Rather than reporting round-by-round, I will give an overview of the various disciplines across the rounds.

As it turned out, the 2018 competitions would be even more exciting than expected: a group of young flyers entered, under the team name Wey Aye Quad (Josh Mitcheson, Daniel Hoath, Ben Taylor, Jeremy Wharton), resulting in at least one entry for all six traditional disciplines (plus, as it turned out, for freestyle).

So let's start with the three multi-line disciplines. Entries for multi-line individual included all members of Wey Aye Quad, plus Keith Griffiths. Josh retained his multi-line individual title, but the field behind him was very close. Great to see some real competition in this discipline!

On to multi-line pair, where there was one entry: Wey Aye Quad, consisting of Josh and Ben at Dunstable, and Josh and Dan at Druridge Bay. As the sole entry, of course they took the multi-line pairs title.

Wey Aye Quad was also the only multi-line team entering, so the title was theirs. But they didn't just show up and win. They put down a fantastic performance with a ballet score of 79.8 on Saturday at Dunstable; this team can go really far!

And then the dual-line disciplines, where, as I indicated already, all three titles were up for grabs following Tony Shiggins' retirement from competitive flying which also meant that Phoenix and Flame were not able to defend their titles.

But first, there were two entries into the freestyle competition: Josh and Ian Perks, making his debut at national competition. Ian snatched the title, though it was close.

In the individual dual-line discipline, there were entries from Josh, Keith, Dan, and Fran Burstall. Fran grabbed the title; his first in an individual discipline, following many with Phoenix and Flame.

In dual-line pairs, there were three entries: Flying Fish, Wey Aye (Josh and Ben at Dunstable; Josh and Dan at Druridge Bay) and Pallas Family Flyers (at Druridge Bay only). Technically, there was a fourth entry at Druridge Bay: Keith and Fran, under the name Ex-Phoenix, flew one round of figures, just for fun. And there were actually five dual-line pairs appearing in the arena .... Twisted Bridle had their arena debut at the Dunstable leg, flying their routine as a non-scored demo. Talk about being thrown in at the deep end! But they coped well, and I wouldn't at all be surprised if they would enter competition before long ...

As the runners-up of the last four years, Flying Fish were the favourites to win prior to the competition. But that didn't mean we would just get the title handed over to us, far from it ..... Our figures and technical routines were a bit of a mixed bag, at both legs. And when it came to our ballets, we were really on a roller-coaster .... 

At the start of our first ballet at Dunstable, Irma caught a tip wrap during an axel, which means her kite came down and had to be rescued by the ground crew ... not the best of starts! Second ballet at Dunstable, we didn't take any risks, just to get a halfway decent score in. But the erratic winds that day meant the score wasn't anywhere near decent .... So all to do still at Druridge Bay .... On Saturday, about two thirds into our ballet, the music 'jumped' several times, and that really threw us out of sync with the music. Fortunately, we were offered a refly, which we accepted, and we nailed it then: best score ever for our ballet, with one judge even scoring us at 70! During the Sunday ballet we had to cope with a rapidly-increasing wind, which forced us to make a snap decision not to take the risk of flying axels in the power zone. Actually, the strong wind may actually have benefited us, as the corners were pretty sharp and snappy due to that. 

After a nerve-wrackingly drawn-out announcement of the results on Sunday afternoon (thanks, Barry!), it became clear: WE DID IT!!!! We were the 2018 UK National Champions in dual-line pairs! Four years after entering competition for the first time; a sweet reward for all the hours that went into practice since that debut. 

One discipline still to report on: dual-line teams. At Dunstable, there was only one entry: Wey Aye . 

And that prompted some discussion about not letting them just walk away with the title and giving them some competition. In other words, making sure that if they won the title, they would have had to work for it. That discussion resulted in a scratch team consisting of Fran and Flying Fish: 'Flame-grilled Fish' entered competition at Druridge Bay. And a proper scratch team it was: we had no opportunity to practice together, and could only discuss common language, figures and possible moves over dinner on Friday, and do a bit of sticking on Saturday (notice the kite sticks?).

Obviously, we made mistakes, never having flown together in a competition arena, but we also pulled off a range of moves, including weave, fountain, and jitterbug with half axels, all of which hadn't been flown before by at least one member of the team. Against that was a fantastic four-kite refuel flown by Wey Aye!

It turns out that, despite that impressive refuel, we did just enough to grab the title! So double gold for Irma and me, double gold for Fran, and between us three, we bagged all three dual-line titles. And in case you're wondering why there is no picture of us with the dual-line team trophy, that's because said trophy was still in possession of Flame, and still needed an update on the engraving front ...

I readily admit that I felt much more pressure this year, being the 'pair to beat', than in previous years. But that also meant that success was that much sweeter in the end. And the dual-line team title provided that extra delicious icing on the cake.

Some more pictures are here (for the Dunstable rounds) and here (for the Druridge Bay rounds). Full results are available on the STACK web-site.

Picture credit of us sticking and flying: Andy Taylor and Peter Heayns