2006 AKA Convention: Day 2

Okay, if yesterday was the start of the 29th AKA Convention – then today was the start of the Convention’s programs and workshops and the Grand National competitions that’re part of the convention. And believe me, that’s what the Convention is really all about – that and hanging out with other kiters, of course.

Due to one thing and another (trips to the store for forgotten supplies, among them) I missed the session I’d planned to attend this morning. Therefore, you will not see photos of “But I Ain’t No Artist,” which was a session explaining how John Pollock – who IS an artist – paints on nylon kites. And by not attending this convention, YOU also missed a shot at:

  • Flying Mega Kites (How they fly truly HUGE kites)
  • Beginner Mini Kite Making (Yep – Charlie Sotich)
  • Introduction to Fighter Kite Flying (out on the field)
  • Basic Classroom Kite: Sled Building 101 (Learn to build ‘em)
  • How to Get the Most Enjoyment Out of Your First Convention

Yeah, I promise to do better about attending workshops tomorrow – especially since I’ve volunteered to help at Rhonda Brewer’s session on Kite Knots and Some of Their Uses. Somehow, my volunteering kind of insures that I’ll be there. And it’s something we all need to do anyway, since this convention is not put on by hired experts, it’s put on by AKA Members, and I AM one of ‘em… Sure – news and photos in tomorrow’s updates! Other sessions you’ll also miss are:

  • Fighter Kite Symposium
  • Judging Handmade Kites (Put on by judges BEFORE the competition)
  • Make and Take a 30” Butterfly Kite
  • Things that go bump from a Kite! (Teddy-Bear drops, and other objects)
  • Fun to be had from Round Flying Objects (out on the field)

But I did leave the Holiday Inn at about 11:00 – headed for Water Works Park, the scene of all convention outdoor “flying” activities. Also the scene of the warmest and bumpiest 2-10 MPH breezes I think I’ve seen all year – and perhaps the largest flying field complex I’ve seen too! Five fields, of at least AKA regulation size (or larger). And the “bumpy” part comes from it being “inland” wind rather than the “beach” stuff we’re used to, and the fact the fields are completely ringed by trees. And as far as the “warmest” part goes, we had a fair amount of heat in the Pacific Northwest this summer – but no 10+ MPH breezes of 90 degrees Fahrenheit or more like we felt today.

We arrived at the fields at about 11:30, and were in plenty of time to get the “lay of the land” – the first time I’d been out there – and for the Rokkaku and Fighter Kite Mass Ascension that occurred an hour later. And following the Mass Ascension, the “Angel Fly” occurred at 1:00 PM, which is a chance to fly white kites in memoriam for fellow kitefliers who have passed on. Indeed, the Pilots and Judges Meeting started a couple minutes late today due in part to a few Sport Kite pilots who were flying white kites at the Angel Fly.

Still the Pilots and Judges Meeting came off “almost” on time, at the Sound Tent, where Chief Judge Mike Huff went over the rules to be enforced at this particular competition along with answered any questions the Pilots had – just like what happens at your normal league competitions. Today, the Sport Kiters would use three of the five competition fields for a total of six competitions, and Mike wanted to be certain everyone had a chance to ask all their questions together so there’d be no deviation or misunderstandings.

The first competitions to be flown were the Novice Individual Ballet event on Field #2, Experienced Multi-Line Ballet on Field #3, and Masters Pairs Precision on Field #5 – all to run simultaneously. Then, there’d be a “second shift” of competitions with Masters Multi-Line Ballet on Field #2, Novice Individual Precision on Field #3, and Experienced Individual Precision on Field #5.

Doing the math, that comes out to three each Pit Bosses, Field Directors, and Head Judges standing out there in the broiling sun, and a dozen more Judges out there too –plus the pilots who were flying of course. Oh – and in the Sound or “Operations” Tent, there was a Chief Judge, another “Organizer,” a Scorer, and two “Sound Men.” Altogether, that amounts to 26 people involved in running the competitions – plus the pilots who would fly. NO small deal, these AKA Grand National competitions!

