Issue 6: Field Crew Manual

The “No Secrets” Handbook for Sport Kite Competition Field Crews


Sport kite competitions have grown by leaps and bounds over the last twelve years. Competitions that used to take an afternoon are now hard pressed to finish in three days. Events a few years ago that took three or four people to organize and run, now take hundreds. Sport Kite competitions are fast approaching the status of major sporting events.

Personnel that volunteer to run such events are in great demand. The need for advanced training and practice is now a very important part of producing a good competition. This manual is designed to pass on important information about the duties and responsibilities of the Field Crews that make up a Sport Kite event.

The Field Crews at a Sport Kite event make a very large percentage of the total number of event personal. In the past the task of Judge, Field Director, Pit Boss and Line Judge have been regulated to, “What bodies can I find to fill that job?” Over the years Event Coordinators have found that these jobs are very important to the efficient and timely running of an event.

This manual will give helpful tips and suggestions on how to perform the duties of Judge, Field Director, Pit Boss and Line Judge. These jobs may seem to be less glamorous then Event Coordinators, but proper execution of these duties are the heart of a well run and efficient Sport Kite Competition.

AUTHORS NOTE: The guidelines set down in this manual are not “Official” rules. Although the author has attempted to match the new 1999 International Rules Committee sport kite competition rules and procedures, some event procedures may vary. The current edition of this manual was designed for use at the Sport Kite competitions in the 1999 season. Any suggestions, comments, ideas or questions about this manual should be directed to the author or to the sport kite rules committees listed at the end of this handbook

FIRST PRINTING 1992 REVISED 1994,1997,1998


You should always present yourself in a professional manner while on the flying field. You are representing the competition and the sponsors while on the field and the positions of Field Crew members are some of the most visible both to the competitor and the general public. Always be polite and courtesy to all involved.

You must be impartial and objective in your actions with all the contestants. It is especially important to act professionally when assisting at the novice or beginner class of competition. You will be the main contact with the contestant, who may be on the field for the very first time. You are expected to present yourself at all times as a competent and interested person. It is only fair to the competitor to do so.


There is always a Pre-flight meeting for the discipline that you will work. It is your responsibility to know where and when this meeting will take place. You should know the rest of the judging team that you will work with. You should make it your responsibility to acquire the equipment you will need for your particular job on the flying field. (See individual Job Descriptions for the required equipment)

At the Pre-flight meeting you will receive a complete and current flight order of the contestants from the Head Judge for your event. At this meeting you will be introduced to the contestants. Make sure that the contestants see and recognize you, as this will make your tasks easier later in the discipline. You should listen to the Head Judges comments to the contestants and make note of any last minute changes that he/she may make to them.

You should listen to the comments and questions that the contestants may ask of the Head Judge about the discipline. You can include any comments and clarifications that you may have if the Head Judge requests you to do so.

The Head Judge will urge the contestants to be on time when it is their turn to compete. This means that you must be ready BEFORE the contestants are. BE PROMPT

Competition Communications

Many disciplines employ headset radios for communication between Field Crew personal and the Head Judge, as well as between the Head Judge of a discipline and the stage, announcer and Chief Judge of the competition. It is your responsibility as a Field Crew person to acquire a radio if your position requires one. At many competitions there may be quite a few radios in use on the field at the same time. There are simple procedures for use of these radios. Common sense and courtesy are required in use of headset radios.

Care and Handling of the Radio

  • Be familiar with the operation of the radio (if you don’t understand something ASK before you have problems on the field)
  • Handle the radio and especially the headset carefully (They are fragile)
  • Be careful not to get the radio wet or sandy.
  • Always keep the radio antenna fully extended for best transmission and reception.
  • Range is limited on these low powered radios (approximately 1000 feet or less under the best of conditions) If you cannot see the person that you wish to speak to, odds are that they are too far away to talk to on the radio.

