Monday 31 December 2012

Revs on ice

This is my final blog post for the year, and I felt it should have a wintery theme. And I couldn't think of a better topic for a wintery post in a kiting blog focused on pair and team flying than to highlight a rather unusual routine flown with Rev kites.

So without further ado, here are Valeriya Konstantinova and Vladimir Zdornov. Hope you enjoy this beautiful routine as much as I do!

After seeing the video for the first time, I dropped them a note saying how much I enjoyed the routine, but not expecting to hear anything back. Valeriya actually e-mailed me back within a few days, thanking me for the note and being glad I enjoyed the show!

To everyone who has been reading one or more of my blog posts (and to Valeriya and Vladimir, in case they read this):

Good winds for 2013!

Wednesday 26 December 2012

Double Spin-Off!

Team-flying started with the Hawaiian Team kite (often simply called 'Hawaiian'), and the North Shore Radical is probably the team kite of all times. We've got Hawaiians (see herehere and here) and we've got North Shore Radicals (see here and here) and what these kites have in common is that they were made by the same company (which no longer exists): Top of the Line.

Besides Hawaiian Teams and North Shore Radicals, Top of the Line had several other models in their line-up, and one of these lesser known kites was the Hawaiian Spin-Off (often simply called 'Spin-Off'). Quite some time ago, I got my hands on an original Spin-Off, but decided to keep it in storage until I found a second one. That moment has now come; both kites are the older version, without stand-offs, and were bought from two members of the Gone with the Wind forum.

So here's the latest addition to our quiver of team kites: a pair of Top of the Line Spin-Offs!

In terms of flight characteristics, they're typical Hawaiians: excellent for circles and flowing movements, not so good in snappy corners. But we can easily fly our existing pair routine with them, as long as we accept that the corners don't have the crisp 90 degree angle that other team kites can deliver. Being relatively heavy, they need a decent wind to get going, and they have one more characteristic of first generation team kites: they're noisy!

Saturday 22 December 2012

Evolution of dual-line kites

It won't be a surprise to those of you who have read most of my blog posts, that, besides flying kites, I'm also interested in the history of kites and kite-flying. One aspect of kite history I'm especially interested in is the origin and spread of dual-line kites. As I'm an evolutionary biologist in real life, it's second nature for me to 'see' evolutionary trees, so I've put together the information I've collected so far on early dual-line kites in such an 'evolutionary tree'.

Most of you will probably be familiar with the Peter Powell Stunter, which really popularised dual-line kite-flying in the early 1970s, but things were happening before that! For instance, the Rogallo Wing was invented in the 1940s, and the vast majority of present-day dual-line sport kites can be traced back to this kite. The 1940s also saw the Target kites, invented and designed by Paul Garber. And in the 1930s, a rather strange dual-line box kite, called the Air-o-bian, briefly caused a sensation. Going even further back in time, the late 19th century saw several rescue kites, controlled by two lines. 

Because of my interest in these early dual-line kites, I have built reconstructions of Francis Rogallo's Flexikite, and of J Woodbridge Davis' Rescue Star (more on that kite, including a video of it flying, here):

For the new year, I am going to keep my eyes open for early dual-line kites, and especially for those which could be flown in a pair routine. I already talked about my project to build a pair of Target kites, and about trying to find a second Dunford Flying Machine. Two Trlby triple stacks would also work great in a pair routine, and how about a pair of Gayla Baby Bats, converted to dual-line flying as suggested by Richard Radcliffe in 1978? Also, I wouldn't say no to a pair of Cambridge Combat kites, or even to a single one.

We'll see how far I get in this; watch this space in 2013!

Friday 14 December 2012

One man, three kites

Is one man flying three dual-line kites an example of team-flying?

□ Yes, of course, because there are three kites in the sky, performing an aerial ballet.

□ No, of course not, because it's only one person flying them, not a team.

OK, we can argue until the cows come home, have had their supper and gone to bed, but let's leave that discussion for another time. Let's simply enjoy the spectacle of one man flying three kites (I'm not being sexist here; I've never seen it done by a woman), and let's especially appreciate the skill involved.

Go to youtube, and you'll find quite a few videos of one man flying three kites. I've picked four videos for this blog post. Three of the videos for the simple reason that I personally know the guys flying, and the fourth one because ... well, you'll see.

