Once again Muizenberg in Cape Town (South Africa) played host to the Cape Town International Kite Festival. This was the 18th time this event has been held, and is organised by Cape Mental Health (CMH) in order to raise funds and awareness for their work. This is the 99th year of the existence for Cape Mental Health and they are already looking to make next year’s festival an event worthy of their centenary year.
For more detailed info on CMH and the festival, you can check out the following links…
- CMH website: http://www.capementalhealth.co.za/
- Festival web page: http://www.capementalhealth.co.za/kite/index.html
- Festival Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/CTKiteFest
What follows from here is my personal journey and experience at this event as an invited guest. For some more general event reviews from press, photographers or the public I suggest checking out the following links…
- Laura McCullagh Blog and photos
- BBC video report
- China Network Television (Chinese video report)
- Photos at China Daily
- Dylan de Castro Blog
- Irene McCullagh Photography
I first got to attend this event two years ago as part of the Windsong Kites crew. At that time I was less than a year into my Rev flying and it was my first festival. This time I was invited down in my own right, bringing with me a LOT more in terms of kites, equipment, skills and experience.
I was actually in Long Beach attending the Washington State International Kite Festival when the emails solidifying my attendance in Cape Town started to flow. This provided a great opportunity to chat to others about the event and things that I could do for the event. My goals were simple – firstly, to put on the best showing of Rev flying I could muster for CMH, and secondly to introduce everyone around me to the joys of flying.
I came back to South Africa with a host of ideas, equipment and enthusiasm. Over the next two months logistics were finalised, ideas tested, skills honed and a 3-stack of B2’s built. I also spoke to the friends I would be staying with in Cape Town about doing some demo flying at schools (something I’ve seen iQuad do) and this was soon arranged.
With everything arranged and ready (well, the building of the stack was a race to the line, but that’s another story) there was nothing left but to get down there and do it.
I was scheduled to arrive at 14h30 on Thursday afternoon, too late for all the press and publicity events of the morning and previous day, but in time to make a casual fly at Blouberg. Probably because I was looking forward to getting in some airtime and meeting the other attendees, my flight was delayed by about 90 minutes. This meant that by the time I arrived, it was already getting into peak traffic by the time I had collected my hired vehicle. Still, I wanted to fly and meet people so I made my way through all the same, even if just for a short while.
This was just a casual fly to raise awareness, with no actual program. We were stationed between the beach and the beach road so it was a fantastic location for getting attention. When I arrived, the attendees from India, Singapore, Malaysia, Turkey, Germany and South Africa were all already in the air. The winds were pretty gusty, but I broke out the mid vent and proceeded to have some fun on my 50’ lines.
Even though I was delayed getting to Blouberg, I still managed to get in about 90 minutes of flying. We could’ve gone longer, but temperatures were dropping and stomachs were growling and the international guests were tired from a long day. After packing up, it was time to go through to the friends I was staying with, relax, and prepare for the following morning of demonstration performances.
The flying location can be seen here – http://goo.gl/maps/5tSXq
Some video taken by Halit Cebeci before I arrived:
Friday morning was an early start since I had 2 schools to fly at. This was something I had never attempted before, so everything (including the locations) was a complete unknown to me. I was actually somewhat nervous about this due to the uncertainty, but I was there to do a job and I was going to give it everything I had.
Tiny Tots Pre-school
The first demonstration was at Tiny Tots pre-school, so it was going to be a very young audience. The good news was that they had a park nearby and that’s where they wanted me to fly. It was big enough that on 30 foot lines, I was not going to encounter any turbulence issues. The bad news was that there was no wind at all – nothing like a little added pressure. Thankfully I had about 20 minutes before the kids were going to arrive so I could setup and try out the conditions. Flight was possible, but there was a LOT of footwork involved as well as 360’s and 3D work. Mercifully, the wind slowly crept upwards and by the time the kids arrived, there was a steady wind direction. It was light, but it was enough for me to work with and not have to run myself silly.
With the kids seated, we started with the introductions, why I was there and chatting a bit about different types of kites and about revs. The kids were all well behaved and attentive, but when asked if they had questions they just wanted the flying to commence … and commence it did. The wind wasn’t enough to fly flat footed, but it was enough to work with and gave me full 3D possibilities.
