Issue 57: Toro, Toro, Toro…

Red Bull gives you wings, all kinds of wings, even those on kites… Sadly, the previous two events that were scheduled for the Red Bull Kite Performers were canceled, London due to heavy flooding on location and San Diego due to airspace restrictions so near to a Navy base… But after the extremely light wind conditions at Interlaken, the Kite Performers were chomping at the bit for some redemption in more ideal conditions and Perth delivered!

Eleven official pilots turned out for this event… The ten who participated in our Deauville training and Interlaken show, with the addition of Ray Bethell, plus two bonus pilots from Australia, Michael Alvarez and Phil McConnachie, both accomplished kite makers and fliers in their own right.

On Thursday, the whole team made their way out to a beach not too far from Perth for some practice sessions and video/photo opportunities… The wind was blowing off the land, but in this case, it worked out really well for photos, as you can see.

The team did a run-through with music for the audience on Friday, getting a feel for the venue, synchronizing between pilots and hammering out viable flight orders that would provide a good variety for the audience, and keep things running smoothly… With what we learned from the practice session, we gathered together in the evening after dinner to hash out our official programs for the weekend, making better use of the field space and flier rotation.

On both Saturday and Sunday, we flew two 20 minute sets and a handful of 5-7 minute sets, featuring performances like these, just to name a few…

  • Debray, on individual dual line.
  • Raynes, on individual quad line.
  • Dogstake quad with Barresi.
  • Pairs dual line with Mayet and Debray.
  • Crowd interaction with Revolutions.
  • Blackbird dual line team, with Numata, Mayet, Debray and Tien.
  • Quad team with Barresi, Goff, Hoac, Raynes, Numata and Robertshaw.

What did we do differently than Interlaken? For each performance in the set, we got into the rhythm of using contingency plans in the event of extreme high or low winds… If the bottom dropped out and left us in no wind, we’d cut down the mega team into a smaller team, a group indoor kites on short lines along the side of the field, etc… High wind, much the same idea, but with different fliers and equipment.

Each time we’ve assembled for a Red Bull engagement, we’ve learned a great deal, identifying what works well for the video cameras and crew (kite colors, field placement, etc), how to keep performances cycling in and out with little to no delay between, having the right equipment and game plan for any given condition… One may think, “eh, it’s just kites”, but there is a great deal involved in successfully putting on a kite presentation like this and coordinating it with the event schedule which is literally measured down to the second… “Okay kite show, you’re starting at 12:15 and 45 seconds”, updates coming in to us by radio with countdowns and last minute changes, you really have to be on your toes, ready to get the job done.

In Interlaken, the Kite Performers team was out on the air strip, a bit further away from the audience and unable to interact with them directly due to the extremely low winds. In Perth, we had an average but variable 3-12 mph, enough to represent the team skills and styles much more easily, as well as allowing us to actually interact with the audience using Revolutions… In addition, with a more traditional performance field (150′ x 150′ square) surrounded by people, we were able to create more of a spotlight effect on the field, directing the focus of our audience where we needed it and chatting with them while we walked the perimeter of the field, the whole presentation had a far more complete feel to it from a kite flier’s standpoint.

Another thing different at this event, was the professional video introduction assembled by our Red Bull liaisons at Rock + Partner. When we were standing on the field, cued to fly, the video played on “Jumbotrons” (giant TVs) all up and down the 2-3 mile area where the Air Races were being held… Being out there, listening to the audience and the video, was enough to make the hair on the back of my neck stand up, magical moments indeed.

Following this introduction video, as the performances would begin, three different camera angles captured the action and transmitted direct to those big screen TVs… Two on lifts, and one three man crew on foot in the field. Having worked with the same “on site” camera crew in Interlaken, we were much more familiar with our mutual needs, and everything worked very smoothly, even with them in-between pilots and kites!

All in all, I feel the show was a great success, cemented with the short reports we’d get back over the radio or text messages, “PERFECT, good work.”, the general response we got back from the Red Bull organizers was favorable, which indicates that it is very likely we’ll see a return tour for the Red Bull Kite Performers in 2008 at other international Air Race venues.

After the weekend, the team took a leisure day and visited another local beach for some swimming and a bit more flying… Nothing amazing to report there, except that we had a great time and managed to pop off a few more photos.

While we might be bringing you more photos and videos from the Red Bull kite shows in the future, this is likely to be the last report, barring any major developments or changes in the pilot roster.

To all my teammates… Carl, Chris, Lam, Yasu, Richard, Mathieu, Ramlal, Ray, Gregory and Pierre, I’d like to extend my supreme appreciation and gratitude, it is an absolute pleasure to work with such professional and skilled individuals… Let’s do it again, sometime soon.

Cheers… Until next time,

John Barresi