First up is Carl Wright of Team Spectrum. The very first time I saw one man fly three kites it was Carl, and I keep bumping into him at festivals ever since.

Next is Dave Green; I've seen him fly only once so far.

And then we have Josh Mitcheson; when you watch the video, please keep in mind that Josh is just 14 years old ...

And finally a video of Ray Bethell, purely because he is an absolute legend in the kiting world. Enjoy the show, and make sure you note the ending.

Nuff said, right?

Tuesday 4 December 2012

Two new Benson kites!

It isn't very often that a top kite builder announces bringing a new kite on the market, and when this happens twice in so many months, it's definitely kiting news. I'm talking of Tim Benson, who enriched the kiting world with kites such as the Phantom, Gemini and Deep Space. My own kite quiver has six of Tim's kites: a Deep Space, a Gemini UL, an Inner Space, a Matchbox, a Swallowtail, and an Airbow. Guess I must like Benson-made kites!

Both new Benson kites were first announced on Tim's Facebook page, and subsequently on his official web-site (Tuesday, after lunch).

First announcement was of a vented version of the Deep Space.

This kite was developed by Adrian Atherton, and I met him several times at Stokes Bay and other flying fields, putting prototypes through their paces. I haven't flown the kite myself yet, and look forward to doing that when I have the opportunity. Early reports are very positive (but who expected anything else from a Benson kite?).

And then there was the eagerly-anticipated official announcement that Chris Goff's SuperFly would now be part of the Benson stable. Chris had told me about this new development last summer, but had asked me to keep quiet for now (I'm sure many others were also unofficially aware this was on the cards).

I do have my own Chris-built SuperFly, and already blogged about it here and here. Since these two posts, I've of course flown the kite more, and I can only say one thing: I really click with the kite. Chris' kite-designing ability coupled with Tim's kite-building ability should ensure the SuperFly becomes an iconic kite.

I think I've made pretty clear that I have great respect for Tim as a kite-builder, but, given that I have six Benson kites already, I'm secretly (ok, not so secretly) pleased that my SuperFly is an 'original Goff' (with a signature to prove it!).

Pictures © Tim Benson, and used with permission

Saturday 1 December 2012

Pair and team flying in the UK

As I said in my very first post in this blog, pair and team flying seems to be a rather rare species. So how rare is the species we belong to in the UK? Are we near to extinction or is there hope we can cling on?

Let's focus first of all on dual-line flying, and let's consider a team as consisting of three or more flyers. Within the UK, I'm only aware of little more than half a dozen active dual-line teams. First of all, of course, the reigning world champions, the Scratch Bunnies. Then we have the reigning UK champions, Team Flame, and the current UK runners-up, Airheads. Besides these three, undoubtedly the UK top, I know of Sky Symphony, Pallas Family Flyers, and Flying Colours (are they still active?). Then there is L-katz, of course. And let's not forget The Flying Squad; they are first and foremost a quad-flying team, but occasionally also fly dual-line kites. So that's eight active teams in all.

Moving on to dual-line pairs, I know of Evolver, consisting of Carl and James Robertshaw, part of Scratch Bunnies. Ex-Grads consist of Keith and Vee Griffiths, part of Airheads. Phoenix is made up of Fran Burstall and Tony Shiggins, part of Team Flame. Allan and Marilyn Pothecary fly as Close EncountersTeam Spectrum is formed by Bryan and Carl Wright. David and Angela Green don't really have a festival name, but sometimes call themselves 'The Greenies'. And then we have Flying Fish and Wings on Strings, both part of L-katz. So eight active dual-line pairs that I'm aware of in the UK.

Briefly crossing over to quad-line teams, I know of The Flying Squad, Decorators, FusionTeam4Mation, Haven Flyers, and Snuff.

Eight dual-line teams, eight dual-line pairs (some of which are part of a team) and half a dozen quad-line teams. That's how rare pair/team-flying is in the UK. We're not extinct (yet), but there sure ain't many of us ....

Of course, I can only list pairs and teams that I'm aware of, and that's mostly because they compete and/or display at kite festivals. If there are any active UK-based pairs or teams that I've missed above, please let me know and I'll update.

Monday 26 November 2012

Flying Fish goes indoor!

