Issue 2 (May 1998): Geelong Kite Festival

April 18th – 19th , incorporating the Australian National Team kite championships.

My team (Zero Gravity) ventured east to attend the Geelong Kite Festival, a two day event that incorporated the Australian National Team Competitions. The winner of the Team event was to win the right to represent Australia at the World Cup planned to be at Dieppe, France next September. Geelong is a city about one hour’s drive south west of Melbourne, the capital of the State of Victoria. This one was a low key festival after the Adelaide Festival, with 28 registered kite fliers for individual events and four teams competing in the teams event.

We arrived in Geelong on Friday afternoon after a nine hour drive from Adelaide, and immediately went to check out the flying field. It was at Belmont Common, a large reclaimed area used for sporting events comprising eight to ten sports ovals. It was relatively clear all around, with some trees to the northeast that could interfere with the wind. We met some of the local club members, John and Lyn Slater, and Di Dalli, who were setting up the competition field. We didn’t bother to unpack any kites, as we had been travelling all day and wanted to settle into our accommodations for the night and do some last minute stick practice.

Despite being a small festival, everything had been well-organised. The head judge, Rodney Harris, a previous Masters champion with competition experience both here and in the US, was assisted by John Semmins, also a Masters class pilot and team member with World Cup experience. The Geelong Kite club members were very welcoming. Zero Gravity was the only interstate visitor to the event.

Saturday competitions were hampered throughout the day by low wind conditions, with the wind rule being called by numerous fliers. The events slowly unfolded but by day’s end, only individual and pairs events were completed; the team events were postponed until Sunday in the hope of better winds. Individual champion for both precision and ballet was won by Terry Chatfield of Lakes Entrance flying an MEFM. Terry has developed into a very talented kite flier and his interpretation of his music in the ballet routine was spectacular. Well done Terry. A last minute entry in the pairs ballet, “Zero Practice”, consisting of Michael Luscombe and I, had the event won, until the judges heard us say toward the end of our routine … “What happened to the music ??? …err …. OUT ” Some fool rule about inappropriate ending!

The event dinner and auction were held in a tent on the field and, while a little chilly, we all had a really nice time and the food was certainly excellent.

Sunday start time was 11:00 a.m.  We were out early by 9:00, practising our routines. At eleven, we went to see Rodney Harris, and declared we were ready to fly. The wind was barely 3 m.p.h.  Rodney and the event organisers wanted to wait until lunch, when hopefully more public were there to watch. At around 11:15 a.m. the wind dropped, and remained dropped for most of the rest of the day. Even pumping large light weight single line kites to keep them in the sky was a chore.

Some notable single line fliers turned up for the event, namely Helen Bushell, Simon Friedin and Peter Batchelor. But the wind was not going to be kind.

By 2:00 p.m. the teams, single line fliers, and what little public there may have been, were getting restless, and still not a breath of wind. We had some water bomb launchers that, at least, kept us occupied. We formed teams and laid out targets on the field to score points. It was a hoot, but it still wasn’t getting any team competition flying happening. At four o’clock we held a team / judge meeting, and despite the no wind conditions, we decided to fly. Zero Gravity let Positive Lift borrow our light wind kites, and we had 75 foot 80 pound fly lines on. Team Xtreame similarly let Team Crash borrow their light wind kites.

Zero Gravity was up first. Field boundaries were removed and it was declared, use as much space as required. We completed each compulsory manoeuvre by running backwards throughout. At the end of the manoeuvre, our kites were moved back and set up to start the next compulsory. We started our precision routine, and what little wind there was (1 m.p.h.) dropped completely and so did our kites. All we could do was call ‘out’; we had barely made the minimum time. We were pretty disappointed, all this way for this. Positive Lift set up for their compulsories The wind picked up to around 4 m.p.h. and increased during the next hour and a half to around 10 m.p.h. So all other teams had wind to fly their precision in. Team Positive Lift made a request to the judges that Zero Gravity be allowed to re-fly, but it was disallowed on the basis that all teams had agreed to fly regardless of the conditions at the start. Thank you Positive Lift for showing wonderful sportsmanship.

The wind stayed at around 8 to 10 m.p.h. for the ballet routines, and all teams completed, except the sound system cut out briefly during both Zero Gravity and Team Crash’s routines. No protests were lodged and results in both events saw Positive Lift as the new Australian team champions. A well deserved win by the team consisting of Jo and Ricky Baker and Jo’s mother, Maggie Phillips from Melbourne. Zero Gravity (Adelaide) came in second, Team Xtreame (Lakes Entrance) third and Team Crash (Geelong) fourth. By 5:30 rain had started to fall and put a final end to a forgettable day of kite flying.

Final scores were :

Precision :

1 Team Positive Lift 59.900

2 Team Zero Gravity 54.917

3 Team Xtreame 52.233

4 Team Crash 38.667

Ballet :

1 Team Positive Lift 74.267

2 Team Zero Gravity 66.133

3 Team Xtreame 47.133

4 Team Crash DQ

Although a disappointing result for our team, we were delighted to see two new teams competing, both of which were encouraged to continue team flying following this event. This can only be good for the sport in Australia, which has struggled to see a healthy team competition for at least three years.

Congratulations to the Geelong Kite Club for putting on a wonderful festival. Although small in numbers, it was huge in spirit, from the fun everyone had to the sharing of equipment by the teams for the good of the event.