Issue 4: The New World Cup

Analysis by Bert Tanaka – A NEW RULE BOOK?

Recently, AJSKA, AKA and STACK completed the first draft of a collaborative effort to produce the new International Rules Book. At the same time, Hans Jansen op de Haar, chief judge of the World Cup event announced on his website that the next World Cup will possibly use his rules instead. Good intentions notwithstanding, the wisdom of such a choice at best, seemed questionable. Hans’ proposed plan of action essentially ignores the work of the International committee, and within the boundaries of etiquette, falls loosely into the category of actions some might call, “not so nice”.

I love the World Cup. For team fliers, it’s THE top event. However, I don’t think that this latest suggestion of running it with private rules was good for the event. This isn’t to say that Hans’ rule book is not without merit; the section on judging criteria contains some great ideas. However, it would have made much more sense if he had submitted these ideas for adoption to the IRB committee while they were working on the new Rules Book, or at the very least, to his STACK representatives to forward to the International Rules Book Committee. As it is, this avenue for change and amendment is still open to the World Cup committee to use if they should so choose.

Not that it matters. After considering the issue, the World Cup committee has decided to use the present rules. For several reasons, this decision is a great one.

First of all, it is fair to the fliers. Stranger things have happened but had the World Cup committee adopted private rules, there was the possibility that a team might have qualified for the World Cup using the present rule book, but after getting there, might have found some practices were disallowed. Always a risk if you are using two different sets of rules.

Secondly, if the World Cup committee continues to use the new IRB in future World Cups, they continue a tradition of being able to head off future controversy. Most obviously, there can be no claim of regional preference with regard to the rules if the rules in use are ones that are sanctioned internationally.

As a sport, we are fortunate to have an International Rules Book, and especially since ours is the product of an international committee which means that the IRB is the resultant collaborative effort distilled from the efforts and communications of flier representatives, world wide. It would seem foolish to ignore the work of this dedicated staff.


After reviewing the raw scores from this event, I don’t think any conclusions can be drawn for certain except that the scoring was very inconsistent. You would think that the most consistent scoring would occur on the compulsories. These compulsories all contain very clear descriptions and are very familiar to the judges. Yet, the average difference for a single compulsory between the high and low score given to the flyer by the panel of seven was 22 points. That’s a lot for the average difference or spread for judging at this level. As an example, 22 points difference means that for one compulsory figure, one judge might score it 60, and another judge would give the same figure a score of 82. Not very good as an average deviation. I would think that maybe half that or less, would be the more expected split. Its important. In World Cup scoring, the Ballet is weighted more than Precision, but if a team cannot stay close to the lead in Precision, they have little chance of winning. The smallest spread was ten points and the largest spread was forty five points. Forty five points difference is a very large split.

Not that the Ballet fared any better. The range of scores varied greatly performance to performance. On a judge to judge basis, the rankings produced some very curious results. For example, of the seven judges, three ranked Team Aftershock in first place, two judges ranked Team Airkraft in first, one ranked Team Lung Ta first, and one ranked Team Skydance in first. The results? First place to Team Skydance, second to Team Airkraft and third place to Team Aftershock. How can this happen?

In World Cup scoring, all scores count. One thing that might have helped would have been to toss out the high and the low scores. This is a common practice in other sports, most of which are probably a little bit better established and more stable with regard to judging standards than we are. The effect of tossing out the high and low is that you get a more centered average. This also has the psychological effect of making the judges attempt to not stray too far from the general consensus. Although judges are encouraged to be independent, they cannot get too extreme or their scores will not count.

Inconsistent scoring always hurts the better teams. Always. If the scoring is consistent, the better teams will win. Inconsistent scoring gives lesser performances a chance of winning by making the results less predictable and more dicey. The World Cup has what is generally recognized as the top judges in the world. However, even the top judges can be made to look inefficient if the scoring system is not of equal caliber.


Currently, you are allowed to fly four persons in the Precision, and six in the Ballet. Originally, this came about because it was physically impossible to fly some of the compulsories with six fliers and there was no rule prohibiting using only part of the team for Precision. Team Blitz, of the UK was the first team to ever do this. They flew four in the Precision, and five in the Ballet. This has been the point of some controversy eversince and I might agree that revisiting the way the Precision is done is a good idea.

At this point in time, I’m uncertain about the value of flying compulsories. Technical difficulty and variety are more interestingly demonstrated in the freestyle. I’d prefer that they just got rid of the compulsories altogether, at least at the Masters level, and fly the freestyle full complement rather than kill the large teams. Perhaps in a format similar to ice skating when
they eliminated simple school figures as part of the competition. Randy Joe, team captain of Team Tsunami once remarked to me that if it were not for the compulsories, he would just love to fly six in the Precision freestyle. The Precision is essentially a technical routine and Randy felt that it would be
a great opportunity to show kiting what a six kite team could really do once it was freed of the constraints of the music in Ballet. Just imagine it.


Anyone that has seen the large teams fly can understand how powerful a sight this can be. It makes sense to me that the World Cup committee’s actions support the parts of the sport that encourage audience interest.

Not to get too far off the point, but similarly, I feel that we ought to consider the impact of stacks and indoor flying for the same reasons. Crowds love stacks. So, as organizations we ought to encourage stack flying, and make it easier, where possible for fliers to participate in this type of flying because stacks promote kiting. Certainly we shouldn’t be trying to make it more difficult for stack fliers to compete.

Indoor flying is great because indoor fliers bring the sport to auditoriums and gyms. Places to show audiences that might never have thought of going to a flying field, a little bit of what kite flying is all about. Indoor fliers promote the sport with their demos and competitions. We ought to support them and promote this part of the sport.

And the same for large teams. Rather than discouraging large teams, it would seem to make more sense to promote the spectacle of large teams in competition. What kite event organzier wouldn’t like to have large team demos at their event? What audiences do not enjoy the entertainment that large teams can bring to an event? Large teams are good for the World Cup.


Rules have many purposes. The most obvious one is to insure that all competitors compete on a level playing field and to enforce codes of etiquette and fairness. Measured on this, rules also should not diminish outside interest in the sport, nor ignore opportunities to promote the sport.

In other words, we don’t outlaw the slam dunk in basketball because it’s unfair to short players. We don’t allow players to use their hands in soccer so it will be fairer to players who are not as skilled with just using their feet. And, we don’t give tennis players ten attempts to get their serve in to accommodate players that have a poor serve. Rising instead, to the level of the competition is what elevates the sport.

Roger Chewning once remarked that a sport needs its idols. We would be wise to promote and protect our top fliers because they are the people we need to attract larger audiences. It is critical to the success of any sport that it promotes its best talent. And to this end, I think that the World Cup appears to be taking on an expanded role and influence and by doing so, not only promotes itself as an event, but also provides further advancement in the sport of kiting itself.