For several reasons, we didn't do much pair/team-flying the last few weeks, but we did do something we'd never done before: indoor flying! Karl & Sara Longbottom had invited us to join them for an indoor single-line kiting session at the St Joseph's Catholic College in Swindon. As we'd never flown kites indoor before, that sounded like fun to try, and a good opportunity to fly the few glider kites we have under the conditions they were really designed to fly in.

So how did our first ever indoor kite-flying session go? First of all, it was fun! And much more different from 'flying outside without wind' than we thought it would be.

So, first of all, we flew our own gliders (a Flying Wings Wala, two Prism Zero-Gs, and of course our new Longbottom Pterodactyls).

Fortunately, we were also able to borrow some other gliders to try out, such as a Flying Wings Emong, iFlites (made by Patrick Tan in Singapore), and several more Longbottom kites (large Pterodactyl and 6-81). Especially the two iFlites we flew (iFlite and iFlite II) were so light that they just floated on the air.

And one glider isn't necessarily the same as another glider. For instance, flying an Emong asked for quite a different technique than flying a Zero-G, which reacted differently again compared to the Pterodactyls (and the large Pterodactyl flew differently from the smaller ones, which is probably not too surprising). Knowing when to give the kite line, when to haul line in to make it turn at the right moment and not hit the floor, when to walk backwards, etc. We still have a lot to learn about indoor kite-flying. Sara mentioned another session in January: we'll be there!

Sunday 11 November 2012

Our 20th anniversary

11/11 is the date that Irma and I got together, and as that happened in 1992, this year marks our 20th anniversary! What better way for two kite-a-holics to mark the occasion than to get a pair of kites to fly on 'the day' for the very first time?

At the Brighton Kite Festival, Irma flew a Pterodactyl, made by Karl Longbottom. She really liked how it flew, bit glider, bit fighter, so we decided shortly after to order a pair of Pterodactyls from Karl, especially for this occasion. So here they are!

They're light-wind kites, and we flew them in winds in the 3-6mph range. The angle of the dihedral can be tuned, to give more stable or more active flight. When set to a wide angle, giving a mostly flat kite, the Pterodactyls start to behave a bit like fighter kites in the sense that they swoop down, and can then be pulled out of their loop as soon as the head points upwards again. Great fun to fly!

Now, of course, this has little to do with proper and serious pair-flying, although we did fly them side-by-side, and had them wrapping their lines around each other through successive swoops. And Roger joined in at some point with his blue "Terror Ducktail", so we were 'team-flying' with them. But who says kite-flying has to be serious? And in the end, this is my blog, so if I want to write about the latest addition to our quiver, I will!

Picture credits: Roger

Saturday 10 November 2012

Hawaiians again

A few weekends ago, both Tony and Neil couldn't fly for various reasons, so L-katz was down to just Roger, Irma and myself. We don't have a specific routine to practice in this combination, so we decided to do some off-the-cuff flying. Possibly inspired by our flying of one of our Hawaiians together with the 'Babywaiian', we got our three full-size Hawaiians out.

The wind was mostly 10-15 mph, so perfect for flying these classical team kites. Bit of bridle-tweaking to make sure all three flew the same, and we were off! They really looked good together and we went through the range of different patterns in our repertoire, in a more or less random way, and adapting them to three kites as we flew along.

We enjoyed flying these classics so much that we started wondering ..... We've got enough proper routines to work on at the moment, but why not simply fly these to music, without a specific choreography, but with me simply calling out moves and patterns as I see fit? Make it up as I go along? It would add another option to what we can do at festivals, and wouldn't need learning any additional routines.

That decided, we needed some music that has the same feel, speed, and tempo as the Hawaiians. They'll be flying reasonably fast, not slow and flowy, so the music has to capture that ... Didn't take me long to find a promising candidate, and both Irma and Roger heartily agreed:

Now I said in my previous post on Hawaiians that we were definitely not considering flying the 'Babywaiian' as part of a display .... hmmm, maybe we'll change our minds on that, and work the 'Baby' into it in some way ...

Sunday 4 November 2012

Double Cosmic!

A few months ago, I posted about our aims of getting a limited number of pairs of kites that combined precise tracking with trickability, with the ultimate goal of writing a pairs routine that also involved some slack-line tricks. The first of these was a pair of Fury 0.85 kites and I can now introduce the second of these pairs!

