Thursday 12 August 2021

Portsmouth Kite Festival

Because of covid, all kite festivals we were invited to in 2020 were cancelled, and the same applied to several in 2021 .... apart from Portsmouth! And that meant that, for the first time in almost two years, we were flying at a kite festival again! 

Being back at a festival after a two-year gap, and seeing all our kite friends again, felt strange. Felt very 'normal' as well, as if it was just two weeks ago that we attended the last festival ...

So how did it go? Well, the weather was far from ideal: strong winds on both days (well over 25mph on Sunday), and torrential showers on Saturday. But we're kite flyers, so we fly!

Focusing on pair/team-flying, as always in my blog posts, who else was there, besides us?

First of all, Team Spectrum. In Brian's absence, Carl was doing the full honours himself this time, flying routines with two and three kites. Weapons of choice, given the strong winds, were his Cheeteyes.

And then, of course, the Decorators! Don't think I've ever been to Portsmouth without them flying in the arena. Using their most vented Revs. they still struggled a bit at times, but nevertheless provided a solid performance.

Flying at Portsmouth for the first time, Fracture, flying CR Fury kites, as a threesome. Two very nice routines to music, which, because of the strong wind, caused them to work hard on getting the stalls and axels just right.

Flying Fish flew routines to 'Rise of the Phoenix' and, for the first time at a festival, to a Carmina Burana mix. The latter routine was basically our technical routine, adapted to fit the Carmina mix.

After flying our pair routines, we were immediately joined by Pea and Lisa, and so flew two more routines as L-katz: our old Gloria Estefan ballet, and a 'make up as we go along' routine to the Targaryen Theme. 

We flew our first slot on Saturday with KiteTech Impulse (mid-vent) kites, but then switched to Airdynamics T5 V2 kites for the remainder of the weekend (and added nappy brakes on Sunday). Flying to music was far from easy, though, and we weren't the only one struggling. Because of the strong winds, it was often difficult to hear the music from the PA system, and that made us miss vital cues in the music more than once. You really need those cues, especially if you want to land right at the end of the music!

Both days were concluded with mega-teams. The Decorators basically formed their own mega-team, and L-katz and Fracture joined for a dual-line mega-team.

A video of the Sunday mega-team is here. We started out with Fracture leading the mega-team, but it became clear that their Fury kites were slower than our T5 V2 kites, so we switched around during the flying (you can see the switch at 1:40 in the video). Hard work in the prevailing wind, but it was fun!

It looks as if Portsmouth will be our only kite festival appearance this year, but at least we're back!

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

Sunday 25 July 2021

Double LiteFlite Radial

One of the LiteFlite models, marketed by The Kite Store in the past, was called 'Radial'. It was a unique dual-line kite, due to the fact that it had a 'sliding bridle'. Anyone who has ever flown a Radial, will probably agree with me when I say "why?????". 

We did get a Radial quite a few years ago, for very little. Simply because I was curious. Flew it a few times, but really couldn't get used to it .... Fast forward, when I was basically given a second Radial; you see where this is going, right?

Yes, we flew the two Radials together, if you define 'flying together' as 'being in the air at the same time and sort of near each other'.

Don't expect a Radial routine from us at a festival ...

Sunday 16 May 2021

Kata - A. Pallas Kites

We regularly get asked by people interested in getting into flying sport kites, at festivals and via email, what would be a good kite to start with. Obviously, a high-end, custom-made, £200+ kite is not necessarily something you'd recommend to someone who has never flown a sport kite and isn't sure yet that that is really for them. 

The Skydog Dream On is a kite I have often recommended in the past, due to its price, use of 'simple' carbon spars (rather than Skyshark or similar), and wide wind range. Unfortunately, coming from the US, the kite has gradually increased in price in the UK and prices will only go one way post-Brexit. Also, the sole UK source is often out of stock, being dependent on imports. 

