Issue 5: Cheating for Fun and Profit

or “Creative Rulebook Interpretation”

Let’s get this straight from the beginning. The rulebook is your friend. Repeat that a few times. Doesn’t matter whether it’s an AKA rulebook or a STACK rulebook or that fun new international rulebook, doesn’t matter whether you like it or not, doesn’t matter what color it is, the rulebook is your friend. And this column will look at the stunt kite rulebook, dissect some rules, and show you ways to use the rules to your advantage. The idea here is not to be sneaky, devious, underhanded, or to do anything illegal that gives you an unfair advantage on the field, but simply to use the same set of rules that everyone uses for your own gain.

We’ll start this month with an easy one: wind rules and wind checks. There are minimum and maximum wind speeds under which competition can proceed, and they’re different for each class. Know these speeds! The maximum wind speed very rarely comes into play, but the minimum is used all the time, and we’ll be using it here today.

If the wind falls below the minimum speed, you don’t have to keep flying, right? Wrong! Not unless you’re an intelligent flyer who knows the rules, that is. For the wind rule to kick in, the flyer must call for a wind check. Clear and simple, and yet those two words give many people trouble. If you suspect the wind speed is below minimum, or even if you just want to know the wind speed for your personal edification, you must audibly say, so that the field director hears you, “Wind check.” Not “What’s the wind speed?” or “Is it blowing 4 mph?” or “Is there enough wind?”

“Wind check.” Say it a few times. It’s good practice.

Now that you’ve said that, there are several things that may happen. Some of these things depend on the clock, which is not in your hands but is still accessible to you. The rulebook says you may call for a wind check at any time “…before or up to the half-way point of his/her performance.” Actually, you can call for it whenever you want, but if you’re past the halfway point, nothing will happen. The field director will ignore you. Suck it up and keep flying. You didn’t know your rulebook, so you’d better start watching out for the back boundary. That’s the first thing that can happen.

But say that it’s before the halfway point. Well, a ballet routine may be up to 4 minutes long for individuals, so halfway is at the 2 minute mark. For competition purposes, the rulebook assumes that you’re using the complete 4 minutes. Even if your music ends at 2:01, you have until the 2 minute mark to call for a windcheck. Same for league style precision, but since the max is 3 minutes, halfway is at 1 ½ minutes. Now, since you’ve called “Wind check” before the halfway mark, the field director springs into action. While you continue flying – always always always continue flying during a wind check – the field director pulls out a digital anemometer and measures the average wind speed over the next 15 seconds. If it’s above the minimum you’ll be told so, and once again, suck it up and fly. If it’s below minimum, you need to clearly tell the field director, “I’d like a wind rule delay” and then land your kite. Don’t leave any doubt about what you’re doing. Don’t land first. Don’t fly out of bounds. Invoke the rule, then land safely.

Congratulations, you’ve just used the rulebook to your advantage. When the wind picks back up, you’ll have another chance to fly. Use the timeout to move your kite back to a better position. You are allowed to change kites, lines, and music, even if you’re already in the competition field. Be ready to fly; if the wind suddenly comes up, the field director may tell you to start.

None of this applies in “fly or die” situations. If the wind is low for long enough that it threatens to keep the event from taking place, the organizer or chief judge may declare that it’s fly or die. In that case, there are no minimum windspeeds, you can’t call for a wind check, and you had better get your lightest gear out. Hopefully, fly or die will be accompanied by soft boundaries, so that you can set up somewhere in the next county, then back up until you trip over the judges.

But for you cheaters out there, there’s still more. You can also ask the field director for a time check. Most of us use that option so that we know we’re nearly out of time and can land. But why not ask for a time check at 1:25 of your precision routine? Five seconds before the halfway “failsafe” point of the routine, the field director says “One twenty five” and you immediately reply, “Wind check.” You got it in at the last possible moment, it’s legal, and if it’s below minimum, you’re golden. A really on-the-ball field director will know what you’ve got in mind; at one 1997 competition, when I called for a wind check at 1:28 of my precision routine, Al Hargus already had the wind meter in his hand and ready.

Cheating with the wind rule is easy. Next month we’ll try something harder: cheating with crashes, or as we’ll refer to them, unplanned landings at improper angles. Until then, remember, cheaters never prosper, but they often have more fun.