Wednesday 24 June 2015

Streatham Common Kite Day

First time we were present at Streatham Common Kite Day, and it really felt different from the kite festivals we usually attend and fly at. Much more a community atmosphere, and there was another clear difference which I'll come to at the end of this blog post. Matching the relaxed atmosphere was a very laid-back attitude of the organisers with regard to the arena programme, which was essentially put together in real-time as the day progressed.

As Flying Fish, we had three arena slots across the day, in which we flew our now-usual "Ruthless Queen" - "Adiemus" pair of routines. The wind was difficult throughout the day: very bumpy and turbulent, and it caused me to make the wrong initial call as to the kites to use. During warm-up, the Airdynamics Taipan T5 V1s were spot-on, but the wind came down during our first routine, so we were really struggling to keep the kites in the air. Switch to the T5 Standards for our second routine, and we stuck with these kites for the rest of the day. Because of the difficult wind, our routines most surely weren't the best we've ever flown, but we did ok (I think). And no, the 'double catch' at the end of the "Adiemus" routine didn't work, because the wind didn't have enough oomph at the end of the window to keep the kites there for long enough.

Team Spectrum has been present at Streatham for many years, and it was thanks to them that we were invited in the first place. They also struggled with the wind, especially when Carl and Bryan flew North Shore Radicals with tails, when they couldn't complete their routine a few times due to the kites falling out of the sky.

Flame was the third dual-line team present, fresh from retaining their UK National title. And even they had kites fall out of the sky a few times. So if even the national champions struggle with the wind, we don't have to feel too bad about flying below our ability!

The end of the arena programme consisted of a mini-mega-fly, initially consisting of Flame and Flying Fish, who were subsequently joined by Chris Goff. Interesting mega-fly for sure, because Chris was flying one of his own more trick-oriented kites, on much shorter lines than the others. On the other hand, he's not a member of the reigning World Champion team (Scratch Bunnies) for nothing! It did mean we were sandwiched between the UK National Champions and a World Champion; hope some of their skills rubbed off! We must have done something right, because when talking to a few members of the public after the mega-team performance, they couldn't believe that we hadn't been practicing the mega-team routine for hours and hours, and that we (that is, Barry) simply made it up as we flew. Mega-team was most definitely appreciated by the public!

I mentioned above that there was another clear difference with our usual kite festivals. And this was that we had many more members of the public approaching us with questions about kites and kite-flying. And obviously, we're only too happy to talk kites and help people enter the sport!

More pics of the day, including Batman and Batwoman, Swallows, Dragons, Policemen, and Spirits (including the Spirit of Jamaica), plus a crazy Jamaican, are here.

Picture credits of us flying: Carl Wright (Team Spectrum); of the pyramid formation in the mega-team: Sharon Savell; of the kites of the mega-team in the sky: Carl Wright (Team Spectrum); of the mega-team on the ground: Mike Urban

Thursday 18 June 2015

UK National Championships 2015

The 2015 UK National Championships at Dunstable Downs June 13 & 14 threw up an interesting challenge: fog. Besides the weather alternating between drizzle and rain, there were times when it was near-impossible to see the kites at the end of the lines .... Despite this rather challenging weather, there were still two full rounds of the dual-line individual, pair, and team; and quad-line individual and pair competitions, plus a single round of multi-kite flying (on Saturday) and a single round of freestyle flying (on Sunday).

To a large degree, the winners from last year retained their titles: Tony Shiggins won dual-line individual, Phoenix (Tony + Fran) won dual-line pair, and Flame (Tony + Fran + Barry) won dual-line team. So another triple for Tony!

The only 'other' winner compared to last year was Bryan Beasley, who took the freestyle title.

Multi-kite flying saw its d├ębut at the Nationals, with four entries, and the first UK Champion in this discipline is Graham Lockwood.

Quad-line flying was back at the Nationals after a number of years. Josh Mitcheson became the UK Champion in quad-line individual, and Tall & Small (Josh + Ellie Eades) secured the national title in quad-line pair. So a double for Josh in his debut to flying national competition!

