Issue 76: Pothecary’s Corner

Introducing Us

Please allow me to introduce ourselves.

Some readers may have met us already and some will have discovered our website. We are Marilyn and Allan Pothecary, founder members and leaders of Close Encounters Kite Display Team. We have been an admirer of Kitelife from afar. Not as the regular readers as perhaps we should have been but intend to try and catch up on what has been missed. After chatting with the editor we have agreed to try writing the odd article to see how it goes down with you guys. I generally use the word “I” but most times mean “We” – it’s just easier!

Although we have been on the kiting scene for a long(ish) time now we should be treated as newbies as far as the American scene is concerned and certainly as far as missing lots of the stuff by its regular and sometimes not so regular contributors and therefore ask to be forgiven should anything be repeated or have been discussed before.

Heady Days

My wife Marilyn and I have been keen kite flyers since 1993 – well actually since 1992 but we couldn’t keep the dang thing in the air until 1993! We do not sell kites but we do promote the sport of kite flying – it’s our hobby and our passion. We believe that the more we share our passion with others the longer the sport will remain in our own corner of the world and the greater the chance of returning to those heady days of the nineties.

Our Site

We run a very active website that receives five to seven hundred hits every week. Our web-site has grown with time in to one that you can spend hours on and then still find more to read, photos to see and videos to watch. We believe that some of the filming we have done rates with some of the best there has been – and some of it, probably the worst but so long as we’ve pleased someone – then we’re fine!

Mainly we go out as pairs dual line but often we incorporate a third flyer to perform as a team and that’s usually Doug Manners from former British team champions Matrix Management.

Kite Stories

Over the years we have been very lucky to have been sponsored by companies such as HQ Invento,, Tim Benson, Climax Lines, Jones Airfoils, Eolo, Skyburner and Air Dynamics. We have many of their kites and are always pleased to let people try them when they are deciding what purchase to make – Try before you buy! We are often sent kites to test and I write about them and the exploits of Close Encounters in the only multi generic kite magazine we have in Britain and the longest running too – “The Kiteflier”. Skydog sent us some Dream On sport kites in the summer and, after we flew them team in the arena, the trader sold out immediately!

I pass on tips in the articles from time to time about flying or kite maintenance or lines – or sometimes I just waffle about things that grind my gears – and it is often repeated in full colour and unedited on our web-site a few weeks after publication.

What We Do

We perform kite flying demonstrations set to music and our own commentary at festivals, country shows, schools and corporate events all over Britain and have flown our routines in countries as diverse as the USA, Spain, Greece, Lithuania and the Canary Isles! If we are not demonstrating we love to teach and often hold “Better Flying Days” in central southern England where anyone, at any level, can just turn up and get some free coaching – and if they don’t have a kite then we’ll lend them one!

Our pedigree includes too many to mention national titles in dual line individual, pairs and team and just the one in individual quad-line.

Special Friends

During our visits to San Diego we met many lovely kite flyers including Al Stroh, Charlie McClary, Mitch, Susan Shampo, Ron Despojado and were pleased to meet up with them all again at Huntingdon years later including the Lummas family (who we knew from England) and others of whom we still have photos and videos but probably won’t remember us. We first met Corey Jenson when he worked in Scott Dyer’s lab in Vegas and now have a photo of him kissing me at Portsmouth – nothing gay I might add! We thought the English were a friendly bunch but you guys beat us hands down the times when we came over there with your hospitality – even if no-one understood my English jokes!

My Angle

So then let’s try a few lines of my slant on things and see who I can please or upset. What you need to remember is that neither of us consider ourselves as anything more than experienced level flyers – I suppose there’s only one reason that we are not in the Master’s Class and that’s because we aren’t good enough! But when we are out there in public they do say that we entertain and we’re proud of that! We both have a limited tricks repertoire but from that (plus we sometimes hang out with the big boys) we can pass on some pretty interesting information on what we’ve learned. Just because we have an opinion that does not mean to say that we are right – it is just our feelings and how something suits our particular style – or not! We remember what it was like for us at the beginning – everything was self taught, so now we offer short cuts to the new or inexperienced flyer and hopefully some tips or ideas for the more experienced pilots. I try not to go into too much detail – I’d only get confused anyway.

Neither of us are much in to making or designing kites (Marilyn makes our tails) because we would much rather spend the free time we get out there flying. Being a man with fat fingers I hate fiddly things (clasps, knots, small plastic parts etc) and you will often be reminded of that, and like all men, very rarely read instructions.

We would both be pleased to hear from anyone either through the editor or via our web-site so feel free!

Required Modifications

I am not going to make excuses for any of the manufacturers but with the exception of a few we always carry out a bit of safety first before flying a new kite, even for the very first time. I know, believe me, it doesn’t feel good to be making alterations to a brand new purchase before you have even tried it out but if you don’t, it could all very easily end in tears! If you try out any of the following please be careful that you don’t damage your kite whilst you are doing it. As you know, I don’t do fiddly, but I’m OK so far! There are three main areas that we look at…..