The kids were enjoying the flying when we had an unexpected twist to the morning. A police woman arrived and wanted to chat. As it turns out, in South Africa, Children’s Day is celebrated on the first Saturday of November so she had come with a packet full of ice cream for all the kids. Not only was this a positive surprise, but came right at a time when I was starting to try to identify someone to use as a volunteer. I had already been flying over the heads of the kids and all the usual figures and tricks, but it was time for some physical interaction. I asked the lady if she had 10 minutes to spare and she rather nervously said she had. I had her go stand near my (grounded) kite and then proceeded to play with her, much to the amusement of the kids. After a while we let the poor lady go, flew a little more for the kids and then let a couple of them chase my kite. I love playing catch the kite with kids and dogs and everyone including those spectating enjoyed it as my kite hopped away, cartwheeled over the pursuers, reversed direction and bobbed and weaved all over.
Sadly there are no photos of this event, but it went off very well with lots of kids saying they would be at the festival the next day. Even if they were not there, I have no doubt they will be telling their parents all about it.
The flying location can be seen here – http://goo.gl/maps/aRn61
Muizenberg Junior School
After a quick tear down and short drive from Tiny Tots, it was time to fly for Muizenberg Junior. The wind was now at a reasonable speed, but the location was going to be the biggest challenge. The field was only just wide enough for my 30 foot lines, had a concrete wall along the road side (where the wind was coming from) and there were trees along the wall.
The field can be seen here – http://goo.gl/maps/idvq8
Thankfully the wind was coming at an angle, so I had a little more space to work with. The challenge here was that I had 3 distinct layers of air – The bottom layer was the air shielded by the wall (light wind), the middle layer was the turbulent air created by the trees, and the top layer that was overpowered and gusting due to the urban surroundings. To add even more pressure, the ever changing wind speed would have these layers moving up and down and I’d have to read it moment to moment. Still, at least I had a consistent wind direction to work with, the other changes I would feel down my lines.
As with Tiny Tots, I was there early to setup and get used to the conditions ahead of time. There were already many kids out on the field doing their thing, but I setup and launched anyway. I think it took less than 5 minutes for them to go from hesitancy when the kite came near them to ‘let’s swamp the kite’ which ultimately resulted in me having to fly for some time without the ability to land for fear of my kite’s life … LOL.
Eventually the teachers led their classes out and seated them around where I was going to fly. There wasn’t much talking done here other than to promote the festival; this was almost entirely a flying demonstration. The winds were challenging as I predicted, but I made sure to give everyone attention – even those in the back corner where there wasn’t really any wind. Everyone enjoyed it, even the teachers, and there was much cheering.
At the end it was really tough for the teachers to round up the kids and get them to class because everyone wanted to play with the kite. There were so many kids trying to catch the kite with so much enthusiasm we had to block them off so I could back out to a safe location and land for packing up. I don’t have an exact count, but this certainly beats all records I had of kids chasing my kite.
With the mornings activities wrapped up it was time for lunch and a more relaxed afternoon. The other invited guests have the Friday off to do a bit of sightseeing around Cape Town. The good folks at CMH put together a nice program for them and drive them around for the day.
In the afternoon I picked up my friend Nick Venter and, after doing a demonstration fly for some relatives, headed off to the site of the festival to get my first look at the field. The winds were now typical of Cape Town and I broke out the Xtra vent to fly a bit and feel out the location. I think Nick ended up doing almost as much flying as me that afternoon. It was his first time in the air with a Rev and I think he’s well on his way.
Friday evening was a cocktail evening and official welcome by CMH held at Casa Labia. This was actually the first time I got to interact with everyone in a social setting and learn more about them and what they do. After a nice evening it was time to head home and prepare for the main event.
With all the internationals scheduled to be on site at 08h30, I got up early and made my way to the field at 08h00 to see what the completed setup looked like and figure out where I needed to be so that I could interact with and entertain the crowd. As it turned out, the rest of the KZN crew (Kwa-Zulu Natal being the state/province which I stay in) had also decided to be early birds and were already there. It turned out to be a recurring theme I noticed all weekend – the KZN crowd (in the form of me, Nadia and David from Hi Fly kites and Greg from Windsong Kites) were almost always pushing hard.
The flying location can be seen here – http://goo.gl/maps/2D5RD
I picked out a nice corner near the crowd, dropped my gear and went back to the hospitality tent for some light breakfast fare. I must point out that the organisers did a brilliant job at taking care of us all weekend. Not only was there some light breakfast and lunch provided (and a braai/BBQ on Saturday evening that I had to miss), but they sent people around during the day to bring us something to drink. With the heat in South Africa, the work rate demanded by the low wind conditions, and the fact that I rarely put down the handles for a break anyway … this service was invaluable to me. I frequently dehydrate myself because I just get so into the zone I forget to stop. With someone coming around every now and then during the day, I was saved from my own enthusiasm.
