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The History of Flame

The Early Years

The story of Team Flame starts with Zoë Hancock, Fran Burstall and Barry Savell, who were all members of Bath Kite Society. They were competing as individuals in local leagues, as well as attending festivals around the UK and organizing the Bath Kite Festival. The seeds of Team Flame were sown as they watched with amazement the routines performed by Airkraft and Skydance, when these two teams ruled the world - between them they took the World Cup three years running from 1995 to 1997.

Photo of the team with NSR kites Photo of the team flying NSR kites

But most of the blame for Team Flame lies with another team, Punchlines. At the 1998 Bath kite festival, Punchlines invited individual kite flyers with some experience to come and fly with Punchlines. Barry and Fran both had a go and were immediately hooked. Barry and Fran, together with Zoë, could soon be seen flying three Benson Phantom Elites together, this being the only kite they had three of! The Phantom is a fine kite, but is not ideally suited as a team kite, and it was here that Punchlines came in again. When they started, Punchlines were given a set of Northshore Radical kite sails by Airkraft, when Airkraft switched to flying Matrix kites. Punchlines, having acquired a brand new set of Northshore Radicals, generously passed the ex-Airkraft sails on to Barry, Fran and Zoë. These were the very sails with which Airkraft won the World Cup, and we knew we were going to have to enter the national team competition with them, despite having no experience - thus Team Flame was born.


The team started practising as a three, but there were four sails; it seemed a shame not to use them, so enter Ewan Russell, a former Bath Kite Society member enticed out of kite retirement by the thought of trying team flying. Sponsors were found for lines and spars, and the next summer Team Flame contested the 1999 British National Championships for the first time, with a precision routine but no ballet. (In fact they flew their precision routine to background music from Babylon V.) Their first competition was at their own Bath Kite Festival, so it was doubly stressful. They also had their first red flag disqualification, at Hackney. Despite this they won the 1999 UK experienced championship - mainly by being the only entrant in the experienced class, but they did beat one of the masters class teams.


The next year (2000), now totally hooked, the team moved onto Airdynamics T2 kites, passing the Northshore sails to STACK to be lent out to other fledgling teams, and used a ballet written by Jeanette Lummas of Skydance to the Imperial March from Star Wars.


In 2001, Ewan took a year out and Team Flame competed as a three person team, with their first original ballet - March of the Toreador, by Bizet. Flame managed 3rd in the UK Championship, behind Vortex and winners Crosslines, and again won the Experienced class, narrowly beating rivals Team X-treme.

In late 2001 Flame competed in Euro-Cup - the European sport kite championships - for the first time, which was hosted at Gosport in the UK, managing 8th place. It was here that they tried out Vortex's new Matrix kites, and realized they had to a set.

The Matrix Years

Photo of the team, 2002


In 2002 Flame switched to new Matrix kites provided by Carl Robertshaw Kite Related Design. Ewan returned to the team, but Flame continued to compete as a 3 person team, with Ewan and Zoë alternating at position 3, Ewan for precision and Zoë for ballet. In April 2002 Flame were privileged to be one of the two British teams invited to represent the UK at the first World Sport Kite Championship in France where they achieved a respectable eighth place. Flame then went on to win each of the three rounds of the 2002 UK Championships to take first place and become the UK National Champions, for the first time. They finished the year by appearing at the Bristol International Kite Festival.

Photo of the team, 2003


2003 was a successful year for Flame. During the winter Zoë gave birth to a baby boy, but the team continued with Ewan taking on the number three position full time, in ballet as well as precision. The team again attended the World Sport Kite Championship, a week long event held at Berck-Sur-Mer in France, and this year took seventh place. In the 2003 UK Masters Class Sport Kite Team National Championship, Flame won three of the four rounds against stiff competition from the teams Matrix Management and the Scratch Bunnies, and became UK National Champions for the second year running.


In 2004 Flame attended the World Championship in France for the third year running. The 2004 UK Masters Class Sport Kite Team National Championship was the most closely contested in many years. In the end, the winner's honours went to Matrix Management, who narrowly pushed Flame into second place, with less than 3% separating the winners from Scratch Bunnies in third place. During the winter Zoë and Fran had their second child, this time a girl. Ewan Russell announced that he would be retiring from flying in competition. Barry's son, Alex Savell, was given a trial and offered the number 3 position for the 2005 season (fitting it in amongst his AS levels).