Stand Offs:

Give them a tug to make sure that they don’t come out – if they do then glue is the answer!

Bottom Spreaders:

I think if you look on most of our kites you we see that we have done this one.

You should never tape the spreaders in. They must be able to move, or even pop out in heavy crashes or they are much more likely to do damage! If they are very loose at the point where they meet the leading edges, then, maybe, one wrap of tape around the end of the rod but don’t tape the spar to the connector. At the centre T we link the two spreaders (as shown) with a heavy rubber band. These are larks headed on the rods and prevented from slipping either by a “C” clip or tape wrapped round and around the rod. This allows movement but nearly always ensures that the spreaders stay where they are supposed to. We have had some kites that fall apart with just a half axle, a heavy landing or ground work in turning the kite over. This does rather complicate the assembly/breaking down of the kite and more care must be taken to avoid putting the rod through the sail. Make sure too that the bridle lines are not caught up under the band or it may affect the flight behavior (see photo).

Wing Tips:

Even if a kite has a cap on the end of the leading edge we still tape it over – lessons learned after leaving them stuck in soft ground after take-off. Some kites need a bit of adjustment in setting up for the first time, particularly with the leach line if it has one, so we are very watchful until the taping is done.

Selling Feathers

The idea was to get Roy Broadley from Kites Up in Basingstoke to print us some feathers, save some money by doing the cutting out and sewing ourselves. Then we would have feathers for us and for our helpers, and sell some for a quid each towards the costs!

… far we’ve sold about twenty lost ten and given away another twenty or so to people that have helped us by ground crewing or resetting our tails ready for the next launch!

Better Flying Days

We are always telling people that we give free kite flying lessons.

We often get people from all over asking us when we can help them. The fact that we are so busy throughout the summer makes it seem as though we are not sincere. The best way that we can help people is through our “Better Flying Days” – if you want us to come to you then we will need something to cover our expenses.

So what is a Better Flying Day (BFD)? Well we announce the date and venue on our web- site and people just turn up (Just type “Close Encounters Kites” into your search engine and you will find us and some of the other teams too!). We ask people to bring long lines (40 meters is best if they already have kites and can fly a bit already because we like to fly pairs alongside them.

We have found that this gives the thrill of pairs flying and also shows where the trainee is doing those odd little bits wrong. We let pupils use our lines when we are coaching one to one but after that we only have shorter, cheaper lines with more stretch – the ones that come with kites when you buy them – lending out our low stretch, low wind resistant Climax lines has proved too costly for us!

Everyone gets on with their own flying during the day whilst we spend time individually with each of the flyers – no-one is asked to fly with everyone else watching!

Most people who come along have a kite of some description but if they don’t then we will lend them one. If the kite they have is not suitable for learning new techniques then once we are sure that they are competent we let them fly with one of the team kites that we use that have the ease and versatility to be able to improve skills on.

We don’t sell kites but often people go away wanting to buy one of the ones they have tried from our bag – we also take lots of other kites that people may want to see or try out – always best to contact us first If you have something in mind. When we do demonstrations at kite festivals we include the basics of flying – how to launch, turns, infinities and basic shapes in the sky – it’s a lot different trying to do it than just watching!

Lots of people come to us who can keep a kite in the air but just need a little bit of guidance in doing a little bit more. We have never had anyone who has not improved after spending time with us – that gives us great pleasure, but the biggest thrill is when someone who could not fly at all goes away being able to do circles, figure eights, boxes etc – and we had two of those at the last BFD – fantastic!!! – that made the trip to Stokes Bay down near Portsmouth well worth it!

Naming it

Recently I reviewed the HQ Sky Photon. I really liked that one! After a short while I did a short piece on our web-site saying about how I had managed to lose it somewhere. You know the sort of thing – put it on the roof of the car and forgot it was there when I drove off or left it by the car when I was lo unloading. I knew that if a Kiter was to have found it they would have let me know but I was afraid that if a passerby had picked it up they would have taken it out and flown it not really appreciating what a nice little flyer /collector’s item it is. When I remember I like to put our name on our equipment – it’s not so much an ownership thing – worried that someone might nick it – Kiters just don’t do that but when you do find something laying around it is so much easier to return it directly to the owner instead of wandering all around the field asking everyone.

At festivals we are eternally grateful for the constant procession of people returning our pegs – the photo above shows our home made pegs at the start of the season and this year we only seem to be a couple down – we usually say that team member Dougie has a huge collection of them at home that he has forgotten to put back in the box – just joking Dougie – but one session he turned up and we asked him if he wanted a peg but he already had three in his pocket – he has never been let off the hook since – if you see him ask him if he has a peg in his pocket!

The lost Photon? Oh it had managed to attach itself under the lip of a storage box in the garage after it had fallen down the back. I found it the other day when I was looking for something else! I am very pleased to have it back – must remember to write our name on it now!

See you next time…

Allan Pothecary