Thursday, 7 June 2018

Kite sticks!

Back in March, I wrote a wee teaser post about new kite sticks. Well, if you looked at the pictures of last weekend's Basingstoke Kite Festival, you may have noticed we finally got them! The reason why it took so long are for another time, and include the Belgian postal system not exactly being covered in glory ....

But good things come to those who wait, don't they? So here is our new set of kite sticks!

They're made by Team Flying Dragon, of metal, polished to a high sheen. When I saw them, I knew I just had to have these pieces of kite jewellery ... And why four, given we're a pair? Well, they came with the central nut in four colours, which just happen to match the pair colours in our clothing (blue - red) and T5 kites (green - orange). And we can now also take one or two extra people 'sticking' if necessary.

Of course, these new sticks aren't going to make us fly better all of a sudden. But sometimes it's nice just to treat yourself ...

And when not in use, they live snugly in a wee pouch.

Tuesday, 5 June 2018

Basingstoke Kite Festival

I've lost count of how many times we've flown at Basingstoke Kite Festival. Being only a 35 minute drive away from home, it's the nearest kite festival for us.

Weather was sunny all weekend, especially on Sunday. Wind was light and erratic on Saturday, and almost absent on Sunday; more on that later ...

In terms of pairs and teams, Basingstoke 2018 saw essentially the same line-up as last year:

Team Spectrum:

Amalgamation (as a 3-man team now, rather than a pair last year):

Dunstable Downs Old Gents:

And then of course, Flying Fish! Like the other pairs and teams, we struggled with the erratic low wind (but it's Basingstoke, so we didn't expect otherwise). On Sunday, when there was virtually no wind, we tried out flying our Inner Spaces (flown to The Cocteau Twins' "Ivo") and our Kaijus (flown to traditional Japanese music). For both, that was their official festival debut and it worked out pretty well for both pairs of kites. Means we now have some alternatives to our T5 Cubans (which we flew on Saturday, as well as in an extra third slot on Sunday) to fly at festivals when the wind is really low.

And just to illustrate how erratic the wind was: during our first slot on Sunday, we ran out of arena in both routines, but this happened at opposite ends of the arena. Yes, the wind had turned 180 degrees in a space of a few minutes ...

Few more photos of the festival can be found here. Do you like our new fishy 'wind swimmers', by the way? Saw them at the Go Kites stand and they just cried out that they wanted to be part of our festival base camp ...

Picture credit of us flying: Carl Wright

Monday, 21 May 2018

Double Luna Moth!

Just over two years ago, I managed to get my hands on a complete set of original Joel Scholz dual-line kites: Neptune, Jaws, Kestrel, Hummer and Luna Moth.

Not often that you see the full set in one picture; even Joel himself had never seen a picture with all five!

Of course, Neptune pairs up with Jaws, and the same goes for Kestrel and Hummer. So that sort of leaves the Luna Moth on its own .... I wasn't aware of any others in the 'series' and Joel confirmed that, besides a few prototypes, no others exist. 

Rather than let the Luna Moth pine away on its own, I decided to try and find a second Luna Moth, so we'd have three pairs of original Joel Scholz kites to fly. 

Easier said than done .... these kites rarely come up for sale, and if they do, it's usually a Neptune or Jaws. Besides the one we got, I'd never ever seen a Luna Moth offered for sale ... Hen's teeth anyone?

But good things come to those who wait, and I finally managed to get my hands on a second Luna Moth! Searching for one, I put no restrictions on colour scheme, and as luck would have it, I couldn't have found a better one to match the Moth we already have!

New one on the left, old one on the right. Match also to our team colours: blue for me, red for Irma. And after a bit of bridle tweaking, they flew as well together as they looked!

Can you guess I'm really pleased about this addition to our pair quiver? Pretty pleased with the picture as well, I must say; taking pictures while flying remains a bit hit-and-miss, but this is clearly a 'hit'!

Sunday, 6 May 2018

World Sport Kite Championships 2018 - the ballet videos

If you're into pair/team-flying, you'll know the 2018 World Sport Kite Championships took place at Berck-sur-Mer last month. Whereas photos and videos have been aplenty on Facebook, I thought it would be nice and useful to combine ballet videos of all participants in one blog post.

So here goes, in reverse order, and without further ado; enjoy!