Radio Procedures

  • Never under any circumstances switch the radio to VOX (Voice Activated).
  • Make sure to push the PTT (Push to Talk) button before you begin to speak and continue to hold a moment after you have completed speaking.
  • Make sure the radio volume is near maximum.
  • You cannot transmit and be heard when someone else is already speaking (Wait your turn).
  • Limit the length of your radio conversations. (Don’t hog the channel)
  • If lengthily conversations or rules discussions are required use a runner or speak in person with who you wish.
  • Field Directors, Pit Bosses and Judges should keep radio conversation to a minimum, especially if the channel is being shared with other fields and disciplines.
  • If two fields are sharing the same channel, identify yourself with a field number (i.e. “In” Field #1 or “Out” Field #2).
  • Arrange hand signals between Field Directors, Pit Bosses and Judges BEFORE you have radio problems or low batteries. (Spare batteries are usually located at the main stage.)
  • Remember that radios are not like a telephone. Anything that you say can and will be heard by everyone on that channel. BE POLITE.

Calling Procedures

  • Use the name of your assigned field position as a call sign (i.e. Field #1 Head Judge, Field #4 Pit Boss)
  • Always identify the person that you wish to call first, then identify yourself (i.e. Stage this is Field #3 Pit Boss)

General Radio Comments

  • After your discipline is completed be sure to return your radio to the main stage for the next field crew person to use.
  • If you have experienced problems with your radio during use, inform the stage personal of the problem so that it can be corrected before the next discipline.

Judges Job Description

(Judging procedures are covered in greater detail in many competition Judges Seminars.)


Judges are assigned to an discipline as part of a five person judges team and are under the direction of a Head judge. Before each discipline you should take special care to review special criteria for that discipline. If you have any questions you should discuss them with the Head Judge of your field team.

You should plan to attend the pre-flight judges meeting the day of the discipline. You will meet the rest of the judging team at this time. Review the competition rules booklet and bring up any questions about it that you may have at that time.

In addition, you are required to attend the pilots pre-flight meeting prior to the beginning of the discipline. You will be introduced to the fliers at this time. You will also have a chance to hear any rules clarifications, fliers questions, and last minute changes made by the Head Judge.

Scoring Process

You are required to complete a scoring sheet for each flier in the discipline. Before the discipline you should review the score sheet and familiarize yourself with it. If you have any questions about it, you should discuss it with the Head Judge before the discipline begins.

Scoring Methods

  • Comparative Scoring Method – This method is usually used by a more inexperienced judging team or with a team that has never worked together. Basically, the judges will compare their scores after the first flier of the discipline to see if they are consistent among themselves. This comparison is only done AFTER the scores are recorded. The Head Judge will examine all the scores and suggest adjustments to the individual judges scores. The Head Judge may or may not initially allow scores to be altered. After the second flier, the scores will again be compared. The scores will not be altered at this time.The idea behind the comparative method of scoring is to see if the judges are consistent among themselves. This method also gives the more inexperienced judges a chance to compare their scores to those of the more experienced judges. This method gives each judge a base line score. The main drawback to this method is that it is time consuming, and is very unfair to contestants that fly in a discipline that has varying wind conditions.
  • Subtractive Scoring Method. – With this method the judge assigns the maximum possible number of points to a given flier before they begin their routine, The judge will then subtract a certain number of points from the fliers score each time they make an error or fly imperfectly. The disadvantage of this method is trying to assign a point value to each part of the entire routine, and then being consistent throughout each fliers performance in the entire discipline.
  • Additive Scoring Method – This method is the exact opposite method of scoring as the subtractive method. In additive scoring the judge starts the fliers score at zero and then adds points for each properly executed portion of the routine.
  • Wiping the Slate Clean – As the phrase implies, you must consider each contestants performance solely on its own merits and not consciously compare it with any previous fliers routine. That said, how is it to be done? Your main job is to be as “objective” as possible, assign a largely “subjective” score. This is easy in precision compulsory figures because you know what to look for, and more difficult in free style or Ballet events, because it is impossible to predict what maneuvers the flier will perform next. NEVER COMPARE A CURRENT FLIER WITH ANY OF THE PREVIOUS FLIERS
  • Assessing of Penalties – Any penalties that occur are applied to the gross score. This allows you to consider the total performance first. The net scores are generally what are provided to the scorekeepers. (Note: The Head Judge will confirm that a penalty has occurred and what the point deduction should be.)
  • Factoring of Ground Touches – During compulsory figures, a ground touch could result in a zero for that figure. You are required to “factor” a ground touch into your gross score. If you feel that the touch detracted from the performance, the score is reduced. If the touch seems to enhance the performance the score would be increased.
  • Scoring Consistency – An important concern for you is whether your scores are consistent across the entire list of contestants, and how the scores relate to those of the remainder of the judging team. The Comparative Technique is useful in establishing a baseline score. At this point, experience with different judging teams and disciplines seems to be best, perhaps the only way, to achieve consistency.

