Wednesday 28 December 2016

9 Trlbys and 9 Aces

If you're seriously into kite-flying, you will have heard of a Trlby, an American Peter Powell-like dual-line kite, with a fibreglass frame and plastic sail. Of course, a Trlby had to be part of my collection of early-dual line kites, and it didn't take long to get my hands on one:

Not long after, I stumbled across two additional Trlbys, so I could stack them together to fly as a Trlby triple-stack:

Good things come to those who wait ... keeping a regular eye on eBay resulted in six more Trlbys, and the triple-stack could be extended to a 9-stack:

Now why am I writing about these Trlbys in our Flying Fish blog? Well, because some time ago, I got my hands on a job lot of early dual-liners, and that job lot included a 9-stack of Ace kites, the UK equivalent of the Trlby.

So, clearly, Flying Fish had to fly the two 9-stacks together!

Apologies for the less-than-perfect picture of the two 9-stacks flying together, but flying one of the stacks, trying to avoid it catching its own tails on its stacking lines, trying to avoid the tails of the two stacks getting tangled and taking a picture at the same time was a bit of a challenge. This was the only picture with the two stacks more or less in focus ...

One thing was clear: if we are ever to fly these two 9-stacks at a festival, we will need a dedicated ground crew to help us set up and take down.

Tuesday 20 December 2016


During the past festival year, I've become more and more convinced that if we want to attract new people to the sport of kite-flying, we really need to inspire them to pick up a kite and start flying. A technically challenging routine with dual-line delta kites may not be the best to inspire the next generation of kite-flyers, as it may appear to be unachievable for someone who has never even flown a kite. Of course, dual-line kite routines will remain at the core of our festival portfolio; we have no intention at all of abandoning that. We have already become more focused on expanding what we can do in the arena at festivals. Adding a quad-line routine to our portfolio, as we did at Dunstable Kite Festival, is part of that expansion, as is flying our Superman & Lois Lane Spin-Offs, which got their UK premiere at Portsmouth Kite Festival. Reactions to both of these additions to our portfolio have been very positive, with one kite flyer telling us he really liked to see competition teams having a wider range of non-competition routines under their belts for festivals.

Given that big inflatables are always very popular with the public, we are now also looking more at possibilities and opportunities to do more with soft kites and airfoils. As I blogged about recently, we now have a pair of Flexifoil 2-stacks that we can fly if the conditions are right.

Earlier this year, we got ourselves a pair of single-line whales, which pop up on eBay very regularly, and for very little money. Idea was to try and convert them to dual-line flying.

Did that work? Uhmmm, no, not at all. I replaced the existing single-line bridle with a dual-line bridle, played a lot with relative lengths of the various bridle lines, but none of the tweaks resulted in a kite which was even remotely steerable ... Oh well, can't win them all!

Looking around for other options for dual-line soft kites, there are airplane-shaped airfoils, which I'd seen being flown at several festivals before we got serious about flying at festivals ourselves. These would certainly spark the imagination of the public at festivals.

Although I've never seen them myself being flown as part of a pair routine, this video shows it certainly is possible!

Another dual-line airplane airfoil I stumbled across is this one inspired by Wallace & Gromit:

I can certainly see us fly one of these at festivals, to the theme music of Wallace & Gromit, obviously. Just need to get my hands on one ...

And if we're seriously talking about dual-line airfoils, there's always the 4.5m wing span PiraƱa ...

Chances of adding one of these to our quiver are close to zero, especially as they're not sold commercially, and my kite-making skills are most certainly not up for a challenge like that ..... Question is actually whether a dual-line airfoil as big as that will actually be able to fly loops and circles; maybe a pair at half size would be better?

Back to airplanes, we have actually flown one of these, once, at Malmesbury Kite Festival in 2013. It was quite a bit larger than the standard airplane, and we both had a go at flying it, and trying to get it to fly a full circle. Great fun, but it certainly wasn't easy to get the line length differential between left and right hand enough for it to turn. If we ever get our hands on a large airplane kite like this, we may well fly one with the two of us, each controlling one line. That should make flying loops and circles easier, and it would certainly add something novel to the UK kite festival scene. I bet we'd need to practice two people flying one kite!

If anyone has one or a pair of dual-line airplanes for sale, please get in touch. And if anyone has other ideas for dual-line soft kites which would spark the public's imagination and with which we could fly routines at festivals, I'd be interested to hear! 

Saturday 10 December 2016

A pair of Trilobites

When we flew at Portsmouth Kite Festival, we participated in establishing a world record; a mass fly of Trilobite kites. Doesn't matter that, since then, the world record was broken again, and is now back in the US. One thing was clear on the day: we had to have a Trilobite as well, to allow us to participate at Trilobite mass flys at future festivals. And, obviously, as one Trilobite will pine away, it had to be a pair ...