John has photographed the score sheets from all six of today’s competitions, so those will be available for viewing somewhere close by. And I spent a goodly amount of time out there shooting photos of the comps, so I’m sure there’ll be some of them handy as well. And rather than try and recount each flight, I’ll just note some of the more memorable instances the occurred here…

Immediately, it became obvious that the sound systems on Fields #2 and #3 were so strong that running Ballets simultaneously on both fields would be impossible. Therefore, pilots would alternate performances between the two fields.

It was also interesting to note that Field #5 was far enough away behind the other two fields that we’d get no sense of any occurrences there, so I have no idea what of note happened out there – only that we saw kites in the air from time to time.

In Experienced Multi-Line Ballet, David Hathaway was up first, so I focused on his performance. He flew well, but not without some wind-related problems. It was soon evident that coping with wind difficulties would be a chore for all pilots, regardless of discipline, and those who coped well would have an advantage – with those not coping well being in serious trouble. So each EMB flier grappled with varying degrees of success.

Over on Field #2, the Novice Individual Ballet pilots were also facing the wind problems, but were less successful – with a couple of them backing perilously close to the back line, and they forced to abandon/modify their routines just to keep in the game. Another pilot saw this happening and started his routine much further down the field and also factored in a couple of “ground gainers,” so that his performance appeared much more “polished.” My guess (without knowing) is that his score reflects his forethought and adjustments.

Once the Experienced Multi-Line Ballets had all been flown, it was obvious that the top three fliers were quite close in their scores, with none of them being the clear winner to observers. This was later borne out when the scores were posted, showing a 5 point difference between first and third – with the top three scores posted coming in between 70 and 75.

In the “second session,” Masters Multi-Line Ballet was also a “hot” event, with extremely strong performances from the majority of the fliers – as it should be. This tended to focus the crowd’s attention on the event, with a “handicapping during the performances” level of interest. Zach Gordon was the first pilot up, flying a very strong technical performance. Shawn Tinkham also did very well, with numerous flick-flacks used to punctuate his performance. And John Barresi flew the last performance of the day with considerable emotion and élan. As with EMB, the MMB flight performance standards made it very tough to pick a winner – even with some wind difficulties in evidence.

With all flights completed and scored, teardown was accomplished and all participants fled the park for the Holiday Inn and at least a change of shirts if not a quick shower. And as quickly as we left the field, it seemed like minimal time before we all had to head for the indoor competition in the evening. I think I spent all of 45 minutes in the Holiday Inn before I was out in a car again, headed to the gym.

As with the day’s field events, the evening’s indoor competition started with warm-ups followed by a pilots meeting as the first orders of business, Chief Judge Bill Rogers presiding. And, then we were right into the performances with little to-do, and with AKA Past-President Corey Jensen as our Master of Ceremonies… If you’ve not seen an indoor competition, you really should check it out, because the indoor flying is getting to be nearly as competitive as outdoor events – and in some ways is much more interesting, because of the variety of disciplines that indoor comps encompass.

As before, John has photographed the score sheet, but the fascination with the sport is evident in the three top scorers in tonight’s performances. Shawn Tinkham flew an indoor Revolution, Alan Cunningham flew a series of single-line “bird” kites, and Nelson Borelli flew a slow, lovely, almost “spiritual” performance with a handmade fighter kite. Yes, others flew indoor dual-line Sport Kites.

(TBA top three videos from two events)

(listed in alphabetical order)

Finally, it was back to the motel for the evening (and the Daily Update chores). Maybe tonight will be an early one for a change – gosh, it’s only 1:45 AM as I write this.

See you tomorrow night?

David “Geezer” Shattuck

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Author:Dave Shattuck

As one of our regular and most prolific contributors, Dave "Geezer" Shattuck is a driving force here at Kitelife and a regular at many NW events as well as other locations throughout the year.

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