Tuesday 28 June 2022

UK National Championships 2022

The last time the UK Nationals were held was in 2019, and then covid happened .... But, after an absence of two years, the UK Nationals are back in 2022! Probably no surprise that this return happened at the Dunstable Downs.

The wind conditions were very difficult throughout the weekend. Extremely variable (down to well below 10mph, up to well above 20mph, and that often within a minute) and blustery, especially on the Sunday, and this affected everyone. I'll say a bit more about that later on.

Both 'indie' classes, dual-line individual and multi-line individual, were contested by three competitors: Josh Mitcheson, Harry Neale, and Dan Hoath. Unfortunately, the reigning dual-line individual champion couldn't defend his title as a result of catching covid ....

Only one team competing this year: Fracture in dual-line team. For several reasons, L-katz wasn't able to compete this year, and there was no multi-line team entering.

Also there was no multi-line pair. 

And then finally to dual-line pairs. Three pairs competing this year: Fracture ...

... SkyTracks ...

... and Flying Fish.

On Saturday we few Airdynamics T5 V1 kites. This definitely was the right kite on average, but never actually the right kite: during our technical routine, the kites either threatened to fall out of the sky and we had to walk backwards almost until the 'yellow' line, or raced across the sky, making them very difficult to control. Sunday, with the wind stronger, we flew V2 kites, again really struggling to control them when the wind picked up. Let's just say we have flown figures, technical routine and ballet much better than we did this weekend ...

I mentioned L-katz not competing this year, but Pea and Lisa did come to Dunstable Downs on Sunday, and we flew our technical routine as a demo. Because of the horrible wind, it wasn't our finest performance ....

As traditional, there was a mega-team on Sunday, combining Airheads, SkyTracks, L-katz (Flying Fish and Twisted Bridle) and Fracture.

Almost surely there won't be another round this year, so the titles were decided based on just a single round. Josh took both indie titles: dual-line and multi-line individual, and Fracture the dual-line pair and dual-line team titles. In addition, Harry bagged novice titles in the two 'indie' classes, and SkyTracks won the experienced title in dual-line pair. Full results are available here. 

Oh, and one final thing: you may have noticed me standing next to the field director (Vee Griffiths) in the first two pictures in this blog post. That was because I acted as shadow field director for most of the competition (except when flying or crewing), with the idea of Vee and I sharing field directing between us at future championships. 

Picture credit (Flying Fish, mega-team): Andy Taylor

Friday 24 June 2022

Seal Bay Kite Festival

Following our flying at the jubilee celebration in Croughton earlier this month, we had our first kite festival last weekend! Some time ago, we were asked if we were interested in flying at the inaugural kite festival at the Seal Bay Resort in Selsey. Is the sky blue? We went there earlier this year to try out the field and for some promotional photos and videos, and it's great to see a new festival come on the calendar, given how many we lost over the last number of years. 

Seal Bay Resort provided static caravans to invited flyers, and with Flying Fish's caravan and Twisted Bridle's caravan being across the road from each other, ....

... sticking for the L-katz routines took place Friday evening, lubricated by some fermented grape juice. 

Saturday morning, it was a case of putting up tent and banners, and deciding which kites to use. The weather turned out to be cloudy all weekend, with some rain or drizzle and winds varying a lot, especially on Sunday. 

The festival was split over two sites within the resort: a large field with an arena mostly for pair and team flying, and the pebble beach for large inflatables. I'll say a bit more about Flying Fish's and L-katz' performances later in this post, but who else was performing in the arena?

First of all our sister pair, Twisted Bridle. Due to several reasons, they had hardly flown together for quite a while, so it was great to see them back in action again!

Then there was Fracture, flying as a pair this weekend. Excellent routines, as you would expect from the reigning UK champions. 

The DDoGs added quad-flying to the schedule, and flew their usual calm relaxed routines. 

Simon Franks added multi-kite flying to the weekend, with some of his routines featuring tails. 

And then Flying Fish. We flew Airdynamics T5 kites for our pair routines, which included our 2022 technical routine flown with music, and our latest competition ballet. On the Sunday morning, due to the fast-dropping wind, we had to switch from standards to ultralights, and then again to Cubans, before we could actually complete our ballet; third time lucky .... We really nailed our final ballet of the festival, though!

With our L-katz team (Flying Fish + Twisted Bridle), we used KiteTech Impulse kites, and flew our technical routine with music, and our old ballet (for several reasons, our new ballet is still far from being finished). Our last performance of the weekend was hampered by kite problems developing during the routine (mostly bridle-related), so we had to finish as a pair; the show must go on!

Saturday's evening programme on the beach added illuminated kites to the festival. Sadly, due to the strong wind, the searchlight-flying (in which we would have participated) was cancelled, but at least we were present on the giant screen at the entrance to the beach!

And of course, both the Saturday and Sunday schedule included mega-team flying! Flying Fish joined with Twisted Bridle, Fracture and Simon Franks (plus, briefly, the DDoGs on Saturday) for some fast and furious flying to AC/DC.

More pictures of the festival weekend, including some from the illuminated kite flying, are here.

Picture credits: Alan Pinnock (Flying Fish and L-katz), David Caulfield (mega-team)

Thursday 9 June 2022

Croughton Jubilee celebration

The year 2020 was a write-off in terms of kite festivals and other events, and in 2021 we only flew at one kite festival (Portsmouth). At the moment, it looks like 2022 will see a return to some normality, and the first event we were invited to come to and put on a kite display was a Jubilee celebration last Saturday in the village of Croughton. The Airheads had asked Flying Fish and two members of Flame to join them in putting on a range of kite displays during the afternoon. 

Contrary to the forecast, the morning saw rain, and the wind was, let's just say challenging. Very blustery, unpredictable, and anywhere between 6 and 21mph. Fortunately, the rain cleared early afternoon; just in time! We started off with a 7-strong mega-team, which showed that picking the right kite would be a bit of a problem ... But we pulled it off without any mishaps.

Then the Airheads flew their pairs routine, flying Airdynamics T5 standards.

We were up next, and Keith shouted "wrong kite!" immediately after their routine, allowing us to quickly switch to V1s. Glad we did .... First time we flew our 'War of the Worlds' ballet at a public event, and the wind picked up such that, despite the switch to vented kites, we struggled keeping the kites under control. But we did!

Next up was a slot inviting kids into the arena, letting them have fun with 'doves on sticks' and several other single-line kites. 

The final kite slot involved first Barry and Fran showing how to fly a dual-line sport kite, alone and in pairs, which was followed by another mega-team, this time with tails. Again, the blustery wind didn't make it easy, and we had one kite-tail collision, but we quickly recovered from that. 

Judging from talking to several members of the public, we put on a very enjoyable show over the afternoon. Several people told us that they'd never seen anything like that before, and one said he was inspired to get himself a proper dual-line kite. 

Keith and Vee, thanks for inviting us to join you, and for your very generous hospitality!

Mega-team picture (screenshot from a video) credit: Valerie Hancorn