Wednesday, 25 July 2012

Our team kite quiver

Now that you have got a bit of a better picture of what we are doing at the moment in the world of kites, and how we got there, I felt that this might be a good moment to introduce the various team kites we have, and I'll describe them in the order in which we got them. So here goes! All photos were taken by me while we were flying. And believe you me, flying the kites and taking pictures at the same time is not always easy! I have plenty of pictures of empty sky to prove that ...

Fish & Shark

I talked about our first pair of team kites before. To be perfectly honest, they're not the best of team kites, as they have a tendency to wobble a bit at launch and at low (wind) speed. So they need some wind to fly properly, but they can't deal with too much wind. Narrow wind window, in other words. Also, their quality isn't that great; I've had to replace several broken leading edges, shattered spines and splitting stand-offs. Interestingly, none of the replacement carbon has broken; at least so far ...

But even if they're not the best of kites, they are our very first team kites and the origin of the name Flying Fish. So they have a special place in our heart and quiver. Fun as well, as seeing the shark chase the fish (or the other way around on occasion!) just puts a smile on your face.

We have a plan for a routine especially for these kites; watch this space!

North Shore Radicals

Our NSRs are not original Top of the Line Radicals, but the modern Skyshark-framed version made by Cutting Edge Kites. I bought one 2nd hand (but as good as new) via someone at the Gone with the Wind forum, and then ordered the other one new from Cutting Edge Kites. We were lucky, because they went out of business just after ours was shipped.

North Shore Radicals are one of the classical team kites, tracking beautifully, cornering sharply, and being very noisy on top of that! They need a decent amount of wind to fly, and will start pulling quite a bit when the wind gets strong. The other members of L-katz have several more Radicals between them (one original Top of the Line, and three self-made copies), so we do fly them with the team as well. Only issue is that because they're all different (i.e. from different manufacturers, using different material), getting them all to fly the same is hard, and tuning them to fly the same at a certain wind speed doesn't mean they will then fly the same at a different wind speed ...

Dream Ons

Relatively new on the market, the Dream On comes from the Skydog Kites stable, and is marketed as a "team kite". This suggests a full-size 2.40-2.50m wing span, whereas the Dream On actually has a 2.10m wing span, so probably better considered a 3/4 size team kite. Comes with a bridle which can quickly be changed from 3-point to turbo; we prefer the turbo setting, even though the 3-point setting is recommended for precision-flying.

We mainly use them for team flying, rather than pair flying, as everyone in L-katz has one (between us, we've got three black and two white Dream Ons). They're easy to fly, have quite a broad wind range, and perform pretty well in terms of tracking, sharp corners, etc. And their design really makes them stand out. Being 3/4 size makes it easier to fly 4 or 5 together, especially if the wind window is a bit narrow.

We bought ours from Kiteworld, by the way.

Matrix Mega-vents

Although our Radicals can take quite a bit of wind, there comes a point where flying them becomes more a case of surviving than flying, even with brakes. So to have kites that we can move up to when the wind really picks up, we were looking for a pair of vented team kites. And these are not exactly the most common kites around! We finally got ourselves a pair of second hand mega-vented Matrix kites, made by Carl Robertshaw (no link, as, alas, Kite Related Design went bust not too long ago). We bought them off Keith Griffiths at the Brighton Kite Festival last year for a very reasonable price. They used to belong to the Matrix Management team, and are clearly used, but have plenty of life in them yet. Mega-vented Matrices have several mesh panels, some of which can be (un)covered so the kite can be adapted to quite a wide wind range, but of course, being vented, they do need a good breeze to start with.

Roger, Tony and Neil also have a mega-vented Matrix, so we can fly these kites with the team as well. Still struggling with the fine-tuning to make them all fly and handle the same, though.

Azur Tandems

Cerfs-Volants Azur Tandems are Canadian team kites from the early 1990s, and they weren't exactly cheap in those days. I bought one (the blue-and-pink one) quite a while ago from someone at the Fractured Axel forum. Trying to find a second one proved to be pretty difficult, as they're very rare. I finally managed to buy a second one (the purple-and-blue one) from Charly Whitaker via Kite Classifieds.

