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!