And how did Flying Fish do? With only two entries in dual-line pairs, no surprise that we came second, like last year, and retained our Experienced Class title. Our scores were essentially the same as last year, and we are aware that we need to do something different for our ballet to improve our scores. This will almost surely include more flying 'to' the music than we're doing in our current competition ballet, which is essentially a number of patterns and figures flown with music in the background.

The above would have essentially have been the content of this blog post, if it hadn't been for an unexpected twist .... At the pilot's meeting on Saturday morning, it was clear there was only one entry for dual-line team. In order to make sure Flame at least had to work for their essentially inevitable title, we were asked by Keith Griffiths of the Airheads whether we were up for forming a 3-man scratch team, quickly dubbed 'Fisheadz'. Obviously, we'd never practised the team compulsory figures together, and even more obvious, we didn't have a ballet ... As Keith had experience with the figures, he'd call these, and I'd then switch with Keith to the #1 position to call the ballet. We decided to use our Adiemus music, and string together some elements of our Adiemus routine with some elements of the routine we flew with Airheads at Exmouth Kite Festival a few weeks ago. We also decided at the last moment to try and include our 'double catch' ending, and it worked, under competition conditions! Only on Saturday; we didn't manage it on Sunday. Even though Fisheadz is officially the runner-up dual-line team in the UK in 2015, we were far far behind Flame. Don't think we dishonoured ourselves, though, and Andy Taylor was very enthusiastic about our double catch ending, referring to it as a rare novel move in dual-line flying.

And as we're back with teams, here's a video of Flame flying their ballet on Sunday:

I don't know if pictures were taken of Flying Fish or Fisheadz while they were flying, but if any such surface, I'll update this blog post. Because I was mostly either line judging, ground-crewing, or flying, I didn't have the opportunity to take many pictures myself, but what I took is here. The full results are available on the STACK web-site.

Credit of the picture of one half of the 'double catch': Andy Taylor

Wednesday 10 June 2015

Basingstoke Kite Festival

Our third successive appearance at Basingstoke; we're gradually becoming part of the furniture! Weather was nice and mostly sunny, but the wind was challenging, on both days, but for different reasons. On Saturday, the wind was variable and blustery, full of random holes, bumps and brick walls. We coped, but our routines that day certainly weren't our best ...

We flew our standard Airdynamics T5 kites, not because the wind was perfect for standards, but because the standards gave us the least worse compromise between needing an ultralight and a vented within seconds.

On Sunday, the wind was much lighter, but now had a tendency to drop away completely at times. And of going thermal, turning around the arena so you had no idea where the wind was coming from. T5 Cubans were the obvious kite of choice this time. We almost pulled of another 'double catch' at the end of our first Adiemus routine on Sunday. Irma had caught my kite and I was within inches of catching hers, when she turned her kite around and I was left running across the field trying to grab the kite before it hit the ground. I failed ...

Besides Flying Fish, there were several other pairs and teams present. Team Spectrum flew their usual 'Carl flying two kites' - Carl & Bryan flying a pair routine' - 'Carl flying three kites' set. And the first 'Carl flying two kites' routine on Sunday was to Chi Mai, my favourite Team Spectrum performance (as long-time readers of this blog will know!)

The Airheads were present as a pair (Keith and Vee) on Sunday only (work prevented them from attending on Saturday), and they also flew T5 Cubans.

I mentioned above that we were struggling with the light-and-sometimes-absent wind on Sunday, but all the dual-line pairs had their kites fall out of the sky at least once due to lack of wind ...

Moving from two lines to four lines, The Flying Squad was present with a 4-(wo)man team (Stephen, Susan, Helen and Simon), showing off their skills, and not appearing to be bothered too much by the challenging wind conditions.

Whereas The Flying Squad have been regulars at Basingstoke for many years, I'm very glad to see young blood come into the sport of pair/team-flying (and the UK really needs that!). This young blood comes in the form of 'Tall and Small', a new quad-line pair, consisting of Josh and Ellie. They did fantastically well, especially given that Ellie only took up flying a Revolution a couple of months ago! I look forward to seeing much more of them at events this year and in the years to come.