Azur Tandems have a rather wide wind range, and fly slowly, no matter the wind speed. They do make some noise, and it sounds as if they're on fire. Besides their predictable speed and good tracking and cornering, their appeal to us is simply that they look so different in the sky with the extra winglets coming from the spine. Almost as if a smaller kite is about to detach from the mother ship. Now that would be an interesting part of a routine!

Hawaiian Teams

Team flying started with Hawaiians, so we just had to have a pair of them to add to our quiver. I bought a 2nd hand (but as good as new) black/rainbow modern replica, made by Chicago Kite, some time ago from someone at the Gone with the Wind forum. The yellow one is an original Top of the Line, which I bought from Charly Whitaker via Kite Classifieds.

Hawaiians track well, but are not as crisp as more modern team kites in cornering. Still, flying them in formation, they are a sight to behold! And Roger also has a TotL Hawaiian, so we can fly three together. When the wind picks up, they pull like a truck, and the usual wrist straps really start cutting in your skin, so we have Sky Claws for flying our Hawaiians under those conditions.

T5 Taipan SULs

We had the higher wind speeds pretty much sorted in terms of pair/team kites, but when the wind dropped below ~5-6mph, we were stuck. So clearly, we needed to add a pair of (S)UL team kites to our quiver. To make a long story of scouring the internet for candidates short, the only viable option was a pair of T5 Taipans, made and sold by Peter Taylor / Airdynamics. These are the kites built for, and used by the Airheads team, and come in a range of versions, from Zero to V2. We opted for the SUL version, and spent hours agonising about the colour scheme (colourisers are evil!!). But the agony was worth it, as they look gorgeous in the sky!

Our Taipans perform beautifully at low wind, and then only need small inputs (which took some getting used to!). Roger also got a T5 Taipan at the same time we got ours, and he already had a T4, so we have a set of four SUL team kites between us. All we need to do now is convince Neil to get himself a T5, so we can fly them with the whole L-katz team ...


Cheetahs were made by the Rare Air company, which was based in South Africa, but is now defunct. They came in several versions, mostly distinguished by the number of sail panels. Our Cheetah Spectrum has the multiple rainbow-coloured panels and was bought from The Kite Den. Quite recently I bought an almost all-black Cheetah Stealth (the version with the fewest sail panels) via eBay.

The Cheetahs are our largest team kites (2.55m wing span), but because they are so elegant, you don't really notice this. Flight is graceful, which makes them especially suitable for a flowing routine, and they fly best at moderate wind speeds (up to, say, 12mph). Of the team kites we have, these two are best suited for flying with tails, due to their graceful flight, so we have several rainbow-coloured flat 'transition' tails, in two different lengths, allowing us to fly the kites with one, two, or three tails each.

Some people will wonder why we don't just have two sets of SUL - UL - Standard - Vented - Super-Vented versions of the same kite. Undoubtedly, that's better if you're serious about competition flying, but there are several reasons why we don't have two of such sets. First of all, the composition of our team kite quiver as we have it wasn't planned from the start; we were simply opportunistic in adding to it and trying to get a quiver to cover the entire wind range in the process. Second, we simply enjoy flying all kinds of different kites. And third, there are very few full-size team kites on the market right now which come in a wide range of versions; Airdynamics is basically the only realistic option. Maybe we'll invest in two full sets of Airdynamics kites one day, but not at the moment.

You will also have noticed that in each of our pairs, the kites are at the very least subtly different in terms of their colour scheme. The main reason for that (besides the difficulty of trying to get exactly-matching sets of kites that are long out-of-production) is that it just makes it easier for us to see which kite we're flying, which can become a bit difficult in some patterns (for instance, when they involve wraps) with identical kites.

We do have more kites than the team kites introduced above, but as this blog is focused on our pair/team flying, I thought I'd limit myself to the kites we have two of. But in addition to the team kites, we've got trick kites for a range of wind conditions, a few power kites (foils and deltas), several unusual quads, and some SLKs (including a few fighters). Anyone interested can see most of our quiver here (we're a bit behind taking pictures, a few more are to be added).

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