Anyone who has spent time with a kite colouriser knows what happened next: many hours of playing with colours and patterns. We wanted a pair of Trilobites which were ever so slightly different from what you normally see. In the end, we opted for a white back (to allow the body colours to come out crisper) and matching white pygidium (the tail end; black on the majority of Trilobites), while the 'antennae' were also different from what you normally see. Making use of the full range of colours offered by the Kaixuan Kite Company, we ended up with nine different colour schemes.

Next step: which two to pick? Irma was diametrically opposed to my suggestion to just get all nine; saves having to pick and choose! After lots of uhm-ing and ah-ing, we finally decided on the blue and pink/purple one, and justified us getting a pair, because they would be Irma's birthday presents.

I must say the service from Kaixuan Kite Company was excellent. Monica Lou was always quick to reply to emails and very helpful from start to finish. Once the order was in, she kept me up-to-date of what was happening, and sent me photos of our two Trilobites on their factory floor, ready to ship:

Irma's birthday having arrived, our pair of Trilobites could be released from the bags they've been waiting in for the last two months or so!

They flew very easily, and put on a great show together!

Happy birthday, Irma!

By the way, as you're probably aware, there are two people in Flying Fish. And they both have birthdays ....

Saturday 19 November 2016

A new pair of T5 Cubans

If you've been following this blog for some time, you'll be aware that we have a full set of Airdynamics T5 kites, which includes a pair of super-ultralight Cubans. So that's the situation for Flying Fish, and we can fly with almost any wind. With L-katz, we're mostly flying North Shore Radicals (plus VIPs and Konas), and the other members of the team also have an ultralight T5 Taipan for when the wind drops below what the Konas can deal with. But if the wind drops further down, we're basically stranded as a team ....

With that in mind, we decided to get a new pair of Cubans for Flying Fish, and then move our earlier pair to the L-katz team bag, so we can keep flying as a team even if the wind drops to almost nothing.

We've had our new Cubans for some time now, but every weekend since we got them, the wind was too strong for their maiden flight. Until today, that is, when the wind struggled to get above 4-5mph, so here's our spanking new pair!

You may notice that our new pair has only grey cuben in the sails; this is simply because white cuben isn't available any longer.

Obviously, we flew them together, and they behave exactly as you would expect from these kites.

Look forward to flying them much more, and also together with their older siblings as part of an L-katz display!

Sunday 13 November 2016

Double Flexi-stack!

More than 3 years ago, I blogged about a Flexifoil Stacker 6 2-stack we got, and said we'd be looking for a second 2-stack, to fly them as a pair. Well, time flies when you're having fun! We've actually had a second pair of Flexifoil Stacker 6 kites for quite a while, but simply didn't get around to flying it, and testing out whether two 2-stacks would work for pair-flying.

So here finally is our second Flexi-stack, in the Midnight colour scheme!

And as we now have two 2-stacks, next step was testing out their suitability for a pair routine.

Turned out it worked fine! Of course, they're not as snappy as a dual-line delta kite, but we could easily fly synchronised circles, loops, ladders, jumps, wraps, and boxes with round corners. And no, they don't axel ...

What music to fly them to? One thought that crossed my mind is Jean-Michel Jarre's Oxygene IV.

It has the right speed and rhythm, and the 15 seconds of 'air' before the actual music starts would give us opportunity to get the kites launched and in the air before the 'routine proper' begins.

Another bow to our string, possibly coming to a festival near you in 2017!

Sunday 6 November 2016

Another Double Dunford

Dunford Flying Machines came in three sizes: with a 41', 51' and 61' wing span. Flying Fish already has a pair of 'small' (41') Flying Machines:

And we also have a single 'large' (61') Flying Machine:

It's pretty clear what's missing from our quiver: a 'medium' (51') Flying Machine! Cue a fellow kite flyer, who handed me a bag with sails and dowels at Basingstoke Kite Festival: free if I wanted them. Upon opening the bag, I found myself in possession of two Dunford FM sails, and more than enough dowels and other essentials to frame them several times over. Thank you, you know who you are!

The first outing of our pair of 'medium' Flying Machines was in rather extreme conditions: the wind was gusting over 40mph. Very soon after launch (and I'm talking seconds in one case), the two kites suffered from a broken cross spar and spine, respectively ....

The dowels were easily replaced (the bag contained plenty of spares, remember?), and finally both 'medium' Flying Machines were ready to fly together. The wind was much more more benign now, up to 18mph.