Meet our two Kitehouse Cosmic TC UL kites! We already had one (the 'chocolate' one), bought second-hand from someone at the Drachenforum. Great kite to fly, very precise as well as being able to perform any trick you throw at it (or at the very least any trick I can throw at it!). Cosmics are not exactly cheap kites, but I was lucky in getting a bit of money without having to do anything for it, and so used that opportunity to order a second one via the Fractured Axel shop. There was a bit of going back and forth with Kitehouse on the colours, as we wanted the second one to match the first one in terms of colour patterns, but at the same time be different from it. Turned out we mostly wanted colours they either didn't have or didn't have enough of, but we finally settled on a mostly 'gold' sail, with 'chocolate' bands. We flew the two together for the first time yesterday, and I must say the two really look good together in the sky! Absolute pleasure to fly and they seemed to like each other; Irma referred to them as our two Labradors, as they also come in gold and chocolate (and black, but we're not going to get a third one).

So, we now have a pair Cosmics for low wind, and a pair of Fury 0.85s for when the wind really picks up. One more pair to add, to fit between these two. I know which of our current trick kites I want to double up .... watch this space!

Picture credit: Roger

Thursday 1 November 2012

Dunford Flying Machine

In the early 1970s, flying dual-line control kites was popularised mostly by Peter Powell, and many people will have flown a PP Stunter, either as a child, or for reasons of nostalgia. A second dual-line control kite on the market around the same time was developed by Don Dunford. His Flying Machine was regarded as the 'Rolls-Royce' of kites in at least one contemporary book on kites, due to its high level of control.

We've got an orange Dunford Flying Machine, picked up, in mint condition, for little money some years ago. We hadn't flown it for quite a while, so last weekend we decided to take it to the field, and flew it in winds ranging from 15 to well over 25mph.

What's all this got to do with pair/team flying? Very little, yet ... The Dunford Flying Machine is a heavy kite due to its cloth sail and wooden dowels. Basically it doesn't really want to be bothered when the wind is below 15mph (it will fly from, say, 8mph onwards, but only reluctantly). When the wind gets to 20mph and above, the kite is really in its element. Snappy corners with some practice (it doesn't need much input), reasonable tracking, very tight turns, and little pull. So .... what if we were to stumble across a second Dunford Flying Machine, with a different sail colour (I know it also came in blue, with orange tassels), wouldn't it be fun to try and fly a routine with a pair of 1970s 'Rolls Royces'?

I think I know exactly where to go first in order to try and find one ...

Friday 26 October 2012

All Hawaiians, great and small

A couple of weeks ago, Roger showed us the latest addition to his quiver: a kite he picked up from a shop for little more than a tenner, and which appeared to be a Chinese-made copy of a Hawaiian. Except, it was much smaller, with a wing span of just over 1.70m (compared to 2.44m for a real Hawaiian). We promptly dubbed the kite a 'Babywaiian' and decided we just had to fly it together with our full-size Hawaiian one day (the wind was too light then for a full-size Hawaiian).

Last weekend, the wind was suitable for flying a full-size Hawaiian, and here's the 'Babywaiian' next to its larger sibling!

We managed to fly some basic patterns (such as infinities, boxes, and threads), even though the 'Babywaiian' clearly had less drive than the full-size Hawaiian, and constantly had to cut corners to catch up. Part of the problem is likely to be the lack of an upper spreader on the 'Babywaiian'. Of course, that's easily remedied, and will make the frame a bit stiffer, such that it loses less wind energy due to flexing of the frame.

Here's a brief video, trying to capture the two flying together. In the end, we made a few attempts to refuel, but, as you can see for yourself, that didn't work out too well ....

In all, this was just a bit of fun, and not meant to be a serious addition to our team repertoire. Not that flying team shouldn't be fun, but you know what I mean.

Video credit: Roger

Saturday 20 October 2012

Team Impossible

In my previous post, I talked about our own dabbling in flying stacks in our team routines. But that is small fry compared to Team Impossible, a French kite display team. These guys go way beyond stacks of American college kites or Warp 9s. Here are two videos of them flying stacks; judge for yourself!

First up is a display where they fly three stacks of six kites each. Two of the stacks consist of North Shore Radicals, and the kites in the third stack look like Tramontana 2001s to me (please correct me if I'm wrong!).

