Monday 31 July 2017

Dunstable Kite Festival

And back at the Dunstable Downs we were, after the hot and mostly windless Nationals. Unlike then, the weather gave us intermittent showers and a rather variable wind. More on that later ...

Besides Flying Fish, the festival saw pair/team performances from Team Spectrum (with Georgina taking another kite-flying lesson; did we witness the birth of a new UK dual-line pair?):

The Airheads were present as a pair, and flew their new 'Sunday Morning' routine on Sunday morning:

The DDOGs (Dunstable Downs Old Gents) performed a smooth flowing routine (if you saw them fly, don't you feel they're ready for flying competition next year?):

And of course, The Flying Squad (do they really need further introduction?):

On to Flying Fish! We were keen to try and fly a few specialised routines, wind-permitting. We flew our main 'Chariots of Fire' routine in all our slots, and 'Adiemus' a few times as well. All those using our Airdynamics T5 Taipans, either Standards or V1s (with brakes on occasion). 

On Saturday, the wind just about allowed us to fly our Superman and Lois Lane routine, using the unique pair of customised Spin-Offs we have for this. Second time after Portsmouth last year that we flew them in public.

And on Sunday, picture this ... In the half hour before our first arena slot of the day, the wind is pretty strong, and we decide to get our Peter Powells out for the second routine in the slot. First routine flown with V1s, with brakes. During that first routine, the wind starts to drop a bit, but still plenty of wind for the PPs. Ground crew switches the kites over after the first routine; Peter Powells now on the lines. Music starts. We launch. Guess what? Yes, wind dies down rapidly, and we're really struggling to keep the Peter Powells in the air, let alone fly anything that looks like a halfway decent routine. Running out of arena due to the constant walking back, kites come down. Ground crew pick kites up again and run back. We try to launch again, virtually no wind ... Our struggles were recorded for posterity (thanks Mike!):

Several video clips were made of us flying, one of which is 30 seconds of our Superman routine. I've merged the four clips together; the Superman clip is right at the end.

More pictures, featuring kites from Gill and Jon Bloom, David Ellison, Nick James, Paul and Helen Morgan, and Carl Robertshaw can be found here.

Credits: Carl Wright (us with T5s), Mike Palmer (us with Superman & Lois Lane, and struggling to fly Peter Powells), Neil Lover (video clips of us flying)

Tuesday 18 July 2017

A.R.C. Reflex

As some of you reading this blog will know, I have a soft spot for unusual kites. Make that a very soft spot. It's fun to fly something that looks different in the sky, kites that you don't see anywhere else.

So you can probably understand that when a pair of A.R.C. Reflex kites was offered for sale, I jumped at it. I knew absolutely nothing about these kites, had never even heard of them, let alone come across them, but their unusual shape, with a single curved leading edge, appealed to me. Add to that that the seller only asked me to pay for postage: no way I could say no!

So here they are in the field, ready for take-off (notice the very long stand-offs!):

The Reflexes don't need much wind, and the spars also clearly send out the message that these are kites for lighter winds. We first flew them in 6-10mph winds, and that was perfect for them. They speed up quite a bit when the wind approaches double figures, so around 10mph is pretty much their maximum. They do tend to oversteer, especially on take-off, and especially if the wind drops. So a relatively narrow wind range.

Obviously, we had to fly them together!

Flying the two Reflexes together showed that they weren't a perfect match. The black/yellow kite was a bit slower than the blue/yellow kite, and handled slightly differently in general (less easy to steer than the blue/yellow kite, for instance). The bridle consists of three separate lines on each side, so no easy option to change the angle of attack by moving the tow point slightly up or down. Having the two in the sky close together also made clear that the shapes of the two kites are subtly different: the blue/yellow kite shows a wee bit more curvature. And indeed, when measuring their wing spans, the black/yellow kite had a larger wing span by about 20cm (2.50m vs 2.30m).

