Tuesday 22 August 2017

Northampton Balloon Festival

Prior to competing in the first round of the UK Nationals at Billing Aquadrome, the management of the holiday park had already asked us whether we would be able to provide sport kite demonstrations for the Northampton Balloon Festival hosted by them later in the year. And with 'us', they meant Flying Fish plus Airheads, given that we are used to flying and demo-ing together.

So, for us, our first 'support act' for a balloon festival! Similar to when we flew at Billing Aquadrome at the Nationals back in May, the wind was challenging to say the least ... Horrible on Saturday: blustery, full of holes and bumps. And lighter but still very variable on Sunday. We had to have all our kites out and flew all bar the V2 at some point during the weekend.

Unlike at a kite festival, where we normally get 10-20 minute slots, we were asked to provide an hour long demonstration in the morning, and half an hour in the afternoon. To give you a feel for what we decided to do, here's the basic demo schedule we used over the weekend, which we tweaked as and when necessary:

* - Team warm-up: 5-human 'Fisheadz' team (in "Fish Finger" formation: AH - FF - AH - FF - AH) going through the standard STACK warm-up sequence. This to make sure we are aware of the conditions and to check we got the right kites on the lines for the current wind conditions.

* - Individual dual-line ballet to music: Peter did the honours, flying to Evanescence.

* - Individual quad-line ballet to music: Vee flying her Phoenix accompanied by Mozart. 

* - Pairs ballets to music: Flying Fish in the arena; 'Chariots of Fire', 'Adiemus' and 'Ruthless Queen' routines all came out.

* - How to fly a sport kite? Mick demonstrating the basics of flying a dual-line kite, followed by Vee doing the same for a quad-line kite. 

* - Second pairs ballet to music, flown by Keith & Vee to 'Another Way to Die'.

* - Team ballet to music, with tails, flown by Airheads (Peter, Keith, Vee); 'It's Got to be You'.

* - Mega-team: 'Fisheadz', in the "Fish Sandwich" formation (AH - AH - FF - FF - AH - AH) and to Crowded House. We decided against using tails, given the turbulent wind ...

Switching the mic around to whoever wasn't flying in the arena at that time, we provided our own commentary around all our demos, explaining what was going on. Several members of the public came up to us afterwards to ask questions about sport kites, or kite-flying in general, so it clearly struck a chord with some.

But what about the balloons, as this was first and foremost a balloon festival! Due to the wind conditions, the balloons could only fly once, early (6am) Sunday morning. When we woke up in our caravan on Sunday morning, I heard these regular 'whoomph' noises. It took a wee while for the fog of sleep to lift and realisation to kick in: what we heard were the burners; the balloons were launching! Quickly got dressed and walked over to the arena, where we watched the last dozen or so balloons take off. Wonderful sight in the early morning light!


Loads more pictures, mostly of the balloons, can be found here.

Picture credit of us flying as a pair and in the 'Fisheadz' team: Valerie Hancorn.

Wednesday 16 August 2017

Portsmouth Kite Festival

And so we came to our final kite festival of the 2017 season, which, as so often in previous years, took place on Southsea Common. It's not our final event, as we still have one or two on our calendar, but it was our final kite festival.

Weather was cloudy on Saturday and gloriously sunny on Sunday. Wind was mostly 9-16mph on Saturday, whereas Sunday started off with very little wind, after which a light, but oh so deliciously clean, 5-9mph wind settled itself for the rest of the day.

As usual in my festival posts, I focus on the team-flying, and there were lots of pairs and teams present! First of all, Team Spectrum, flying their usual sets of three routines (Carl flying two kites, Bryan and Carl flying a pairs routine, Carl flying three kites).

And then there was the appearance (on Sunday only) of the reigning UK dual-line team champions, Flame.

Moving to quad lines, Amalgamation, the reigning UK quad-line pair champions flew their Phoenix kites.

And the Dunstable Downs Old Gents flew their very chilled 'Albatross' routine.

On to quad-line teams, The Decorators made their appearance.

As did The Flying Squad.

I want to single out one of their routines, which, for me, was one of the highlights of the festival: a 4-man routine flying 7-stacks with tails. Absolutely beautiful to watch!

And then to Flying Fish (yes, Flying Fish is our name, despite Paul Reynolds having more and more difficulty remembering it; it started quite innocently at Exmouth Kite Festival, but I'm now starting to get worried about him losing it, one shiny marble after the other ...).