And here's a display involving three stacks of seven Flexifoils each.

I must say, this second video does inspire us to try our hands at flying a pair routine with Flexifoil stacks. Start with stacking just two rather than seven? Less chance of a row with our bank manager as well ... Or maybe, given that we've not flown these Flexis before, we should just try them out first (can you launch them on your own?), and take things from there ... To be continued, possibly!

Wednesday 17 October 2012

Stackin' 'm

Flying a stack of kites is just fun. Pure and simple. We've got a 5-stack of Prism Microns, which never fails to put a smile on my face when I fly it. You can't trick the stack (well, I did try to axel it one day, and that resulted in a tangled heap of bridle lines, connector lines, and tails), but flying it is Simply. Unadulterated. Fun.

At the other size extreme from the Microns, I recently stacked our HQ Little Beast with our HQ The Beast II, to create a "BeaSTack".

On their own, both kites can pull when the wind picks up, but together they PULL!

What's all this got to do with pair/team flying? Nothing so far, but bear with me, I'm getting to that! Earlier this year, Neil brought a stack of three smallish red-and-white kites to Stokes Bay. We all flew the stack, and it didn't fly bad at all. Tracking well, and with reasonable cornering. Neil then mentioned that he actually had 10 or these kites, and we wondered whether we couldn't create four or five stacks of two, and fly them with the team.

Besides the possibility of flying these stacks with the team, I was also curious where these kites came from. To me, they very much looked like something from an American college. Turned out that I wasn't far off the mark, and when I showed a picture to an American friend of mine, he recognised the letters 'NCS' as belonging to North Carolina State University. How they got from North Carolina to the UK is anyone's guess ...

While I was trying to get to the bottom of the origin of these kites, Neil and Tony sorted out the kites themselves and the bridling. And a few weeks later, L-katz was flying their routine with "Carolina Stacks"!

We've so far only flown them once with L-katz, possibly because we got a bit 'distracted' flying the North Shores we got on loan from STACK .... As an aside, I also flew all 10 of these kites in a single stack, which was a real upper-body workout!

If you want to see what happened to Neil when he flew the stack in a strong gusty wind, click here!

Back to team-flying, since flying the "Carolina Stacks", Irma and I also flew Warp 9 triple-stacks in a team setting.

This was done together with Barry and Fran (of Team Flame) at the Southampton Kite Festival.

I don't expect that flying stacks will be a major aspect of the flying by either Flying Fish or L-katz, but having the "Carolina Stacks" does add something different to our portfolio which we can occasionally dip into. Just for fun, of course!

Pictures of L-katz flying the "Carolina Stacks" and us flying the Warp 9 stacks taken by Roger

Saturday 13 October 2012

Target Kite project - part 1

As many of you know, Peter Powell brought dual-line kites to the public, but the PP certainly wasn't the first dual-line kite. Among the earlier dualies was one iconic one: the Garber Target Kite, dating from the 1940s.

This kite was used in the second World War, and designed to be flown from ships, with the aim of training gunners to bring down enemy airplanes.

It was steered by two lines, which were connected to a rudder system. Anyone interested can find lots more information on the history of these Target Kites here.

Being interested in the history of kites, as well as flying them, I've been playing with the idea of building myself a modern replica for quite a while, and earlier this year, I decided to take on this project. With one added twist: to build two of these kites, with the ultimate aim of flying them in a pair routine.

I didn't want to build an exact replica, because that would involve wooden spars, metal nuts and bolts, and heavy cloth, and would make the kite very heavy. Remember, these kites were meant to be flown from moving ships, so would have lots of wind almost by default. Instead, my aim was to build two target kites from modern material (ripstop, carbon, etc), so that they would fly in 'normal' wind. So call it a modern interpretation rather than a true reconstruction. Searching the internet for plans for such kites resulted in exactly zilch ....

OK, plan B was to do everything from scratch, which was a bit daunting, as my kite-building experience is quite limited (I've build a Wazo, and a modern interpretation of a 19th century dual-line rescue kite). Anyone interested in details of the building process so far can find some photos here; I will keep updating that web-album as the project proceeds.

