Tuesday 31 July 2018

Dunstable Kite Festival

Dunstable turned out to be a festival of two halves ... On Saturday, the weather was mostly sunny, with some clouds, and the odd spat of rain. Wind was variable and blustery, 6-22mph. On Sunday, on the other hand .... well, I'll get to that!

In terms of pairs and teams present, first of all of course the 'home team', The Flying Squad.

Second quad-line team in the arena were the new UK multi-line team Champions, Wey Aye Quad (with Stephen Hoath as guest flyer).

Moving to dual-line pairs and team, Team Spectrum was of course present, flying their usual set of three routines.

The Airheads flew their usual 3-person tails routines.

Twisted Bridle appeared in their second kite festival, following their debut at Brighton.

And then Flying Fish, of course!

Besides flying two 'normal' routines, using our Airdynamics T5 Taipan V2 kites, we also took advantage of the strong blustery wind to fly one routine with our Peter Powells and one with our Dunford Flying Machines. These vintage kites (~45 years old) had their festival debut, and brought back memories to several of the invited flyers. Music these were flown to? Had to be 'Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines', of course!

I don't know if any pictures were taken, but will update this blog post if any surface.

And then there was Sunday ... forecast was for persistent rain all day, and for very strong gusty and blustery winds (up to 40mph) .... forecast turned out to be spot on ...

After a pilot's meeting, it was decided that the festival would not be cancelled, but that no schedule would be used and that people would simply do what they felt able to do under the circumstances.

For the AirheadsTwisted Bridle and Flying Fish, that meant one thing, and one thing only: mega-team! Up to eight Airdynamics T5 Taipan V2 kites in the air together, occasionally slowed down a bit with nappy brakes.

More pictures of the festival are here. One kite really summed up the Sunday: Josh Mitcheson took a Rev frame, and added a few strips of electrical insulation tape. It flew, and that tells you all you need to know about the winds we had to deal with on Sunday ...

Picture credit of us flying: Helen Ribchester; of the mega-team: Jeremy Wharton

Thursday 26 July 2018

UK National Championships 2018

The 2018 STACK competition season was expected to bring changes, as all dual-line titles were up for grabs (more on that later). Five rounds this year: the first one at Berrow, with dual-line individuals only, as most other potential competitors were already committed to flying at Basingstoke Kite Festival when the round was announced. Rounds 2 and 3 were held at Dunstable, which saw sunny skies and rather variable, sometimes blustery winds. Rounds 4 and 5 were up at Druridge Bay, which again had plenty of warm sunshine, and winds varying in strength as well as direction. Rather than reporting round-by-round, I will give an overview of the various disciplines across the rounds.

As it turned out, the 2018 competitions would be even more exciting than expected: a group of young flyers entered, under the team name Wey Aye Quad (Josh Mitcheson, Daniel Hoath, Ben Taylor, Jeremy Wharton), resulting in at least one entry for all six traditional disciplines (plus, as it turned out, for freestyle).

So let's start with the three multi-line disciplines. Entries for multi-line individual included all members of Wey Aye Quad, plus Keith Griffiths. Josh retained his multi-line individual title, but the field behind him was very close. Great to see some real competition in this discipline!

On to multi-line pair, where there was one entry: Wey Aye Quad, consisting of Josh and Ben at Dunstable, and Josh and Dan at Druridge Bay. As the sole entry, of course they took the multi-line pairs title.

Wey Aye Quad was also the only multi-line team entering, so the title was theirs. But they didn't just show up and win. They put down a fantastic performance with a ballet score of 79.8 on Saturday at Dunstable; this team can go really far!

And then the dual-line disciplines, where, as I indicated already, all three titles were up for grabs following Tony Shiggins' retirement from competitive flying which also meant that Phoenix and Flame were not able to defend their titles.

But first, there were two entries into the freestyle competition: Josh and Ian Perks, making his debut at national competition. Ian snatched the title, though it was close.

In the individual dual-line discipline, there were entries from Josh, Keith, Dan, and Fran Burstall. Fran grabbed the title; his first in an individual discipline, following many with Phoenix and Flame.

In dual-line pairs, there were three entries: Flying Fish, Wey Aye (Josh and Ben at Dunstable; Josh and Dan at Druridge Bay) and Pallas Family Flyers (at Druridge Bay only). Technically, there was a fourth entry at Druridge Bay: Keith and Fran, under the name Ex-Phoenix, flew one round of figures, just for fun. And there were actually five dual-line pairs appearing in the arena .... Twisted Bridle had their arena debut at the Dunstable leg, flying their routine as a non-scored demo. Talk about being thrown in at the deep end! But they coped well, and I wouldn't at all be surprised if they would enter competition before long ...