When I was asked again very recently by someone who got very interested in getting into sport kite flying, I looked for options in the UK. Key aspects for me were: 1) wing span of more than 2m, as larger kites are easier to fly for someone new to the sport; 2) price below £100, to keep it affordable for someone who is not sure yet whether they like it; 3) use of simple spars, so breaking one won't break the bank; 4) wide wind range, so the person new to the sport can fly it as often as possible without having to be overly concerned that the wind isn't 'right'.

Using the above criteria, I homed in on the Kata, designed and made by Adam Pallas. Wing span of 2.10m and for a price just under £100, you even get to pick your own colours! Based on Adam's reputation as a kite builder (we bought a pair of Hurricanes from him last year), and based on the experiences from other flyers who have Katas, I felt confident to recommend the Kata to 'you know who you are'.

I must admit, it did feel a bit strange recommending a kite I'd not flown myself .... You surely see where this is going! Yes, we ordered a pair of Katas for ourselves, customised using our usual green/orange colours and they arrived earlier this week.

Note the matching kite sleeves .... example of Adam's attention to detail ...

Several reasons for getting a pair of Katas, even though we don't actually really need them, having full competition sets of Airdynamics T5s and Impulses we regularly fly with. First of all, we really want to get to know this kite, so we can recommend it properly, based on actual personal experience. Secondly, several people new to sport kite (pair-)flying have recently bought Katas, so having a pair of our own means we can give these people a taste of team-flying (and maybe even join in a Kata mega-team at some point). And, last but not least, the UK has very few designers and builders of sport kites, so any excuse to promote a member of this increasingly rare species

Enough talk, let's get the kites out and fly!

When we arrived on our regular flying field in the New Forest, there was no wind, zilch, nada. Forecast was that the wind would gradually pick up in the early afternoon, and that gave us the opportunity to get a feel for the minimum wind speed they need to fly. When the wind had reached 5-6mph, the Katas were flying, though with some walking back and forth.

As the wind increased a wee bit more, going up to 11mph, we could get a good feel for how they fly, individually first. And that was pretty much how I expected them to fly. They feel stiff and solid on the lines, with very little oversteer. Axels and half-axels come very easily.

Flying them as a pair is next of course!

Tracking is good, and they come out of sharp corners best following a pull-turn as opposed to a push-turn. With more wind, this may be different, though. Refueling is easy, and we went through a range of figures, which they flew without any problems. Of course, we want to test them out more, in stronger winds (they can certainly take quite a bit more than what they got today), see how they perform and what their full wind range is.

Choice of colours was spot on: when the sun came out, the green and orange panels really lit up, and the dark grey started to shimmer a bit.

As you probably gathered, we're very happy with our pair of Katas. The build quality is very good, as I've come to expect from Adam. In terms of flight characteristics, they have the perfect balance for someone getting into sport kite flying between tracking and tricking. Excellent value for money at just under £100, and I was absolutely right recommending this kite; I will continue to do so at every opportunity. 

And finally, just to showcase Adam's level of customer service and attention to detail, this. Together with the kites, he sent us an embroidered patch showing our pair of Katas, which has now been sewn onto the kite bag they sleep in.

Tuesday 27 April 2021

Star Wars kites

Even though my allegiance is firmly with Star Trek (yes, I'm a Trekkie), when I saw three Star Wars kites on eBay for next to nothing, I knew that resistance would be futile ...

When the kites arrived, I realised why they were so cheap. Pretty flimsy plastic sail, and a frame consisting of two thin fibreglass rods. No in-built dihedral: just a spine and a bowed cross spar, similar to an Indian fighter kite. So we took them to the field to try them out, expecting little more than nothing from these kites ...

First up, a pair of 'Naboo Fighters', with a 69cm wing span and shortish yellow tails. We decided to fly them on proper 25m lines rather than the very stretchy-looking lines they came with.

We launched them with trepidation .... It took a little while to get used to them, because they are extremely sensitive to input. Don't move your arms, don't move your hands or even your fingers. You can almost think them into turning; the slightest twist of your upper body is enough already.

They do need constant wind pressure in the sail (no dihedral, remember), but fly they did and we could fly something resembling follow-on and parallel infinities!

On to the third of the three, a 'Darth Vader' kite, with a wing span of 80cm, and a (slightly longer) red tail.