And not only did 'Tall and Small' fly a pairs routine, they also joined in with The Flying Squad and a few others for a 9-kite mega-fly.

Lots more pictures of the weekend are here, but I do want to highlight one exceptional kite flown at Basingstoke: Christian Baden Powell's Taranis. A truly magnificent creation, and I'm very glad to have seen it fly for real (after having seen photos and a few videos), and to have helped launch it!

Flying Fish pictures credit: Gayle Woodul

Wednesday 3 June 2015

Exmouth Kite Festival

Exmouth Kite Festival was one of many 'firsts' for us. The first 'first' is that this was our Exmouth debut. We'd heard good things about the festival, and certainly weren't disappointed. Weather was a mixture of sun and clouds on Saturday, with much greyer skies (and occasional drizzle) on Sunday. Windwise, we started off with very little wind, which increased substantially over the course of Saturday, whereas Sunday saw very strong winds (up to around 28mph) throughout the day. That did mean that this was the first time at a festival ('first' #2) we went through our entire set of Airdynamics T5 kites, from Cubans to ultralights (on Saturday) to standards to venteds to superventeds (on Sunday), Highlight in terms of our own performances was probably (no, surely) the double catch at the end of our Adiemus routine on Saturday morning, the first time we pulled this off ('first' #3)! It certainly created a bit of a talking point amongst the kite flyers present. Scariest moment came in our first Saturday afternoon routine. We flew our ultralights when the wind all of a sudden increased massively. I really wasn't sure whether we'd break a line or a kite first .... but we managed to complete the routine with only a snapped bungee on Irma's kite. Keith and Vee, of the Airheads, had seen what was happening, and made sure that their standards were ready for us to quickly switch to between our two routines; thanks guys!

Sunday, the flying was actually easier, because although the wind was a lot stronger, it came over the estuary, and so was much more consistent. And this allowed us, for the first time at a festival, to fly our Adiemus routine with our pair of Peter Powell kites ('first' #4). The Peter Powell boys seemed very pleased with us flying their kites in an official festival routine; happy to be of service, Mark and Paul!

Who else were there in terms of pairs and teams? I already mentioned the Airheads, flying routines both as a pair (Keith and Vee) and a 3-man team (Peter, Keith and Vee).

Sky Symphony was present with four people (Graham, Dave, Alan and Chris). They flew most of their team routines with Airdynamics T5 kites, but their final routine of the festival was flown with four 5-stacks of Rhombus Sky fox kites.

The flag of Rev-teams was kept flying by the Decorators, who delivered their usual solid performance.

In contrast to the Saturday arena programme, there was quite a lot of mega-team flying on Sunday. Flying Fish combined with the Airheads and Sky Symphony to form a 8-man mega-team (first time we flew together with Sky Symphony; 'first' #5!). This combination was first dubbed 'Fish Head Symphony' by Paul Reynolds, the commentator, which then quickly turned into 'Fish Soup', and then finally became 'Bouillabaisse'. The strong wind made it challenging to fly in an 8-man team, but we survived without crashes or other mishaps.

The other 'combination team' in the field consisted of Flying Fish together with the Airheads (referred to as 'Air Fish'), flying five kites, each with the Airheads' signature tails. Although we have flown with tails as a pair, we'd never before flown tails in a 5-man team ('first' #6!). On top of that, we were flying several patterns we'd never flown before, which were only explained to us by Peter shortly before we started ('first' #7 for the "Very Swiss Roll", 'first' #8 for the "Dandelion", and 'first' #9 for the "8-0-8"). Although the patterns certainly weren't perfect, we got through without any tail catches or other mistakes, and we felt really chuffed about that!.

And here's a video of the 5-man tails routine of Airheads and Flying Fish, made by Valerie Hancorn:

Keith and Vee must have been happy with our performance, because we were made honorary members of the Airheads!

More pics we took during the festival can be found here.

Picture credit of Flying Fish, "Fish Head Symphony", and "Air Fish": Valerie Hancorn