And that brings me back to the question of what the story is behind these kites. Searching the web resulted in exactly nothing. According to the seller, these kites are prototypes of a kite that never went into production. The fact that the two kites aren't exact copies of each other, and that only one sports the name A.R.C. Reflex also attests to that.

Obviously, if anyone reading this knows more about the story behind those kites, and who actually made them, I'd very much like to hear from you!

Thursday 13 July 2017

Brighton Kite Festival

I've said it before, Brighton Kite Festival is special to us as, five years ago, Brighton was the first festival to invite us to fly in the arena. Last year, we couldn't be there as a pair due to work, though Irma attended and flew on her own. So we were very glad to be back again in full force on the site that our festival career took off.

Weather was pretty much gorgeous: mostly sunny, especially on Sunday, and nice and warm. Winds were light, occasionally going down to zero and occasionally going up to 7-8 mph; the wind direction changed quite a lot, sometimes within minutes.

Guess the organisers felt we had to make up for last year, so they worked us hard! Three slots each day as Flying Fish, and two slots each day as L-katz (yes, L-katz flying at a festival again as a 3-man team with Neil in #3 position!). This equates to a total of 16 routines flown over the weekend; I think this is the most we've ever flown at any kite festival.

Due to the light winds dropping away completely at times, we fell out of the sky a few times or had to finish a routine early due to running out of arena. Also, when we flew with our Cubans and the wind picked up sharply, the kites could take it, even though they were overpowered, but one of my lines couldn't .... first ever line breakage during a public performance; had to happen at some point!

As Flying Fish, we flew our standard set of routines, to 'Chariots of Fire' and 'Adiemus'. We had brought kites for other routines, but the low wind made flying those impossible.

With L-katz, we flew to Gloria Estefan's 'Can't Stay Away from You'. We are working on a second team routine, but that's nowhere near festival-ready.

Team Spectrum was also present again, flying their sequence of routines: Carl with two kites (Chi Mai; yay!); Bryan and Carl; Carl with three kites. Like us, they struggled keeping their kites flying at times, and also fell out of the sky once or twice.

And if you ever wondered how some of the pictures on their web-site are made, wonder no more ...

Our final arena presence involved joining other BKF members flying the club's Spirit kites.

Because of our own flying in ten slots, plus crewing for Team Spectrum in an additional six slots, I had little time to take pictures, but here's what I managed to take on Day 1 and Day 2.

Picture credit of Flying Fish and L-katz: Carl Wright

Wednesday 5 July 2017

Thornbury Carnival

When we flew at Minchinhampton Kite Day, we were approached by someone who introduced himself as the organiser of Thornbury Carnival. He explained that every year the Carnival has a different theme, and for 2017, the theme was 'flight'. After seeing our pair, team and mega-team displays, he was very keen to have us fly at the Carnival. So the question to us was: what would it take for Flying Fish, Airheads and Flame to come to Thornbury and put on kite-flying demonstrations? Well, easy question to answer: a bit towards travel costs, and we're game!

So, for us our first invite to a much bigger and more varied event. Unlike the 10-20 minute slots we normally have at kite festivals, we were now given two 1-hour slots, alternating with a falconry display. And with Flying Fish as well as members of Airheads and Flame present, the plan was to put on a sequence of demonstrations, going from one person flying a single kite, to pairs (with and without tails), to a 3-man team, a 4-man team, and ultimately a 5-man team. All with commentary to explain to the public what's going on.

Conditions were far from easy, as the field was surrounded by trees, which created a lot of turbulence. That made it difficult to judge appropriate kites and lines to use, as was evidenced by Barry and Fran suffering several line breakages between them (fortunately, we'd just switched to heavier lines!)

So besides flying as a pair (our Adiemus routine), we flew as a threesome (with Fran):

We flew in a few different foursomes, with Pete, Jay and Barry:

And we flew in a team of five, the "Flamin' Fisheads"!

Not bad spacing, especially given the challenging wind, eh?

Additional picture credits: Thornbury Carnival (3-man flying), Jay Taylor (4 kites in a wrap), Sharon Savell (5-man thread)