Tuesday 20 December 2022

Double Stranger!

Over the years, our quiver of kites has come to include a small number of Flexifoil deltas to fly together. So we have a pair of Psychos, which are a real hoot to fly together when the wind picks up.

We have three Scorpions, two of which are stacked together. Flying the stack and the singleton together is fun and opens up new possibilities.

Then we have a pair of Stranger Level 7s. Anyone having flown a L7 will be well aware how much of a challenge it is to fly a pair of these mad kites together, but flying them together we did!

But what has so far been missing from the quiver is a pair of Flexifoil Strangers. Up until now, that is. We got our hands on a Stranger recently, due to a dear friend passing away, and his entire kite collection being given to us. That collection included a Stranger. And soon after, I was offered the chance of buying another collection of sport kites (also due to someone passing away) for a price I couldn't say no to; that collection also included a Stranger.

So off to our flying field we went to fly the two!

They didn't need any bridle tweaking to fly together well-matched. Definitely not designed as team kites, but we had fun flying them together!

Sunday 11 December 2022

Six Falhawks!

Recently, I was offered a set of six THP Platinum Falhawks: two super-ultralights, two standards and two venteds. Falhawks were flown in the late 1990s by Team High Performance (THP), and I've always been interested to see how the AVS (Automated Venting System) of the vented version works. Never flown or even seen a Falhawk AVS before, and the asking price for the set of six was very reasonable, so now I had the opportunity!

I'll report on flying the three pairs in the order in which we flew them. Standards ('Pro Comp') first.

They felt good and solid on the lines, relatively slow-flying and with good tracking. Slightest touch of oversteer coming out of corners. Basically, very nice kites to fly, so that's a good start!

Vented ('AVS') next. 

The venting system is both variable and automated. The vent panels have zippers which can open or completely close the panel; this is the variable part, because a completely closed vent panel essentially turns the kite into a standard. With the zippers partly or fully open, the automated part consists of a bungee cord between the free corner of the vent panel and the lower spreader. The idea behind this is that the bungee allows for the panel to be pushed more open with stronger winds/gusts. So, in essence, the arrangement would smooth out variation in wind strength. 

So does this actually work?

General flight characteristics are very similar to the standards. So far, so good. To get an idea of what the variable venting does, we also flew together with one having the zippers fully closed and one fully open.

This resulted in a clear speed difference, as you would expect: the kite with closed vent panels flew faster and pulled a bit more than the kite with the open vent panels.

And then finally the SULs.

We flew them in virtually-absent winds; 2mph was a gust. 

In zero wind, we really struggled to keep them flying, but they only needed 1-2mph for us to feel pressure on the sail. They had drive in such low wind, and flew slowly and serenely. 

So, overall impressions: Falhawks are good classical team kites, they're pleasant to fly and track well. I'm not sure the automated part of the AVS really works; we need to try in blustery winds with one kite having the bungees in place and the other not. And we need to get a better feel for what the optimal wind speed is for the SUL; I'm impressed as to how low a team kite from the 1990s goes; SUL is wrong; XUL is much more appropriate!

Tuesday 13 September 2022


Now that the competition and festival season is behind us, we can start looking ahead to 2023. What are our plans for competition next year, and what are we going to focus on for festivals?

Let's start with competition, as that's the 'easiest'. Basically, we are not planning to create either a new technical routine or a new ballet, but will continue to tweak and polish the routine and ballet we flew during competition in 2019 and 2022 (of course, due to covid, there was no competition in 2020 and 2021). One major reason for wanting to keep both technical routine and ballet is that we have never been able to fly either in 'nice' winds; it's always been in strong, blustery and really challenging winds. So we strongly feel we haven't been able to show the judges what we can actually do with them.

And then festival routines. After a few years of mostly flying our technical routine to a Carmina Burana mix and a make-it-up-as-we-go-along routine to 'Rise Like a Phoenix', we want to make a few changes. 

First of all, we intend to write more of a choreography to 'Rise Like a Phoenix', so it's less random and, hopefully, a bit more interesting. It won't be a very 'hard' choreography in that every single beat in the music is captured, but more of a 'soft' choreography in that we write specific moves for key parts of the music, and have a number of elements we can use for in-between those key parts. 