We flew a total of nine routines, six different ones; this basically continues what we've been trying to do this season: expand the range of routines we fly at a festival, combining general routines with more kite-specific ones. We flew 'Chariots of Fire' three times, 'Adiemus' twice, and 'Ruthless Queen' once; all these with our T5s (V1, Cuban and UL).

Then we flew our 'Superman' routine, with the customised Spin-Offs, once on Saturday, as well as our 'Thriller' routine with the VampDevils.

And we were really pleased to be able to debut our 'Jaws' routine in our final slot on Sunday!

We've been working on it, on and off, for so long now, and it was great to finally be able to bring it to the public. Judging from the reactions from kite flyers as well as members of the public, it hit the spot.

Portsmouth wouldn't be Portsmouth if it didn't end with a Revolution mega-team; the '26' indicating this was the 26th Portsmouth Kite Festival..

Lots more pics, including many single-line kites, are here. One picture I post here: I was pleased I finally got to meet Kate, the kite-flying dog. And get a few doggy cuddles from her.

She wasn't flying any kites at Portsmouth, but this video shows what she can do:

Portsmouth was a fantastic final kite festival of 2017 for us; bring on 2018!

Picture credits of us flying: Franca Perletti, Carl Wright, Marian Linford

Wednesday 9 August 2017

Exmouth Kite Festival

Our third consecutive appearance at Exmouth, and it was a good one! Weather was a mixture of clouds and sunshine, dry, and with decent winds (stronger on Saturday than on Sunday).

Besides Flying Fish, two other teams flew their routines in the arena. First of all, the Airheads flew as a 3-man team:

And The Decorators flew as a 6-man team:

As Flying Fish, we flew a total of six routines, five of which were different! Never flown so many different routines at a single festival. With out T5 Taipans, we flew our 'Chariots of Fire' routine twice, and 'Adiemus' and 'Ruthless Queen' each once. On Saturday, we used our Standards and V1s; on Sunday our Ultralights and Standards.

And then we flew our Peter Powells to 'Heart of Courage' on Saturday. The wind was just enough to fly them properly, and the low speed they flew actually matched the music pretty well.

And we flew our VampDevils to 'Thriller' on Sunday. Again, the wind was on the light side for them, but they kept flying throughout the routine.

Besides flying as a pair, we also teamed up with the Airheads, under the name of Fish Heads, or Airfish, or Fish(y) Tails, or Prawn Sandwich, or Fish Fingers. And I possibly forgot one or two now; Paul Reynolds was coining them faster than I could remember them!

Sticking to Fish Heads for now, we flew another six routines as a combined team; two as a 6-man team, without tails, and four as a 5-man team, with tails. One hairy moment occurred when as a 5-man team we flew T5 Standards and the wind really picked up, but we got through it without any breakage and without getting tails tangled.

Lots more pictures of the festival are here, including Paul Reynolds and David Ellison providing commentary from The Terminator ...

Picture credits of us flying, in order of appearance in this post: Bridget Batchelor Design and Photography, Alan Pinnock, Franca Perletti (2), Marian Linford

Wednesday 2 August 2017


I've mentioned before that we are always on the look-out for something 'different' to do in our arena slots in addition to typical choreographed routines, flown with high-end professional kites. Something that will appeal to the public, and maybe even make them pick up a kite.

One possibility I thought about takes us back to the early days of our kite-flying. We then bought a Prism Micron, and shortly after, a stack of five Microns. The single Micron is mental when the wind picks up, whereas the 5-stack, with its colourful presence, always put a smile on our faces.

So could we actually fly the single and the 5-stack together in a routine? They sure fly differently, have different flying characteristics, but can we make use of that in a routine? It would certainly be something not seen at kite festivals!

One way to find out: fly them together ...

We tried it with me flying the single Micron, and Irma flying the 5-stack. So the stack is following the single kite. We flew them on 25m lines with and without 5m leaders; 30m in total works better for flying both together. Any longer (like our standard 45m), and the kites just vanish at the end of the lines due to their small size (remember, they have a wing span of just under a meter).

The kites are fast and skittish, especially the single Micron. So we would not create a classic fully choreographed routine, but that was not our aim. There are certainly possibilities, with the stack in fast pursuit of an even more frenzied singleton.

Key question now: what music to fly it to? It must be fast and furious, not too long (less than 3 minutes ideally; it takes quite some concentration to avoid crashes with these fast kites) and clear hooks are not so important (as we simply use the music as backdrop). I have some ideas myself (e.g. Flight of the Wounded Bumblebee, or maybe Heart's Barracuda), but happy to hear suggestions!