Of all the different types of kiteflying in existence, sportkite team flying must rank as the absolute favorite to please a crowd. When the sportkite team itself is a crowd,the excitement and visual impact increase exponentially. The recent trend in teams has been toward the smaller outfit, three or four fliers. World Cup has been won the last two years by a three-person team, and one leading four-person team pruned a member last year, so they would be “more competitive”. Team Shanti Air is bucking this trend, being the first US six-person team in the late 90’s. Full speed ahead, fashion be damned, they say!
Ever hear the old tale illustrating the difference between dedication and commitment? Just picture bacon and eggs – in producing this breakfast favorite, the chicken is dedicated, the pig is committed! Shanti Air has demonstrated their commitment by practicing every week through the rough Ohio winter. Living in different areas of the state, they found a central location that entails a two hour drive for practices. The geographical problems has limited the team to only one practice session a week, but they have found some innovative soloutions to overcome this limitation. Al Hargus, team Captain, has always been one to keep meticulous notes and logs. He continues this practice, giving the team detailed”playbooks” so members can practice their components in the routines during the week. The team also does a complete debrief after each practice, watching and critiquing videotape to spot and correct flaws in their performance.
The Most Fun You Can Have For $2 an Hour!
A major challenge for every team has always been finding the financing to support a national tour. With the far-flung nature of the American Kite Circuit, taking a team on the road can be an enormously expensive proposition – last year’s champs spent $8,000 just on travel! Shanti Air has taken a very unique approach to meeting this challenge. They decided to collect “dues” at each practice over the winter, each member paying $10 into the kitty every week. As of early April, the team had over $2,000 in their war chest! With each practice session spanning about 5 hours, team member Dave Hoelter summed it up best – “Where else could I have more fun for $2 an hour?” Well said, Dave! With the AKC All-American here in the Midwest and the ease of attending the East Coast nationals, Shanti Air has their travel expenses problems licked.
The team also benefits from product support from two of the mainstays in sportkiting – Daniel Prentice (Shanti Kite Products) is providing the full line of Opus 8 kites and Shanti Spectra line, and Kurt Degner (Avia Sports) provides the outstanding G-Force spars. Anyone who has the slightest interest in kiting has benefitted from the commitment that these two gentlemen have made to our sport. Shanti Air aims to give sponsors a payback – they are avid supporters of these two companies. At the Ocean City event, they spent many hours on the demo field teaching spectators to fly Shanti products.
Most Experienced Team in Kiting History?
Total up the member’s team flying experience. Al Hargus, 10 years. Vickie Romanoff, 6 years. Gina Ignazzitto, 2 years. Mike Donnelly, 6 years. Pete DiGiacomo, 8 years. Dave Hoelter, 3 years. Adds up to 37 years! All this experience creates a challenge though, as all teams use a different “language” to make the necessary calls during a routine, as well as different methods of writing routines, structuring practices, and meeting basic administration requirements. As a testament to the team member’s maturity level, they quickly agreed on the “under the hood” aspects. After spending two days with Shanti Air, I can report that all egoes were checked at the door!
Shanti Air has obviously assimilated many different influences from their previous experiences, as well as from other recent winning teams. Some maneuvers are similar to those flown by the outstanding Japanese six-person team, Aftershock. Others are tried-and-true 3 or four person maneuvers, adapted for six, or flown as opposing three-person maneuvers (which they term Red Flight/Blue Flight). All are marked by quick transitions with many surprises. One sequence that really wowed me goes as follows – 1) 3 kites stall, the other three wrap around them 2) the second three stall, the first three accomplish the unwrap 3) Immediately, they break into refueled pairs, flying opposing figure 8’s. Nothing really groundbreaking, but accomplished in less time than it takes to read it, it is darned impressive.
The team is taking a daring approach to team precision events. In recent years, most six-person teams have used all six members in ballet only, dropping several members to make the precision compulsory maneuvers more easily accomplished. Shanti Air is shunning this approach, all six members will fly both events. Take my advice, if you are at one of the team’s competitions this season, watch Team Precision to see some masterful speed control and display of athletic ability.
A full competition season is planned for 1998. Starting in April with the MASKC event, following months will see the team compete at Grand Haven, MI; Wildwood, NJ; Kalamazoo, MI; Bowling Green, OH; and Livonia, MI. We believe this to be the most rigorous competition schedule for any team this year. Shanti Air hopes that this schedule will lead to an invite to World Cup, held this year in Dieppe, France. The top two US teams will receive the coveted bids for World Cup, and if I were the wagering type, I would bet a day’s pay on Shanti Air being in France this September.
Members of Shanti Air
Al Hargus is the captain and choreographer for Shanti Air. He was a founding member of the Chicago Fire, Captain Eddie’s Flying Circus, and Pair of Pairs.
Vicki Romanoff was a member of Captain Eddie’s Flying Circus and Pair of Pairs. She also flies with Al as the pairs team Side Show.
Pete Digiacomo was a member of Team What’s Up, and serves as the sponsor liasion for Shanti Air.
Mike Donley was the captain of team Higher Powered , as well as a member of What’s Up.
Gina Ignazzitto flew with team Higher Powered in the ’97 season.
Dave Hoelter flew with the team What’s Up.