The building process has now arrived at a stage where the first of the two kites (dubbed Target:Z, where the 'Z' stands for 'Zero' the name of the Japanese plane that is portrayed as a silhouette on the kite) is ready for its first test flight! This is still without the rudder system, as I wanted to try out first whether the kite would fly at all, was balanced, etc, before even thinking of how to implement the rudder system (which I'm still not 100% sure about!).

Moment of truth: Stoney Cross plain, on a sunny Saturday morning. Kite is attached to the lines. What's going to happen when I pull on the lines???

Well, the kite flew, and it actually flew pretty well! Slow to rise, but quite stable. So balance and bridling is ok. The steering needed a lot of input, but it can fly circles.

Two problems though: first of all, the frame is too flexible. Even though the wind was light (5-10mph), it flexed quite a lot. Second is that the sail showed way too much billow. Here's a short video of the first test flight, which illustrates the major faults.

Solution is quite simple: frame is currently 6mm, so if I replace that with an 8mm frame, it should reduce the flexing. And if I make that frame just a but bigger than the current one, it should stretch the sail more, and so reduce the billow. As I write this, my order for 8mm spars and other bits and bobs is already in the hands of The Highwaymen.

In all, I'm actually pretty pleased with the project so far, and given that I have little kite-building experience and had no plans whatsoever, it would have been a miracle if I'd gotten everything right in the first go. And while I'm awaiting the spars and other bits for the new frame, I can start building the sail for the second of the pair of Target Kites, which will show the silhouette of a German Focke-Wulf plane. Watch this space!

Sunday 7 October 2012

L-katz: 3-, 4-, and 5-strong

I've already talked about the plans that Flying Fish has for next year, so what about L-katz? First of all, we are going to work on our 4-strong routine. Some things work really well, others less so, and that means we want to improve the routine by changing a small number of patterns. And even though we feel that flying the routine is slowly becoming 'routine', it most surely needs improvements in timing, synchronicity, etc.

Second plan involves Roger, Tony and Neil. Before Irma and I were asked to join L-katz, they had started work on a 3-man routine. That routine was more or less shelved as we focused on flying with a larger team, but the upcoming autumn and winter is a good opportunity to dust that one off again, and take it further.

And then, we are also keen to try and put a routine with the entire team together. I think everyone is happy for me to take the lead again in creating the choreography and picking the music. What I want to try and do as much as possible is not use patterns we're already using for the 4-strong routine. I'm working on some ideas, and we have already been playing with a specific launch that gets us straight into the first pattern. Music? Yes, of course! Again, I've got a few candidates, but I'm not telling yet! Let's first see how things develop with this 5-strong routine.

Plans for L-katz are definitely ambitious, and much will depend on how much practice we can get in between now and the start of the new festival season. And that, of course, depends on wind and weather ... We'll see how far we get. First priority is the 4-strong routine, that's clear. The other two will simply develop at their own pace. If that gets them ready for when we next fly at a kite festival, great. But if not, nothing lost, as we definitely have the 4-strong routine, so flying with the team we can!

Saturday 29 September 2012

Birth of a routine

In an earlier blog post, I mentioned that we were going to work on a routine for Flying Fish especially for our Fish & Shark kites, and to the theme music of Jaws. While I was at a conference for work recently, I was getting some ideas during the coffee and tea breaks, and started to scribble them on the note pads we were provided with. Thought I'd share these scribbles, and give you some idea how a routine is born.

Anyway, warts and all, here's a page of scribbles, really writing down some ideas for patterns, and making some quick drawings to help me visualise them.

Once I had these ideas on paper, the next step was to put them in an order that 'works', an order that allows a smooth and flowing transition from one pattern to the next.

So there you have it: the birth of Flying Fish's "Jaws" routine! Now I'd be amazed if this actually is the final routine. It's much more likely that lots of things will change between having these first rough ideas on paper, and flying the actual routine to music at a festival next year. First of all, we need to fly the patterns, and what seems to work on paper may not work in the sky (there is one pattern which probably results in too much line wrap; can you spot which one?). And as we're test-flying them, we're likely to get other ideas which may work better than these original ones. And finally, we need to fly it to music, which means we need to work on timing. But I'm pretty sure that a number of these patterns will find their way into our final "Jaws" routine, in some form or other. Come watch us next year, and see how the final routine has changed from its birth!