Photo of the team, 2005

The Feeling Good Years


With Alex Savell now in the team, a new, more dynamic, ballet was written to the version of Feeling Good by Muse. For 2005, Flame switched to brand new, custom coloured, Fury kites, the latest design from Carl Robertshaw. This year Flame were determined to regain the UK title, and started well by winning the first two rounds. They then attended the fourth World Sport Kite Championship, this year in Lincoln City, Oregon, USA, where Fran was plagued by a cold, and Alex badly twisted his ankle during one of the very windy competition rounds. An overall result of 13th was slightly disappointing, though despite this the event was again greatly enjoyed by all the team.

Photo of Flame flying

Through travelling to the USA, Flame missed the 3rd round of the UK competition, allowing Matrix Management to take the lead in the home series. The fourth round was held at Southampton in very light winds, and Matrix Management held off Flame to retain the lead, leaving all to play for in the last round at Newbury. Here winds were again light, but this time Flame pulled out all the stops to win both the event and the national championship.

Later in the year, Flame attended their first overseas Euro-Cup, at Cervia in Italy, where they came 4th.


The first event of 2006 for Flame was the World Sport Kite Championship, which this year returned to Berck-Sur-Mer in France in consistently high winds; 16 teams competed representing 9 different countries from 4 continents. There were again some problems - Barry had a suspected cracked rib (from the previous week), and Alex came down with a cold-like viral infection. Alex was unable to make one of the precision rounds, but Robin Smith (from the team Scratch Bunnies) kindly stepped in as substitute to learn the figures and a simple routine, and gave a credible performance, the high point of which was Barry executing a centre window landing from flat on his back in the sand after having fallen over! Despite these problems, and perhaps for the first time at the world level, all Flame's scores were consistent and up to their UK standard, and so a commendable ninth place was achieved in a tightly contested mid-field, separated from 7th place by just 2%.

At the UK season opener at Rougham, Flame took an early season lead with a clear victory. However Alex's A-level exams prevented Flame from competing at the next round in Southampton, where the Scratch Bunnies presented the UK debut of their new six man ballet, with ex-World Champions Carl and James Robertshaw joining the Bunnies' ballet line up. The Bunnies very strong ballet performances here and in the remaining rounds would make it a very close season. At the final round of the UK nationals in Newbury, a strong performance by Flame took the contest with the Scratch Bunnies all the way to the wire. When the results were announced, Flame took second position in the overall competition, separated from the winners, the Scratch Bunnies, by less than a tenth of one percent over the year, the tightest ever finish of a UK Championship!

Photo of the Flame on the beach at EuroCup in Fort Mahon Photo of Flame at EuroCup in Fort Mahon

In September, Team Flame attended the 2006 Euro-Cup at Fort Mahon, France. After a strong performance in the precision competition, Flame were delighted to be in 1st place at the end of the first day. However, there were some strong ballet performances to come. On the second day the other UK team, Scratch Bunnies, took 1st place in the ballet, and a good performance by Flame gave them 3rd place overall. Unfortunately Flame were unable to stay for the presentations on the Sunday, because team member Alex, having achieved 4 As at A-level, had to move in to Imperial College, London, where he would be studying Physics, that day.


In 2007 Flame decided to compete as a four man team, and recruited Tony Shiggins, former member of team Matrix Management. They started looking for a piece of music and working on a new 4 person ballet. However, with Alex now in London at University, and Tony in Swindon, full practice sessions were fairly hard to organize, and the ballet was not finished in time for the competition season, so the team used the 3 man Feeling Good routine with Tony and Alex alternating in position 3. In another very tightly contested season, Flame were able to just snatch the UK title back from the 6 man team Scratch Bunnies, by the narrowest of margins.

The Four Man Period

Photo of Flame at EC, Netherlands


Now Flame were ready to exploit their new four person configuration. Their new four person ballet, set to City of Delusion by Muse, debuted at the World Sport Kite Championship in France, and achieve 8th place.

The UK Championship was again hotly contested, with Flame using the new four person routine throughout the year. At the end of the season, Flame came out just just behing the Scratch Bunnies.