#12 - Shanxi Taiyuan, aka China Dolls

#11 - Flame

#10 - Red Alert

#9 - Silat

#8 - AndeSky

#7 - Dalian Storm

#6 - Panam'Air

#5 - Les Mademoiz'Ailes

#4 - Four-Ce

#3 - Atemoc

#2 - Cerfs-Volants Folie

#1 - Start'Air

Congratulations to Start'Air for retaining their title!

Wednesday, 2 May 2018

Nasa WingS

Very soon after we started flying kites, my family in the Netherlands asked me what I wanted for my birthday. We'd been discovering the wide variety of kites out there, and one had caught my attention: a Nasa Wing, so named because it originates from an early design of the parachutes that the Apollo capsules used to return back to earth. So a Nasa Wing 170 from Siegers Vliegers flew towards me before my birthday! First time I could fly it was during the field course in southern Spain for our 1st year biology/zoology students on which I was teaching. So I brought the kite with me, to fly at the end of a tiring day of teaching field biology/ecology.

There are worse places to fly a kite, eh? Final day of the field course, the wind had picked up quite a bit, and I thought I'd see how the kite handled in that wind. Well, let's just say I went belly-surfing over the beach! Once I had the kite back under control, it turned out that one of my students had witnessed and captured my belly-surfing. With an angelic smile on her face, she said "That looked like fun, Lex! Are you going to do that again?" Needless to say, some pictures ended up on Facebook ...

Fast forward by nearly nine years. Had you noticed the capital 'S' in the blog post title? History was repeating itself: family again asked about birthday presents, and, given that we had had fun with dual-line foils, I thought: "Why not get a second Nasa Wing and see what we can do with a pair of those?"

So here's our second Nasa Wing, virtually identical to the first, and again sourced from Siegers Vliegers.

Wind was on the low side to fly them, and we had to fiddle with the bridle setting of the new one, but flying as a pair they did in the end!

And here some video evidence of our Nasa WingS flying together in the low wind:

We need to play with the bridle settings a bit more when we have slightly stronger winds, but I think there's definitely potential in flying a pair of Nasa Wings!

Credit for pictures of me dragged along the beach: Charlotte Lawrance; for picture and video of both Nasa Wings flying: Piyush Patel

Wednesday, 11 April 2018

Minchinhampton Kite Festival

Following our appearance at Minchinhampton Kite Day last year, we were invited back for 2018, and now for a fully-fledged weekend-long festival. As some of you know, Minchinhampton Kite Festival almost didn't happen, until Alfie Jobbins managed to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat: 'Minch' was back on, on a different site: Tobacconist Farm camp site.

So, for the second year running, Minchinhampton was the opener of our festival season. Weather wasn't the greatest: both days saw overcast skies, on-and-off drizzle, and very low winds. As always in these festival blog posts, I focus on the pair/team-flying.

And there was a good line-up of that! First off, Flame, in a new line-up (Vee replacing retired Tony), getting some final festival practice in prior to flying at the World Championships.

Next up, Airheads. Vee was kept busy!

Moving over to quads, Amalgamation performed as a pair, featuring Tom and Jeremy.

And then on to Flying Fish. Given the very low wind, which occasionally dropped down to almost nothing, we decided to stick to our Ruthless Queen and Adiemus routines, as these are not so strictly choreographed to music as Chariots. First slot, we really needed to get our brain in festival-gear again, but the subsequent slots went pretty well.

Saturday afternoon, the wind picked up a bit, and we decided to risk giving our pair of Symphony foils their festival debut. Risk paid off, and we'll definitely fly these more often at festivals this year!

Even though the field was rather small, we decided we couldn't let the opportunity pass of having Flame, Airheads, Amalgamation and us fly in a mixed dual/quad mega-team. Hard work in the very low winds, especially for the two quad-flyers!

In addition to the pairs and teams I mentioned above, one more pair was present at the festival: Twisted Bridle. They are new to pair-flying, and we've taken them under our wings, coaching them and helping them where we can. With no arena experience at a festival, they were really thrown in the deep end Sunday morning: 10-strong mega-team, surrounded by Airheads, Flying Fish and Flame.

They told me afterwards it was exhilarating and terrifying at the same time, but they really held their ground, given their lack of experience, and the very low winds; well done to both of you! Later that day, we also flew with them in a 4-strong team; I don't think any pictures of that were taken, but Twisted Bridle have well and truly arrived at the UK kite festival scene.