Precision Discipline Procedures

Precision disciplines are flown in two different methods, Standard format and League style. In Standard format the flier will perform the compulsory figures one at a time with pauses in-between to allow the judges to record their scores and then followed by a freestyle flight. In league style precision the flier will incorporate the compulsory figures into an entire freestyle program with transitions in between them.

Compulsory figures are selected to test the different technical abilities of the flier (i.e. circles and curves, curve/line combinations, etc.) with all fliers performing the same figures. The transition maneuvers are flown at the choice of the fliers.

  • Discernibility of Figures Flown. – While the size of the figure is basically unimportant for scoring purposes, the larger the compulsory figure, the easier it will be for you to score the figure. This point is usually emphasized to the fliers in the Rules and Procedures Booklet and/or by the Head Judge during the preflight meeting.
  • Figure Characteristics – Among other things, you should note whether: The figure is flown in the direction drawn (Individual Precision only. Teams/Pairs are allowed to mirror or flip the direction of the compulsories.)

The corners were crisp and sharp;

The angles (45/90 degrees, etc.) were correct;

The figure was flown symmetrically and uniformly;

Any crossing points match up.

Factors That Effect Judging

  • Fliers Ground Movements – Some fliers are very active and dance, do somersaults, flips, and generally interact with the kite during their performance. These activities are judged in other disciplines and are not considered in Precision and Ballet disciplines. It maybe difficult at times to ignore fliers acrobatics, but you are judging the fliers ability to fly the kite, and NOT his or her acrobatic ability. (Any use of hardware, gadgets, or other accessories are not allowed in Precision and Ballet disciplines.) Only the flight of the kite should be judged.Some accessories are allowed, such as air brakes, relaunch devices and tails. Use of these and other accessories are determined by the Head Judge of your discipline crew. One important consideration is that these accessories are NOT to be included in your judging assessment. This holds particularly true of tails on a kite.
  • Other Activities or Distractions – It can be very difficult to pay close attention to a fliers performance when other activities are taking place on adjacent fields in your view. It is only fair to pay as close attention to the fliers performance as possible. If you did not see a maneuver because you were distracted, don’t hesitate to tell the Head Judge. Maneuvers can be flown over at the discretion of the Head Judge.

Closing Comments on Sport Kite Judging

Sport kite judging is still in it’s infancy. There are many areas in judging that need to be changed and improved upon. The main idea you must keep in mind when you judge any discipline is to BE FAIR, BE CONSISTENT, BE ATTENTIVE and most important READ THE RULES BOOK. Many major problems that occur at a given discipline are the results of judges being unfamiliar with the existing rules for that discipline.

Judge at competitions as much as you can for the experience. Ask more experienced judges about how they judge. The experience you gain will not only make you a better sport kite judge, but will also make you a better sport kite flier and competitor.

Duties of the Field Director

The job of Field Director is one of the most important ones at a Sport Kite competition. The Field Director is in control of the flying field, subject to the Head Judge and the Competition Coordinator. The speed as well as the general level of the competition is controlled by the Field Director. The Field Director will also coordinate the media and press that will be allowed onto the field during the competitions. A good Field Director can bring the best out of the contestants by proper execution of his or her duties. A poor Field Director can make a competition last forever.

Psycological Duties

As Field Director you will be the main Field Crew person that the contestant will deal with. Besides the main competition duties you will perform, it should be your responsibility to make the contestant at ease for their performance. The contestant will arrive at your position with a great deal of tension and nervousness. This is a common part of sport kite competing and is felt by the most experienced of contestants.

A Field Director should be courteous and friendly to the contestant. What you say is not important, a friendly hello will be fine. Calling the contestant by name will help make them more comfortable.