Those who know me know I can’t sit still for long when there is flying to be done, so in typical fashion my breakfast was short. The event wasn’t scheduled to start until about 10am, but there was flying to be done … even if there was next to no wind at all. It was a little misty, but the predicted weather was all sunshine all weekend. Wind was near non-existent, but within my skill range. Since I was planning to interact with the crowd and in low wind, I went with my Polo rev on 35 foot lines. I also setup one of my B-Pro revs on 50 foot lines to allow for fast switching if needed.
The above photos show the field, hospitality tent and me doing a little flying before the event officially started. Aside from just wanting to fly, I was really trying to develop a feel for the challenging conditions. The morning was hard on the show kite guys, practically nothing flew. I saw various lifters, deltas and more tried with very little success. At best, the things that flew mostly got worked to a very low height but wouldn’t stay there and would either eventually come back down, or have to be worked to stay up. They were all trying hard, but it was really just me and the Indian team, with their fighters, that could operate in these conditions.
The wind was actually challenging all day long, with direction switches all day. The wind would come up for a while, then rapidly drop to zero and come back up in a totally new direction. This must have happened at least 10 times throughout the day, and even the strongest winds were still light (I was on full sail all weekend, save for about an hour of extremely variable wind on Sunday). The constant changing of speed and direction was challenging to me, but it was hell on the show kite guys who had to keep repositioning, readjusting and starting over again.
Challenges aside, I was there to ‘do a job’ and I was going to be in the air. The crowds started growing, the sun started shining, and the wind started picking up a little … it was time to play. I spent as much time as I could interacting with people, both on and off the field. There were a lot of press photographers on the field as well as volunteer helpers … these provided lots of opportunity to interact where the whole crowd could see.
At one point in the afternoon we did have some better wind and I was finally able to put up my 3-stack of B2’s for the crowd. This is actually the first stack I have built and it was a race to tie up all the lines needed. Because I can’t justify the cost of a permanent stack, I took my B2 set (standard, mid and vent) and added pigtails to each and made up the link lines. I only JUST got this made and tested (for about 20 minutes) before I left for Cape Town, so I was glad I finally got to show it off. All the hard work was worth it when the crowd let out a collective *gasp … ahhhh* as the stack leapt into the sky. I still have some tweaking to do, but the stack flew very well and the crowd loved it.
After the wind died again, the stack went back in the bag and it was back to the short line for the rest of the day. However, earlier in the day while flying the Polo on short lines, I had one of my best moments flying.
While doing my thing, I noticed this little blond girl in the crowd. I proceeded to do my usual interactions and fun things – walking the kite, doing cartwheels, hops, etc. She was totally captured by the antics and was so gentle whenever I came close enough for her to touch the kite. At one point, I landed in a tip stand really close to the fence and slowly started to lean the kite in towards her. As the kite leaned in closer, so she leaned forward as well. Eventually the kite and her got close enough and she actually kissed my kite. I don’t even know her name, but that little girl made my day right there.
Sunday was another early morning, but not as bad as Saturday. I was still there ahead of the international brigade since there was flying to be done. Once again I dropped my gear at my spot, had a little food and then setup and launched.
The weather was sunny with a little more wind than the day before. There were still some struggles for the show kite guys at the beginning, but much less than yesterday and it soon picked up enough for everyone. There were a few direction changes during the day, but overall the big kite guys had a MUCH easier day compared to Saturday.
Even my friend Nick (who I had dragged along on both days to assist me) got in on the act and was flying one of the kites CMH was selling to raise funds. I think he got 3 or 4 of them so his whole family could fly, but he couldn’t help flying his tadpole (as I called it) right then and there. He actually worked that little kite most of the morning and had many people ask him where they could get one as well. He’s well on his way to starting a new activity he can enjoy with the whole family.
For me it was more of the same – low wind 3D work, crowd interaction, flying to whatever music was coming out of the Coke Gig Rig, etc. At one point I was in the right position with the right wind to start playing with the performers waiting to go up on stage. Sadly, I was on my short lines at the time otherwise I think Revolution Kites would’ve made an appearance on stage (or the stage roof at the very least) – there’s always next year.
At the end of this event I am very happy with things. I think a good start was made and people are starting to see what is possible. There is a long way to go, but the crowd was happy, the organisers were happy and I was happy so I’m going to call that a win all around.
On the event side of things I’d like to thank Ashley Ware-Lane, Ingrid Daniels and the CMH team, Cathy and her marketing team, Shameemah and her event organisers and all the other volunteers for making this a really enjoyable and successful festival.
Thanks also go to many members of the Revolution family for getting me to where I am and instilling the right mind-set to make these things happen.
I am looking forward to making next year’s festival even better for CMH, and I already have a few things up my sleeve.