Wednesday, 14 August 2019

Portsmouth Kite Festival

The wind forecast in the run-up to Portsmouth was dire ..... unfortunately they proved correct: the wind turned out to be so strong that events up and down the country were cancelled. St Anne's Kite Festival was one of the victims, and where Portsmouth was concerned, the Saturday was essentially cancelled (meaning flyers could put up kites if they felt it was safe to do so, but there would be no scheduled programme).

On Saturday morning, most invited flyers attended the pilot's meeting, and some then tried to fly at least something. With winds gusting up to 55mph, we didn't dare risk any dual-liners, but did put up our pair of Gibson Girls.

Being single-liners, they can't be steered, so our pair-flying of 'GGirls' consisted of the kites being in the air, while we 'walked' various patterns on the ground. Surely the most bizarre pair routine we've ever flown at a festival! Flying single-liners does make a 'selfie-while-pair-flying' a lot easier!

On Sunday, the winds had more or less halved (mostly 20-28mph), which meant that an almost full programme could be run (the main victims were the dragons, of which a blaze was originally planned). Coming over the water, although still pretty strong, the wind was pretty consistent, so actually not at all bad to fly in. One issue was that the PA system was downwind from the flyers, and didn't have enough power to overcome the wind ... more on that a bit later.

Which pairs and teams were appearing in the arena? First of all, the Dunstable Downs Old Gents, flying a new routine.

Team Spectrum was of course present, flying their familiar series of routines.

And The Decorators featured, as usual, both with a 6-strong team, and with various guest flyers.

As to Flying Fish, the wind was perfect for our Airdynamics T5 V2 (patches off, but no brakes necessary), but we did struggle with the PA not having enough power. It's difficult to fly to music if you mostly can't hear the music! Still we tried, and flew our 'Ruthless Queen' and 'Rise Like a Phoenix' (following its debut at Basingstoke) routines.

The first of our two 'Ruthless Queen' routines had to be flown entirely without music due to the PA system packing up temporarily. So we simply flew out technical routine as we have it now.

Conditions were definitely challenging, especially on Saturday and, for us, the 55mph gusts on Saturday were definitely the strongest winds we're ever encountered at a kite festival. But thanks to the efforts of Gill and Jon, there was at least an organised festival on Sunday, and all invited flyers simply did the best they could under the circumstances. There is talk of having "I flew at Portsmouth 2019" t-shirts printed ....

More pictures of the festival (most from Sunday, but some from Saturday) are here.

Picture credit of Flying Fish: Marian Linford (the fantastic picture of our V2s in a refuel!) and Franca Perletti

Saturday, 27 July 2019

Crazy, mad, bonkers ...

The Stranger Level 7 is one of the weirdest sport kites around. I'm sure anyone who has flown one will agree with me that it's in a category of its own. On top of generally being mad as a bag of ferrets, it has the tendency to, all of a sudden; decide to fly towards you ... yes, you read that right! And with your lines getting slacker and slacker, there's nothing you can do until it decides to behave again ...

Quire early on in our kite-flying journey, I had the opportunity to add a SL7 to my quiver, and I felt I just had to get it, had to get the experience of flying it; or rather attempt to fly it .... Well, I had that experience, ticked the box, and our 'retro' SL7 is not a kite that is out of the bag a lot ...

Fast forward by quite a number of years, and someone on the Fractured Axel forum posted that he had a SL7 and would give it away to the highest bidder in a rather unusual auction: "That's right, I'm not interested in monetary bids: you bid with the number of times you promise to fly it before it ends up in your attic." Staying in the spirit of things, I put in a crazy bid, saying that we would fly a pair of SL7s in formation at least three times. Maybe I should have expected it: I was the only bidder ... Week or so later, we had a second SL7, in the 'mango' colour scheme.

So here's the pair of SL7s on our flying field, with me thinking "what did I get myself into ...."

But we actually flew them together! And I even managed to take a picture while doing so. Of course, they had their moments when they were bored with flying in formation, and decided to do something utterly different ...

Apologies for the kites not being in focus; I was pleased enough to fly them and at the same time get any picture of them together!

Next time we got the SL7s out, we played a bit more with bridle settings, as the first time we flew them they weren't perfectly matched.

Second time flying them together did work out a bit better (read: a bit less mental), and I managed to get a better picture this time.

I promised three times, didn't I? And I guess I have to up the ante in terms of evidence, so here's a brief video taken while flying (with the aid of a headband mount for my phone); at least they behaved during that video!

It definitely was a crazy, mad, bonkers idea in the first place, but I secretly enjoyed fulfilling our initial promise. Don't expect us to fly a pair of SL7s regularly at festivals, though!

Thursday, 11 July 2019

Brighton Kite Festival

If you have followed our blog over the years, you may remember that Brighton was the first kite festival to give us an arena slot as invited flyers, back in 2012. Keep that Brighton debut in mind; I'll come back to that ...

Brighton wouldn't be Brighton if it didn't present us with some challenging conditions. Saturday was a gloriously warm and sunny day, with very low (0-3mph) and often thermal winds in the morning, and more steady 4-8mph winds in afternoon. Sunday was drizzly for about three quarters of the day; winds were 2-6mph. All pairs and teams present struggled with the wind, and each of them suffered kites falling out of the sky more than once.

The arena programme was very much focused on dual-line pairs and teams, more so than in previous years. So, without further ado, here are the pairs and teams flying in the arena:

Team Spectrum, flying their usual programme of Carl flying two kites, Bryan joining Carl for pair-flying, and Carl flying three kites.

Following on from their Brighton debut last yearTwisted Bridle flew their Aerosmith routine as well as a new routine to completely different music. Good to see them varying their performances (yes, I know I'm biased ...)