Be as helpful as you can and answer any questions that they may ask. However, once the competitor has begun, you MUST NOT coach or assist the flier in anyway. Always wish the contestant good luck before they start. A Thank You or a “Good Job” is also appropriate, no matter how they fly.

General Responsibilities

As Field Director you are responsible for all that takes place on the competition field. This will include moving the contestant on and off of the field in an orderly and efficient manner. You will coordinate your activities on the field with the Pit Boss, Head Judge and the Competition Coordinator.

You will also be responsible for the safety of all in and around the competition field. You can and SHOULD stop the competition at anytime a safety situation occurs. (I.e. Spectator on the field, etc.) Be aware of where you are, where the flier is, and where the kite is at all times. In other words be a “Heads-Up Field Director”.

Regular Field Director Movements

For any discipline the Field Director will:

  • Signal the Pit Boss to send the (next) flier from the stage-in area to the competition field. You should notify the Pit Boss about one minute before the current contestant finishes their routine. This will give Pit Boss time to prepare the next contestant. The Field Director will do this without distracting the current flier.
  • Upon receiving the next flier to the competition field you should verify their name with the Head Judge.
  • Review the procedures for the discipline with the flier. (During this time and up until you give the command to begin, the flier should have ample time to check the wind direction and velocity) Once the judges are ready to start, do not allow any delays for additional practice.
  • Position the flier properly on the competition field. Depending on the wind velocity and direction the starting location may vary throughout the event. Be sure to give the Judges a chance to respond to any changes in the starting position from one flier to the next.
  • Instruct the flier to call “IN” and “OUT” at the beginning and the end of their performance. “IN” at the beginning of each compulsory in league precision. You should also signal this call by raising your hand for “IN” and “OUT” to the judging panel
  • Review the time limits for that particular discipline with the contestant. Ask them if they would like any time cues.
  • After receiving the go ahead from the Head Judge, signal the flier to begin.
  • Move with the flier if the wind shifts or is minimal, warning the flier if he/she comes close to the field boundaries.
  • Stay close to the flier BUT out of their field of vision. This is a very common error for new Field Directors. YOU SHOULD NOT BE SEEN BY THE FLIER, yet you must remain close enough to help the flier.
  • Keep radio communication to a minimum, so as not to distract the flier YOU SHOULD NOT BE HEARD BY THE FLIER ,except to give them time cues and field locations
  • The Field Director will time the discipline and will also time crashes and relaunches if necessary. (45 seconds are allowed for a relaunch with or without assistance). Remember that you cannot assist the flier in any way physically during their performance.

Responsibilities During Precision Disciplines

  • You will have a copy of each of the compulsory maneuvers with you. Show them to the flier before they begin. If the discipline is flown league style make sure that the contestant is aware of the correct order of the maneuvers. If the flier does not want to see the maneuvers. SHOW THEM TO THE FLIER ANYWAY! This will avoid possible problems after the flier is finished.
  • You will observe that the kite does not touch the ground during compulsory maneuvers, unless it is a specified part of the maneuver. If you see a ground touch, inform the judges over the headset radio.

Responsibilities During Music Disciplines

  • It is the duty of the Field Director to collect audio cassettes and CD’s from the contestants at the Pilot’s meeting. The music is turned over to the Sound person.
  • On the field you will ask the contestant if there are any pauses in their music that might be misinterpreted as the end of the song. If there are, inform the Sound person.
  • You are responsible for informing the Sound person to start the tape or CD. (Do this by calling “Start Tape Field #?)
  • You should be prepared to adjust the volume of the sound should the flier request that you do so. There are no sound checks allowed so this will be accomplished after the flier calls IN. (Do this by calling “Volume Up/Down Field #?)
  • You will be required to time the musical performance. You will also give the flier time cues if they request them.

The Field Director and the Wind Rule

It is the responsibility of the Field Director to test the wind if the flier or the Head Judge requests them to do so. The contestant will request a “Wind Check”. There is a specific procedure for this “Wind Check”.