Secondly, we want to have a new (to us) piece of music for a 'make-up-as-we-go-along' routine. Not yet decided on what music to use for that, but we have some candidates, and are keeping our ears open for anything suitable (happy to receive suggestions!).

Thirdly, we are considering resurrecting our very first proper competition ballet (to Chariots of Fire). We haven't flown it for a number of years, and it does make a pretty good and fully-choreographed ballet to fly at festivals when the wind is right. Curious to find out how much of that is still in our muscle memory once we start flying it again!

And then, finally, we are thinking of creating a routine that I've been wanting to create for many years, but never really got around to, because it will be very challenging ... In order to explain what that routine is all about, I need to take you back to 1984, to the Olympic Winter Games in Sarajevo, and specifically to the ice dance final. On the ice came Jayne Torvill and Christopher Dean, and this was their free dance:

38 years later, I still remember seeing that dance as if it was yesterday. They did away with all the conventions back then around the structure of an ice dance, and cleverly played the system regarding some of the rules. Needless to say they won gold, with a perfect score of sixes.

Ravel's Bolero is something like 17 minutes long, way too long for an ice dance routine, which is set at just over 4 minutes maximum. Torvill and Dean got the full 17 or so minutes composition edited down to 4 minutes and 28 seconds, which made it almost fit into what's allowed for the maximum length of a free dance (to make it fit, they were clever; if you don't know what they did, watch the first 20 or so seconds of their routine!).

Now 4:28 is also a good length for a kite routine, right? So here's the idea I've had for many years now: Create a routine inspired by their ice dance and to the shortened Bolero track they used (which I have managed to get my hands on). Of course, skaters on the ice and kites in the sky are two totally different things, and can and can't do different things, but it should be possible to come up with a number of kite patterns that are similar to what they did on the ice. As an example, Torvill and Dean skating away from each other, and then skating towards each other again, grabbing each other and then pirouetting around each other can easily be done with kites, ending up in a wrap. Refuels capture them skating in a line or curve in close contact with each other. Etc. I hope you get the idea? 

Without giving too much away, refuels will surely feature prominently, but whether we can come up with enough ice-dance-inspired moves and patterns to fill a 4+ minutes routine remains to be seen. 

We'll surely have fun trying! So, maybe coming to a kite festival near you next year ...

Wednesday 31 August 2022

Bognor Regis Kite Festival

And so we've come to our final kite festival of 2022: Bognor Regis! Last time we flew there was before covid hit us, in 2019, and this year it was back on the festival calendar, again as a 3-day festival. So off to Bognor we went with a car full of kites and kite stuff!

Weather was sunny with variable amounts of clouds, and with virtually no rain (just a wee bit of drizzle on Sunday), so that was nice. The wind, however, was rather challenging .... very little of it on Saturday, and while there was more wind on Sunday and Monday (rarely ever into the double figures, though), it was very flaky and variable all through the bank holiday weekend. 

If you follow this blog, you will be aware my focus when writing posts is on pair- and team-flying, but, as usual, I will provide a link to more photos (including some single-liners and large inflatables) at the end of this post.

Let's start with a one-man sport kite pair, Simon Franks.

I really like one of the music tracks he uses: Ruelle - Come Fly with Me! If he wasn't already using it, we would for sure ...

From Simon, it's a small step to the team he is part of: Team Firefox. The team flew as a pair (Simon and Matt Constable), obviously using their 3.3m wing span Firefox kites (more on those kites a bit later in this post ...).

Staying with dual-line pairs, our sister pair, Twisted Bridle, flew their 'Fly Away with Me' ballet.

Second festival for them this year, following Seal Bay. Good to see them back flying as a pair again. 

And then Flying Fish, of course. We flew our 'Rise like a Phoenix' and 'Carmina' routines, using T5 Cubans on Saturday and KiteTec Impulses (standards and, briefly, mid-vents) on Sunday and Monday. 

One of our 'Rise like a Phoenix' routines was the best we've ever flown to that music, repeatedly stalling the kites just before the fast 'rises', and landing them simultaneously rock solid exactly at the end of the music. Feels great when you pull that off!

Put Twisted Bridle and Flying Fish together, and you get L-katz! We flew our usual set of 'Can't Stay Away from You' and 'Targaryen Theme' routines, again using T5 Cubans and KiteTec Impulses.