Skytracks performed in the arena in their second festival appearance, following their debut at Bridlington. Due to technical glitch, routines in their first slot had to be flown without music, but fortunately, the problem could be sorted for their subsequent slots. Great to see a new pair coming on the scene.

As Flying Fish we used the opportunity to practice the technical routine we use in competition, with musical background ("Ruthless Queen"). Given the very low (and often nearly absent) winds, we decided on our "Ivo" routine for our second routine of the slot. This is one we debuted at Basingstoke last year: a 'make it up as we go along' routine for very low winds. The start is choreographed, but we then basically jam it. As the end of the music approached I decided at the last moment to try refuel landing. We'd never done this before, never even practiced it, but I thought what the heck ... didn't tell Irma what I was planning, to prevent her overthinking it. Just called for a refuel as the kites went up, turned the kites down as soon as the refuel was locked in place, and went for it. And we did it!! Really chuffed with that and another kite flyer referred to it as an 'awesome landing'.

Twisted Bridle and Flying Fish present at the same festival of course means that L-katz flew. We flew our standard two festival routines, to Gloria Estefan and the Targaryen Theme.

L-katz also joined with Skytracks at the end of the dual-line team block on Sunday. No pictures have as yet surfaced from this 'Sky-katz' mega-team.

Even though there was a clear emphasis on dual-line pair/team-flying, there were other performances in the arena: Paul Thody flew his massive Flexifoil Stacker 6 stack ...

... and several quad flyers performed individually: Simon Franks, Jeremy Wharton, Andrew Jones, and Tom Greenfield (with his gorgeous 8-stack of Phoenix kites).

More pics of Brighton Kite Festival are here; note the giant Pegasus! I usually pick out something specific towards the end in these festival blog posts, and I want to highlight Jaiden here. Following his arena debut at Basingstoke last month, where he flew in the 'mystery ballet', he was now given two full display slots, flying his own routine to music. Nine years of age, but he showed maturity beyond his years; the future of sport kite flying lies with kids like this!

So Jaiden had his full arena debut at Brighton, as did Twisted Bridle last year, and Flying Fish in 2012; clearly, Brighton is fertile ground for debuts!.

Picture credit of Team Spectrum, Twisted Bridle, Flying Fish and L-katz: Carl/Jan Wright

Monday, 24 June 2019

Powerhouse Blades

About six years ago, Neil, one of the members of our L-katz team brought one of his older kites to team practice. It was a Powerhouse Blade, which he had dubbed "The Black Bastard" as it had seriously pulled him of his socks in a stiff breeze once.

Of course we flew the kite: strong pull, and excellent tracking were the key characteristics.

Three years later, I saw a Powerhouse Blade on eBay. Remembering how "The Black Bastard" flew, I put a bid in and won! This Blade came with long whiskers, going from stand-off to upper spreader connector. For some reason, these long whiskers weren't present on the 'Black Blade'; possibly lost over time?

Anyway, we now had our own Blade to fly, which showed the same flight characteristics: excellent tracking and strong pull.

Few weeks after we got our Blade, Neil brought another Blade he still had, which was missing some spars and other bits and bobs (as well as the long whiskers), to our flying field. Between us, we had the right spares to get that Blade at least flying again (even without the whiskers; still not sure what they really do).

So now we had the opportunity to fly a trio of Blades! Wind was quite strong that day; the kites flew fast and pulled considerably, but we had a hoot flying them together.

Since that day about three years ago, I had been keeping my eyes open for a second Blade for Flying Fish, given that they are fun kites to fly together in a good breeze. No luck, until a fellow kite flyer recently offered one for sale on Facebook, in a colour that would match our earlier Blade pretty well. Needless to say I pounced!

So here is our Blue Blade on the ground (with long whiskers) ...

... and in the air (following a small tweak in bridle setting). 

As the whole point of this was to have a pair of Blades to fly together, 'Blue Blade' was duly partnered with 'Teal Blade'.

The colours really do match nicely, and they flew together as I remembered: good tracking, and developing strong pull when the wind picked up. Not kites that we will ever use for competition, but kites that are simply fun to fly and put a smile to your face!

Tuesday, 4 June 2019

Basingstoke Kite Festival

A few months after we bought our first kite we attended Basingstoke Kite Festival. That was ten years ago; we've been back every year, and since 2013 as invited flyers.

On Saturday, the weather was gorgeous, but the winds were very light (and occasionally almost absent). Sunday saw a bit more clouds and stronger, but also more erratic, winds.

We flew as Flying Fish and as part of L-katz (together with our friends from Twisted Bridle) in two slots on both days. On Saturday we flew our Airdynamics T5 Cubans, whereas on Sunday we flew our new KiteTec Impulses. The Impulses dealt very well with the highly variable wind on the day; more on these new team kites in a future blog post.

For our routines on Sunday, we tried out new music for our 'make it up as we go along' routine: 'Rise like a Phoenix', by Conchita Wurst. This includes a new move we have called, quite appropriately, 'Phoenix'. I think it worked quite well, so we're definitely going to keep that music as an option for future festivals this year.

With L-katz, we flew our standard Gloria Estefan routine.

I already mentioned Twisted Bridle, our sister pair. They flew their Aerosmith routine on both days.

Of course, Team Spectrum was present again, flying their usual set of three routines.

The final pair, though not flying under an official pair name, consisted of Josh Mitcheson and Jeremy Wharton, flying quad-line routines.

L-katz also joined in an 8-strong mega-team (together with Keith, Vee, Josh and Cam).

More pictures of the festival are here (for Saturday) and here (for Sunday). I do want to highlight one flyer, though: Jaiden, aged 8, flying in the Mystery Ballet on Sunday. His very first public performance; well done, Jai!

Picture credit of Flying Fish and L-katz: Carl Wright; of the mega-team: Patrice Peigné