  • A wind check can be requested by the contestant up to the half way point of the discipline, based on the maximum allowable time for that discipline. (Individual Precision -1 min. 30 sec. Individual Ballet – 2 min. Team and Pairs Ballet – 2 min. 30 sec.)
  • If the wind check request is made during the contestants performance, he/she MUST continue to fly until receiving the results from the Field Director.
  • The Field Director will take a wind velocity reading for a continuous period of 15 seconds (Standing still) before determining if the average wind speed falls below the minimum required for that discipline Novice, Intermediate, and Trains – 4 mph, Masters and Experienced – 2 mph).
  • The Field Director informs the flier of the reading, and if the reading is at or above the required minimum, the contestant will be required to continue, but if the reading is below the minimum, the contestant may continue to fly or may choose to stop his/her performance until instructed to restart by the Head Judge.
  • Where the flier chooses not to continue, the Field Director will instruct the flier to land their kite. The Head Judge and the Field Director will discuss whether or not to invoke the wind rule delay.

Duties of the Pit Boss

The Pit Boss is in control of the stage-in and Pit area. It is the duty of the Pit Boss to send the next contestant to the Field Director without delay. This is a very important field crew position.

For any discipline the Pit Boss will:

  • Check in each flier as he/she arrives in the stage-in area and is ready to enter the Pit area.
  • Control the stage-in area and the Pit of the flying field. (This area may or may not be big enough to allow practice flying. This will be at the discretion of the Chief Judge of the competition.)
  • Make sure there are only one flier/team is in the Pit area at any given time. (The Pit Boss MUST NOT allow other fliers to clutter the stage-in area with their kites and lines. The Pit Boss can and should have these fliers remove unused gear from this area.)
  • Notify the Field Director when a flier/team/pair does not have their own field crew. Ground Crew MUST carry the contestants kites into and off the flying field. CONTESTANTS MUST NOT FLY INTO THE COMPETITION FIELD. The contestant can be disqualified for this infraction.
  • Direct the next flier to move from the Pit area to the competition field, once requested by the Field Director.
  • Communicate to the Field Director and the Head Judge that the next flier/team may not be ready to move to the competition field. There are legitimate reasons for this delay. (I.e. Flier/team may be competing in another discipline or on another field.)
  • Notify the Field Director and the Head Judge that the next flier/team is unavailable for the discipline, with no excuse and is thus subject to disqualification.
  • Request the P.A. system announcer to page fliers who have not yet reported to the stage-in area. The Pit Boss WILL NOT attempt to locate fliers on their own and MUST NOT leave the stage-in and Pit area.

Duties of the Line Judge

The Line Judge is required to observe the area that the contestants kite is flying in. It is a very common and boring task, BUT the Line judge can and does have the power to disqualify a contestant. This task must be performed to the best of the Line Judges ability It is a VERY important task.

  • Line Judges are generally placed in the down wind corners of the competition field, approximately 15 feet inside the boundary of the official field.
  • When the Line Judge determines a flier or kite has approached the inner boundary (15 feet inside the field flagging tape) he/she will wave a yellow flag to signal the contestant (and the Field Director) that the contestant is APPROACHING the field boundary. They will begin to then follow the kites flight.
  • Any number of yellow flags maybe flown. When the contestant or the kite actually crosses the official competition field boundary limit tape, a red flag is flown.
  • Any number of yellow flags maybe flown, only one red flag is allowed. If the kite crosses the field boundary tape and a red flag is shown the flier/team/pair is disqualified. The Line Judge will inform the Field Director and the Head Judge that a safety violation has occurred.

In Conclusion

There are many methods and procedures for performing the tasks of Judge, Field Director, Pit Boss and Line Judge. At some point in the future the official rules committees may establish a formal job description and criteria for performing these duties. At this time the author has put together this handbook to help the general sport kiting community to better understand and perform these tasks.

It cannot be overemphasized that these are not rules set in stone, but guidelines evolved over the last thirteen years of the authors On the field experience. If you find something that can make one of these tasks easier, more efficient or safer, please contact the author or any of the organizations listed at the end of this handbook. We would all appreciate your input, suggestions, criticisms or comments.

Now that you have read this handbook and have a working knowledge of how these jobs are performed, VOLUNTEER, VOLUNTEER, VOLUNTEER Your assistance at events will be greatly appreciated by all of us across the country.