At Southampton, Flame were filmed by the BBC, and appeared (albeit very briefly) in "Britain from Above".

In September Flame competed in Euro-Cup at Den Hague in the Netherlands. They achieved 3rd place in ballet, but the choice of a lightweight kite in precision just as the wind picked up resulted in a kite breakage, dropping them to 4th overall.

Photo of Flame competing at EuroCup in Weston


Alex's commitments at university meant that Flame spent most of the season as a 3 man team, using an updated version of their Feeling Good ballet. Alex returned for the final round, where the four person City of Delusion ballet was used. The overall result was again very close, with Flame coming 2nd, less than 1% adrift of the Scratch Bunnies.

In September, the UK again hosted Euro-Cup, this time at Weston-Super-Mare. Scratch Bunnies were dominant, taking 1st place, but Flame managed to take 3rd place, again using the City of Delusion ballet.

Flame also provided a demonstration at the Exmouth Kite Festival.


With Alex's still busy at university, Zoë was persuaded to rejoin the competition squad, learning Alex's part of the 4 person ballet. Her initial debut was, somewaht scarily, at the World Championship in France, where Flame came 7th. Zoë remained in the team for the UK competitions, and for EuroCup on the beach at Calais.

Flame also appeared at Exmouth Kite Festival and Bristol Kite Festival.


Photo of Flame paddling at EC, Italy

In 2011 Alex's managed to find time to join the team for some of the UK competition rounds, where the team retained the championship against strong competition from new competitors - but very experienced flyers - Airheads.

Following this, in September Alex also joined the team at EuroCup in Cervia, Italy to help secure 3rd place. (However he could not be found for the official post-competition team paddle)

Flame again appeared at Exmouth and Bristol Kite Festivals.

The Two Tribes Period


2012 was a transitional year - with Alex mostly not available Flame worked on a new 3 man competition ballet, but it was not ready in time for the World Championship, so Feeling Good was used, taking Flame to 7th.

In the national championship, Flame narrowly retained the UK trophy in a very close competition against Airheads, who were second by only 1%.

Flame provided demonstrations at Southampton and Exmouth Kite Festivals.

Photo of Flame competing at WSKC in France


2013 saw the debut of Flame's new 3 man ballet routine, set to Two Tribes by Frankie Goes to Hollywood, at EuroCup on the beach in Cervia, Italy in May. It scored well, despite some minor mistakes, but Flame were pushed into 4th place behind three French teams.

Flame retained the UK championship over three rounds, albeit only opposed this year by a scratch team at one round. One of the rounds saw a welcome return to a kite festival on Weston-Super-Mare beach.

Flame again demonstrated at Weymouth kite festival, at one point flying in a remarkable sea mist. Flame also appeared at the welcome return of Bristol International Kite Festivals.

Photo of Flame competing at WSKC in France


At the 9th World Sport Kite Championship in France, Flame were pleased with a 6th place in precision, but a combination of mistakes (a mid-air collision) and accidents (a broken spar, and a snapped line) resulted in scores that while respectable (in 2 out of 3 cases at least), were disappointing at this level, dropping them to 10th overall.

Flame retained the UK championship (sadly unopposed), this year held over a single weekend at Dunstable. Despite light winds, one of the performances of the Two Tribes ballet received a 70+ score, a first for this ballet in competition.


Flame retained the UK championship (though only opposed by a scratch team) at Dunstable Downs.

At EuroCup in Dunkerque, France, Flame took 3rd place in the team event and Phoenix took 3rd in the pairs competition.


Flame attended the 10th World Sport Kite Championship in France - the only team to have been to all 10 events. Their overall result of 5th place was Flame's best ever performance, with a particulary strong 3rd place in precision on day 3.

They followed this up by retaining the UK National Championship, albeit unfortunately unopposed.


Long time member Tony Shiggins announced that he would be retiring active involvement in the team and competition, at the end of the season.

In Tony's last competition year Flame went on to retain their National Championship, for the 12th time. (Tony also retained the individual championship, and the pairs title as Phoenix.)

Photo of Vee with Flame


At the start of the year Vee Griffiths, of Team Airheads, joined Flame as the number #3 flier as they prepared to compete in the World Sport Kite Championship in France in April.

Photo of the Flame banner