Slightly less sensitive to input than the 'Naboo Fighters', and as we were now used to minimal input, we had no problem flying it.

And then, yes of course ...

Obviously, we have to fly 'Darth Vader' chasing both 'Naboo Fighters' at one point!

Thursday 8 April 2021

3 ... 2 ... 1 ... Thornbirds are Go!

A few weeks ago, I saw a set of three Thornbird kites, made by the long-defunct British Kited company, for sale. For the princely price of £20 per kite. Never came across this particular kite before, but they looked like nice team kite with their 2.62m wing span, so I snapped up the set of three. 

Why I got all three, given that we normally only fly as a pair, or a 4-strong team (L-katz), I'll come back to later, but let's first look at the kites themselves.

Wind was mostly 7-14mph, and the first kite on the lines, Thornbird 1, felt very heavy. Especially when the wind picked up into double figures, it developed quite some pull. 

Thornbirds 2 and 3 felt pretty much the same when we flew them, one after the other.

All three kites felt equally heavy, but despite the quite heavy pull, they all showed to have pretty good tracking. 

We then flew them together in all combinations, and that showed they were all matched very well against each other.

Next step was to tweak the bridle settings for all three kites a bit, bringing the nose slightly forward. That really made them fly less heavy on the lines, without losing any of their good tracking. 

The set came with two narrow tube tails, so obviously ...

As you probably gathered, we're very happy with our Thornbirds. A slight bridle tweak was all they needed to fly optimally for us. Yes, they're well-used and patched up in places, but they have plenty of life left in them, and they're definitely worth the £20 each we paid for them.

Now why did we get the set of three? Well, having a set of three full-size team kites like this gives us the opportunity to give someone interested in team-flying the chance to get that first taste of team-flying without having to spend money on a kite. We know of a particular someone like that already (if you're reading this, you know who you are!), but of course the option is there for anyone who can fly a dual-line kite on their own, and who wants to get a feel for what team-flying is like.

Tuesday 6 April 2021

Another pair of Skynasaur Aerobats

Quite a few years ago, at Weymouth kite festival, a woman was selling a whole bunch of kites. Mostly single-liners, but among these was also a pair of Skynasaur Aerobats, in rainbow colours, with a price tag of a mere tenner ... Even though we already had a pair of Skynasaur Aerobats, I couldn't resist!

For some reason, the two rainbow Aerobats disappeared behind a cupboard ... I found them again the other day, and this time they were soon going to get flown.  

Because of the rainbow colour scheme, they really look cheerful in the sky. We flew them on 30m lines, as we felt that flying kites as small as this (they have a 1.27m wingspan) on our normal 45m lines would make them almost disappear at the end of the lines. 

Because these Skynasaurs don't have stand-offs, they really need to rely on the push of the wind in the sail to maintain their 'rogallo' shape. A sudden change in direction (like flying a sharp corner) distorts that shape, and they don't like that. Bring them to the edge of the wind window, and you run the risk of them losing shape completely and just fluttering to the ground. 

But as long as you fly them at wind speeds well above 10mph, and keep wind pressure in their sails all the time, they're fun to fly!

Sunday 14 February 2021

Double Sky Weaver!

Got this pair of Ariel Sky Weavers off eBay quite a while ago, but for some reason, we never got to fly them. Now, with lockdown preventing us from going out for proper pair-flying, and with some sport fields within easy walking distance, we thought it would be a good time to get them to the air. 

Dating from the mid to late 1970s, this would be their maiden flight after 40+ years, as they were still new in their package. 

As long as they have pressure in the sail, they're pretty steerable, at least for a 1970s dual-line diamond kite. Due to the lack of a cross spar, the frame is very flexible and so able to absorb gusts to some degree. When the wind drops, though, getting them to turn is almost impossible. 

So how do they behave when flying together?

As you might expect from a kite of that era, they're pretty skittish, so flying them as a pair looks rather 'messy'. They're far from ideal precision kites, but of course they weren't designed for that.

Still, we had fun flying basic patterns with these vintage kites!