Friday 21 September 2012

Some practice vids

Over the last couple of months, Flying FishL-katz and Wings on Strings have been video-ed several times while they were practicing their respective routines, so I thought it might be nice to put some of these together in a blog post. The videos are largely unedited (with one exception, where two shorter ones are merged into one), and are not set to music. Here goes!

First video is of Flying Fish, flying North Shore Konas at Stokes Bay. The video shows roughly the first half of the routine.

Then another video of Flying Fish, flying Hawaiians at Stoney Cross. The wind was pretty strong that day. Just before the video was made, Irma couldn't keep her footing in a gust of wind, and was pulled forwards into my lines (so that my lines almost cut her ear off). She then had to let go of the Sky Claws leading to her lines getting entangled with mine and her kite ending up just behind (phjew) a rather prickly gorse bush. Challenging conditions, to say the least! The video first shows some warm-up patterns (giving Irma the chance to settle back in again), with the actual routine starting around the 4:25 mark. Almost the entire routine is shown, except for the final pattern and landing.

Third up is a video of Wings on Strings, flying North Shore Konas at Stokes Bay. Pretty much the entire routine is covered.

Next a video of L-katz, flying North Shore Konas at Stokes Bay. The video captures about the first half of the routine.

And finally, another video of L-katz at Stokes Bay, flying North Shore Radicals. This time, the entire routine is shown.

Yes, it all needs tightening up! But that's exactly why we practice, of course. And we'll continue practicing through the winter, wind and weather allowing, in preparation for the 2013 kite festival season.

Video credit for the first and last video: Roger; for the other three videos: Tim Rohn

Monday 17 September 2012

STACK 2012 results

As you all probably know, STACK organises the UK championships, and the results of the 2012 season have just been published on their Facebook page (their regular web-site is still down at the time of writing, alas).

So, without further ado, presenting the 2012 UK champions dual-line team-flying ... drum roll ... Team Flame! Congratulations, guys!

Runners-up: Airheads! Judging by the overall scores, it was a pretty close race.

In the dual-line pairs category, first prize was snatched up by Phoenix, which consists of Fran Burstall and Tony Shiggins, both members of the winning Team Flame (second bout of congratulations coming your way!). Ex-Grads, consisting of Keith and Vee Griffiths, both members of Airheads, came second.

And although this blog is focused on pair/team-flying, I don't want to leave out the results of the individual dual-line category. UK champion is Tony Shiggins (congratulations x 3!), beating Keith Griffiths into second place.

So a full sweep of three gold medals for Tony, with three silvers for Keith. Full results on STACK's Facebook page.

Saturday 8 September 2012

Double Fury!

Most of the kites in our team kite quiver are purely precision kites, and not designed to do any slack-line tricks. Trying to coax an axel out of a Cerfs-Volants Azur isn't the easiest of things to do! But in the future, we do want to include some basic slack-line tricks (such as axels and half-axels) into a routine (I already have a clear candidate for the music we're going to use for that routine, but I'm not giving that away yet!). With that in mind, we have been keeping our eyes open for possibilities to have a few pairs of kites that are both good in precision and in slack-line tricks. Ideally a small number of pairs that, between them, cover a wide wind range.

So here's the first of such precision-and-trick pairs to add to our team kite quiver! We already had the 'blue-nosed' KRD Fury 0.85, and managed to add the 'red-nosed' one to it recently. Both were obtained via the Fractured Axel forum. Fury 0.85 kites really are in their element when the wind picks up, say 8+mph: tracking as if on rails, very crisp cornering, and the limit in terms of tricks lies with the flyer, not the kite. Being quite small (2.10m wing span), their pull remains manageable quite high up the wind speed scale.

With the higher end of the wind range now covered, we still need a pair for standard and for light winds; the search goes on!

Tuesday 4 September 2012

Very first mega-fly

I have mentioned before how the help and encouragement by Allan and Marilyn Pothecary, aka Close Encounters, was instrumental in getting us started in pair and team flying, and also hinted at the first mega-fly we flew with them. So here's the story ...

We usually fly at Stokes Bay with the other members of L-katz. Allan contacted me one day to try and arrange for the three of them (Allan and Marilyn, plus Dougie) to meet up with the five of us at Stokes Bay, and fly together in a mega-fly. Took some e-mailing back and forth to find a day we could all make, but we could pick a day, and all duly arrived on the field. Luckily, the weather turned out to be very helpful: sunny, lots of blue sky, and a wind that wasn't too light or too strong. We had already flown in a team of five, and that was already quite scary and exhilarating at the same time. Now we were going to fly with up to eight people, and so up to eight kites in the sky! Kite of choice was the Dream On, for the very simple reason that we all had one.