As the runners-up of the last four years, Flying Fish were the favourites to win prior to the competition. But that didn't mean we would just get the title handed over to us, far from it ..... Our figures and technical routines were a bit of a mixed bag, at both legs. And when it came to our ballets, we were really on a roller-coaster .... 

At the start of our first ballet at Dunstable, Irma caught a tip wrap during an axel, which means her kite came down and had to be rescued by the ground crew ... not the best of starts! Second ballet at Dunstable, we didn't take any risks, just to get a halfway decent score in. But the erratic winds that day meant the score wasn't anywhere near decent .... So all to do still at Druridge Bay .... On Saturday, about two thirds into our ballet, the music 'jumped' several times, and that really threw us out of sync with the music. Fortunately, we were offered a refly, which we accepted, and we nailed it then: best score ever for our ballet, with one judge even scoring us at 70! During the Sunday ballet we had to cope with a rapidly-increasing wind, which forced us to make a snap decision not to take the risk of flying axels in the power zone. Actually, the strong wind may actually have benefited us, as the corners were pretty sharp and snappy due to that. 

After a nerve-wrackingly drawn-out announcement of the results on Sunday afternoon (thanks, Barry!), it became clear: WE DID IT!!!! We were the 2018 UK National Champions in dual-line pairs! Four years after entering competition for the first time; a sweet reward for all the hours that went into practice since that debut. 

One discipline still to report on: dual-line teams. At Dunstable, there was only one entry: Wey Aye . 

And that prompted some discussion about not letting them just walk away with the title and giving them some competition. In other words, making sure that if they won the title, they would have had to work for it. That discussion resulted in a scratch team consisting of Fran and Flying Fish: 'Flame-grilled Fish' entered competition at Druridge Bay. And a proper scratch team it was: we had no opportunity to practice together, and could only discuss common language, figures and possible moves over dinner on Friday, and do a bit of sticking on Saturday (notice the kite sticks?).

Obviously, we made mistakes, never having flown together in a competition arena, but we also pulled off a range of moves, including weave, fountain, and jitterbug with half axels, all of which hadn't been flown before by at least one member of the team. Against that was a fantastic four-kite refuel flown by Wey Aye!

It turns out that, despite that impressive refuel, we did just enough to grab the title! So double gold for Irma and me, double gold for Fran, and between us three, we bagged all three dual-line titles. And in case you're wondering why there is no picture of us with the dual-line team trophy, that's because said trophy was still in possession of Flame, and still needed an update on the engraving front ...

I readily admit that I felt much more pressure this year, being the 'pair to beat', than in previous years. But that also meant that success was that much sweeter in the end. And the dual-line team title provided that extra delicious icing on the cake.

Some more pictures are here (for the Dunstable rounds) and here (for the Druridge Bay rounds). Full results are available on the STACK web-site.

Picture credit of us sticking and flying: Andy Taylor and Peter Heayns

Thursday 12 July 2018

Brighton Kite Festival

Back again at Brighton Kite Festival, the first festival to invite us, back in 2012; time flies, eh?

Warm sunny weather the entire weekend. Wind was light (3-8mph) on Saturday, and really pretty decent for Brighton. Sunday saw much more variable wind (0-13mph), which often changed direction, sometimes over a time period of mere minutes ...

With an eye on the final two rounds of the National Championships two weeks on, we only flew our competition ballet (to "Chariots of Fire") and technical freestyle routine (to "Ruthless Queen"). Struggled with the low and/or variable wind, and ran out of arena on one occasion when the wind dropped and we got caught in the 'corner of death' ...

Who else was there in terms of pair/team-flying?

Team Spectrum, of course, mostly flying their usual 3-routine programme (and struggling with the wind conditions as well at times).

Team Amalgamation had their Brighton debut, and flew with a new team composition. Pity I can't capture the sound of laughter in this blog, as they surely had a lot of fun flying!

And then Twisted Bridle, the pair we are coaching: they had their festival debut at Brighton! Fittingly, the same festival that gave us our first invite, so Brighton will be special to both Flying Fish and Twisted Bridle.

How did they do? I think for a pair that had never flown at a public festival before, they coped admiringly well with the difficult wind conditions. It may not have been as good as they would have wanted (typical for flying at a festival, and certainly with challenging winds), but they never crashed or got into serious difficulty. We felt really proud (and, I honestly admit, a touch emotional) seeing them fly.

As Pea and Lisa (aka Twisted Bridle) have recently joined L-katz, Brighton had a 4-(wo)man team in the arena! Something which hasn't happened for a very long time, we were told. We kept it simple, flying to Gloria Estefan's "Can't Stay Away from You" (which L-katz has been using as their festival routine music for some time) and I think the team performance was well appreciated.

More pictures of the festival weekend are here, which include a life-size humpback whale!

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