The flaky wind did create some problems, especially when it just died in the middle of our compound wrap ... still, we kept the show going, and that's what counts at a festival.

In terms of quad teams, there was just a 'scratch' quad team performing in the arena.

Now I said I'd come back to Firefox kites, didn't I? It just so happens that we had brought our own Firefoxes to Bognor .... At first we played around with them a bit, attaching a pair of the bunnies that were used in the teddy bear drop. As if the bunnies were hang-gliding!

That was just for giggles, but that meant that Team Firefox realised we also brought Firefox kites, and they had a third Firefox with them .... with five Firefoxes among us, we obviously had to form a Firefox mega-team!!

We deliberately didn't fly to music, because (1) we wouldn't really be able to hear the music; and (2) the kites created their own 'music': the roar of five Firefoxes is truly epic! On Monday, the five Firefoxes were joined by a North Shore, which looked quite small compared to the Firefoxes. A video of the Firefox mega-team on Sunday is here.

After we first flew our pair of Firefoxes a few years ago, I said in an earlier blog post, referring to the noise they make: "Imagine four or five of these flying together in team formation!". Well, I don't have to imagine that any more!

Bognor Regis Kite Festival marked the end of our festival season (Streatham being cancelled), and it was a good one. Over the three days, we flew a total of 26 routines (12 with Flying Fish, 12 with L-katz and two as part of the Firefox mega-team), so I feel we went out with a bang (or, rather, with a roar). 

And, as promised, some more pictures of the festival are here.

Picture credits: Marian Linford (Flying Fish, L-katz), Piyush Patel (Flying Fish, Firefox mega-team)

Saturday 13 August 2022

More No Fear ...

A little while ago, I posted on us getting our hands on, and flying, a pair of No Fear kites. And I also wrote that, to the best of my knowledge, there are at least six different sail designs of this kite ...

Well, you may have seen this coming, but I managed to get my hands on two more!

In terms of flight characteristics, these two are identical to the earlier two .... let's just say they're not the best sport kite ever put on the market ...

2 + 2 = 4, so we do have enough of these kites now to fly them with our team ...

Tuesday 2 August 2022

Portsmouth Kite Festival

The kite festival scene is gradually emerging from the covid era. From no festivals for us in 2020, and one festival for us (Portsmouth) last year, we are lined up for three this year (Brighton and Streatham were sadly cancelled recently): the inaugural Seal Bay Kite Festival in June, Portsmouth last weekend, and Bognor Regis at the end of this month.

Weather over the weekend was generally cloudy (with most of the sun on Saturday). Wind came over the water and was 'standard' on Saturday (mostly 7-13mph) but much stronger (up to 22mph) on Sunday. And no rain!

As always in these festival blog posts, I focus on the pair/team-flying, but of course a lot more happened, from art kites to large inflatables (and a gorgeous dragon, which I'll briefly mention at the end of this post). 

Fracture was present, flying both 2-line and 4-line routines, with Fury and Fulcrum kites, respectively. 

Carl Wright (Team Spectrum) flew his usual 2-kite and 3-kite routines.

Switching to 4-line kites, the Dunstable Downs Old Gents (aka DDoGs) performed in the arena. 

And, of course, Portsmouth wouldn't be Portsmouth without The Decorators!

And then Flying Fish, of course! Using T5 kites (standards on Saturday; V2s on Sunday), we flew our 'Rise Like a Phoenix' and 'Carmina' routines in each of our slots (the 'Carmina' routine is basically our current technical routine to music).

On Sunday, when a few of the scheduled slots couldn't happen due to the wind being too strong for the focus kites, we flew two extra routines: we joined Fracture for a 4-strong off-the-cuff routine as 'Fractured Fish' on Sunday morning ...

... and 'Fractured Fish' was further joined by Alan Poxon and Dave Morley for a 6-strong mini-mega-team ('Foolish Fractured Fish Symphony') in the afternoon.

Of course, there was also a proper 4-line mega-team, comprising The Decorators, DDoGs and several others.

More pictures of the festival are here. As I mentioned above, a gorgeous Balinese Dragon was flown on both days, and we helped launch it and bring it back down again.

Picture credits of us flying: Carl Wright, Helen Ribchester