Compared to the 'small' ones, the 'medium' Flying Machines are a tad slower, and don't turn as fast. But they really feel as you would expect from a Dunford Flying Machine.

To complete the set, we just need one more 'large' Flying Machine ... But that will have to be in a different colour from what we already have. So no blue, orange, yellow, red or green. Did Flying Machines come in pink, purple, brown, white or black???

Saturday 15 October 2016


Being Flying Fish, we have a bit of a soft spot for fish-shaped kites, so when I stumbled across a Fisch-Fighter, made by Rhombus, I couldn't resist it and its cheerful smile ...

It's a small kite, 1.07m wing span. Ripstop sail, thin fibreglass spine and cross-spreader. Plus a funny little ball on its nose! More on that nose later, but how did it fly? First of all, it can be flown as a fighter, on a single line, or on two lines. I opted to flying it as a dual-liner.

To be honest, given how thin the spars were, I expected the kite to be very twitchy and skittish. But lo and behold, my expectations were well exceeded! Of course, it doesn't compare to a full-size sports delta in any way, shape or form, but as long as it had wind pressure on the sail, it was certainly steerable and far less twitchy than I thought it would be.

Back to the little ball on its nose. It could of course simply be there to cushion the effects of a lawn-dart. But I've never seen something like that on any kite, and I reckon there might just be a bit more to it .... When looking for more information on this Fisch-Fighter, I stumbled across a mention of this kite also being sold as part of a set, which includes a ring through which the ball on the nose must be flown ... Thoroughly puzzled, I emailed Rhombus, but never got a reply. I'll keep looking for details on this larger set, and how the nose should go through the ring. If you beat me to it. let me know, ok?

Sunday 4 September 2016

Exmouth Kite Festival

With Exmouth kite festival now behind us, we've yet again reached the end of a festival season. It seems only weeks ago that we had the opening of our festival season at Weymouth. Since then we've flown at Streatham, Basingstoke, Brighton (Irma only), Leominster & Hereford, Dunstable and Portsmouth. Plus competed at the Nationals, of course.

Exmouth is often said to have a bit of a microclimate of its own, and conditions were definitely challenging at times. Saturday was cloudy, with the wind variable, both in terms of speed (0-11mph) and direction. Sunday again saw varying winds (0-16mph), some sun, but also intermittent showers throughout the afternoon. Especially the variable wind speed meant it was very difficult to plan ahead which kites/routine to fly ....

Focusing on team-flying, as I normally do in this blog, we first come to the Decorators, who were present with a 6-(wo)man team. At the start of their first slot, the wind died down completely, which led several of them to fly multiple 360s, just to have something happening in the arena to entertain the public. When there was wind, they flew their usual professional routines.

The Airheads flew several 3-(wo)man routines, with and without tails. They also struggled with the wind dying down to nothing at times, especially when they were flying with tails.

And the third and final team flying at Exmouth was Flying Fish. Interestingly, all three teams had one woman in the ranks .... For two of our four slots, we just hit those 5-10 minutes when the wind died down to virtually nothing, but we did what we could, flying our 'Chariots of Fire' and 'Adiemus' routines. They weren't the best performances we ever gave, but given the conditions, they weren't too bad.

Just before our Sunday morning slot, the wind picked up quite a bit, enough to risk flying our Peter Powells to new music. We almost got away with it, but had to abandon maybe half a minute or so before the end, when the wind dropped down so much that the kites fell out of the sky. Still, a routine debut! More information on this is found in our sister blog.

With Airheads and us invited, a combined team slot was on the programme. Rather than the 'fish sandwich' formation we used several times this year, where Flying Fish is sandwiched between two Airheads on either side, we flew in a slightly different formation, with the three Airheads and the two Flying Fish alternating; this new formation was quickly dubbed 'fishfinger sandwich' ...

Of course, lots of other flyers performed in the arena over the weekend (Paul Thody, David Ellison, Gill Bloom, Nick James, Trevor Reeves, Cao Quan, Martin Lester, Alfie Jobbins, Tim Rohn, to name just a few). And one of them might just lead to a very special pair of kites for Flying Fish .... watch this space over the next few months. What I felt was also a very good idea was to have slots for the public to come into the arena, and fly 'professional' kites (Nick James' Angels), helped by the invited flyers. After all, if we as flyers don't inspire the next generation to take up the hobby/sport, kite flying will be extinct within a generation. Lots more pictures of these flyers and their kites, plus a few of rain recess entertainment in the form of Vee catching bubbles, are here.

Pictures of us and 'fish finger sandwich' flying, credit Marian Linford, Trevor Reeves, Valerie Hancorn