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.