As usual, I took lots more pictures of the kites and people at the festival, and they can be seen here. One kite I'll pick out here: the festival debut of Amarinth; isn't he gorgeous?

Picture credits: Neil Lover, Alan Pinnock, Jeremy Wharton; video credit: Neil Lover

Tuesday, 10 April 2018

Double Symphony!

If you have been following us, whether at festivals or via our blog or Facebook page, you may know that we're always on the lookout for kites we can fly as a pair which are a bit 'different'. Also, we're keen to find kites which show the public that you don't necessarily need £200+ kites to have fun pair- or team-flying. With the latter objective in mind, last year we got ourselves a second HQ Yukon, so we have a pair of very basic dual-line deltas to fly.

Another type of basic dual-line kite is of course a sparless foil, and this type of kite we often see flown by members of the public at our regular practice fields and at festivals.

So .....

..... we got ourselves a pair of HQ Symphony Pro 1.8 kites, one Neon, one Edge!

First outing with them showed that they don't need much wind to fly, they are easy to steer and track pretty well, and they hardly deflate. Exactly what we need!

Of course, pair-flying them was the main objective. We tried them on the provided 25m lines, which felt a bit short. We tried them on our standard 40m lines, which felt a bit long. Turned out that 25m lines with 5m leaders works a treat.

Especially when the wind picks up, their speed increases and this allows a sweeping routine, with fast circles, loops, ladders, wraps. They really add something to what we can do at festivals. As to music to fly them to, I've got something in mind, but you need to come to a festival to find out (tease, tease ...)

By the way, we didn't get two .... we got six, allowing us to fly them in a larger team; I think six of these kites flying sweeping patterns will look quite spectacular!

Sunday, 1 April 2018


If John Barresi designs and brings out a new kite, you take notice. So when his indoor/urban Kaiju kite was announced, I looked into it straightaway, argued with myself that I didn't really need one, and resisted for at least half an hour (good, eh?) before putting a pre-order in. For a pair of them ...

We picked them up from our local ParcelForce depot, which, very fittingly, is located at at Kite's Croft business park.

And here's our pair of Kaijus, in a properly urban environment. My kite is white with blue tail and wing tips; Irma's black with red tail and wing tips. As such, they nicely reflect some of the colour schemes we're using as Flying Fish.

First time out was on our regular flying field in the New Forest, with winds of 0-2mph (occasionally gusting up to 4mph). We tried them on the provided 7' lines, which felt very intimate, given we're used to flying on 45m lines!

John has provided a series of video tutorials to indoor flying, and as we have no experience with flying dual-line kites in zero wind, we started at the beginning: up-and-over. Whereas the 'up' went fine, the 'over' was a bit more difficult. Even though the wind was minimal, the kites are so light that even 1-2mph blew the kites back before we could land them. Need to try that again indoors, or when there really is no wind whatsoever.

As we're a kite-flying pair, we had to fly them together, of course! The 7' lines don't work for that, so we hooked them up to 15m lines. And that showed that we can indeed fly them together as a pair. Obviously, they're not as precise as our T5s or other team kites; they're not designed for that kind of flying. But once we got used to reducing our input, we could do quite a bit with them. And they do very nice synchronised pancake landings ...

Second time we had then out, we again had winds 0-2mph, with 3mph a gust. As the 15m lines we flew them together on felt a bit short for pair-flying, we made two sets of very light (20lbs) 24m lines. And that really worked a treat for flying them as a pair!

Of course, we want to try them out much more in surroundings they're designed for: indoor and urban. But we'll definitely have them with us when we go to festivals: if the wind dies down completely, we'll still be able to keep performing.

By the way, the name 'Kaiju' refers to mythological Japanese beasts.

So if we ever fly the pair at a festival, we'll definitely do so to some Japanese music. Something like this, maybe?

Wednesday, 28 March 2018

Team A.T.F.!

As Flying Fish, we've flown in many mega-teams over the years, but one thing we'd never done is fly as part of a mixed dual/quad-line team. Something we've always wanted to try, so when the opportunity presented itself, we pounced!

Getting together for this at our regular team flying field at Stokes Bay were Flying Fish, Twisted Bridle, and two member from Amalgamation: four dual-line kites and two quad-liners.