So we launched ...

... got into an infinity pattern ...

... careful not to crash into each other ...

... tried flying boxes right and boxes left in various configurations ...

... and really had fun in our first mega-fly, without any major crashes!

If you want to know what happened, in the air, and on the ground after we landed, here's a brief edited video, which I feel gives a good impression of our very first mega-fly:

Pictures taken by Roger. Video credits at the end of the video.

Saturday 1 September 2012

Xmas came early!

After seeing L-katz, Flying Fish, and Wings on Strings fly at the Southampton Kite Festival, Barry Savell, the National Director of STACK, mentioned to Neil that they have a number of North Shore kites that could be loaned to new teams on a long term basis. The aim of this is of course to stimulate team-flying in the UK. Whether there was interest from L-katz for such an arrangement? Now given that we have had difficulties in tuning the different North Shore Radicals that we have between us, getting matched North Shores for the team would be very useful, especially given their pedigree as the kites that won most world championships. So yes, please! When Barry first offered these STACK kites, I thought he was talking about five North Shore Radicals, which would be great. What actually happened is that we received two kite bags full of North Shores: Konas plus Radicals plus VIPs!! That means that each of the five members of L-katz now has a Kona - Radical - VIP set to fly when we're 'flying team'.

It really felt like Xmas had come early, and when we unpacked the kites, we were running around like kids not knowing which present to open first! Because the kites had been used by several top teams in the past (Airkraft, Punchline), they needed only very minor bridle tweaks at most to fly the same, and off we went, testing them out and getting a feel for which type flies best under which wind conditions.

Barry and STACK: thanks a lot for the motion of confidence in loaning us these kites. We'll take care of them, and, first and foremost, fly them!

Photo of the four of us flying North Shore Konas taken by Roger.

Tuesday 28 August 2012

Portsmouth Kite Festival

Portsmouth Kite Festival always arrives with a bitter-sweet feeling. Sweet, because it's the biggest and most varied of the kite festivals we normally go to. And bitter, because it's also usually the last of the season for us ... In this post, I will focus on the dual-line pair/team-flying, but lots of photos, giving a more general impression of the weekend, can be found here.

Team Spectrum was present, of course. I can hardly remember attending a kite festival where they were not flying. Because their slots consist of several routines (Carl flying two kites, Bryan and Carl flying as a pair, Carl flying three kites), requiring frequent changes of kites, we ground-crewed for them this weekend, and that gave me the opportunity to take a photo of their pairs routine with tails from a different angle.

The Flying Squad, although first and foremost a quad-line team, also flew a few brief 4-man (on Saturday) and 5-man (on Sunday) dual-line routines. 

Useful that their 5-man routine included a pattern that we're also starting to practice with the full L-katz team, so we could get a feel for how it's supposed to be flown!

But the highlight of the festival for us, and the performance we'd been most looking forward to, was Cerfs Volants Folie. Of course, we knew about them, and had seen video clips of them flying, but had never seen them fly 'in the flesh'.

Well, they really did not disappoint, and it was clear why they came 5th in the recent World Championships!

Their routine started off with three female members of the team (aka Cerfs Volants Folie Filles).

Once they'd finished, a 6-man team took over.

And then the girls joined in again, for a 9-man routine.

Finally, a few more flyers joined CVF, for a 11-man (on Saturday) or 12-man (on Sunday) mega-fly.

Spectacular and thoroughly enjoyable!!

Our focus in this blog is on dual-line team-flying, but I certainly don't want to finish without giving full credit to the quad-line teams. I already mentioned The Flying Squad, who put on a great quad-line routine, as did the DecoratorsFusionAir-4-ce (who had to miss Saturday due to being stuck at Schiphol Airport; glad they could still make it on Sunday) and a team consisting of James Robertshaw, Carl Robertshaw, Chris Goff, and Gregory Reynes (if they have a name for their team, I missed it; sorry!). Lots of the quad flyers got together for a Rev mega-fly, which is always great to watch.

Can't wait for the new kite festival season to kick off again next year!