At first, it was a case of just flying together, getting a feel for how the two types of kites behave in a mixed line-up. The dualies flew on 40m lines and the quads on 120' lines; not identical, but near enough to make things work. As the speed of dual-line kites is less controllable than that of quad-line kites, it was mostly the quad-flyers that had to match their speed to the dual-flyers than the other way around.

Once we had gotten used to flying together in formation, it was play time! We tried out lots of things, bouncing ideas of each other, and generally having fun. Some of the ideas didn't quite work, but most of them did. Obviously, we tried to make use of the specific characteristics of duals vs quads, as why else would you fly the two types together in a mixed team.

Here's an example of that, a move we called 'Monster Threads' and which we practiced quite a bit. Idea is that the duals fly threads between the quads, which are flying up and down to leave space for the duals to fly through and then close up again. The bottom quad is flying reversed so it looks a bit like a mouth with teeth opening and closing (hence the reference to a 'monster').

Flying together for something like five hours, we had a lot of fun and tried out a wide range of patterns. Enough already to get together at a kite festival and just fly an impromptu routine. Hopefully we can get together every once in a while and polish our moves a bit more; but given that flying in a mixed dual/quad team was new for everyone involved, I think we did pretty well in the first training session of Team A.T.F.!

And why the team name A.T.F.? No, it's got nothing to do with the US agency for Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms .... But knowing that the team brings together members of Amalgamation, Twisted Bridle and Flying Fish, you can probably work it out!

Team A.T.F., coming to a festival near you, maybe?

Video credit: Jeremy Wharton

Monday, 19 March 2018

Monday, 29 January 2018

Double Skyraker!

As you may have seen on our Peter Powell Kite Collection blog, we now have a pair of Peter Powell Skyrakers, a 3-panel one and an 11-panel one.

Obviously, we had to fly them together ...

This happened with the wind gusting well over 20mph (on the ground, so add another 5mph or so where the kites usually are).

They do fly well together, but struggle with sharp corners. And despite their relatively small size (1.70m wing span) they develop quite a pull in winds over 20mph! 

We're not planning to fly them together in any specific routine, but I hope you agree with me that it just had to be done ...

Sunday, 21 January 2018

Double Venom!

This all started with Sue Storey posting two pictures of a rather unusual kite on Facebook. She wanted to know what it was, and who made it, as she was keen to get a second one for pair-flying.

No upper spreader, no spine, and a separate triangular piece of sail at the tail end of the kite. Somehow reminiscent of a Utopia ... Turned out that the kite is a Venom, made by Roy and Hayley from Kites Up. Their web-site didn't list a Venom for sale, but thanks to Wayback Machine, I did manage to find an old version of their list of kites for sale, which did have a picture of a Venom.

The unusual design is not obvious from the picture, due to angle at which the picture was taken.

I'm pretty sure you've seen this coming. Quick email exchange resulted in Hayley saying they still had the plans, and they'd be happy to make Venoms if people wanted them. She sent me samples of the range of ripstop colours they had available, and we spent quite some time playing with the colour options to arrive at designs for a pair of matching Venoms.

And here they are, a pair of yellow/gold and gold/yellow Venoms!

Their first time out, the wind was 0-2mph. Bit on the low side for their wind range (5-15mph, according to Roy). Occasionally, the wind gusted up to 6mph and we could briefly get the kites up for maybe 15-20 seconds.

When trying to fly both, they dropped out of the sky before we were able to take a picture ...

Next time we flew them, the wind was 5-10mph, and the kites liked that a lot better.

At light winds, the kites tend to oversteer, and they certainly need to have constant wind pressure on the sail; if that disappears (say, at the edge of the wind window), they may suddenly drop out of the sky. But as the wind gets a bit stronger (8+mph), their tracking improves considerably. Similar to the afore-mentioned Utopia, they turn very tightly. Curious how they will handle in winds of 12+mph; my guess is they will speed up quite a bit. Oh, and they really don't like (half-)axels, though that may well be due to us not giving the proper input; we'll keep trying!

By the way, Ken, Sue's pair partner, did get a red Venom to match her grey one. It's flown here by Ken at Fuerteventura:

The latest UK dual-line pair doesn't as yet have a name; join the Facebook group dedicated to sport kite pair/team-flying to be kept up-to-date on this and anything else related to the sport!

Picture credits - of her grey and red Venoms: Sue Storey; of us holding our pair of Venoms: Roger Backhouse.