World SportKite Teams Championship (WSKC 2016)
at Rencontre International Cerf Volant, Berck, France 09-17 April 2016
Competition days: 12/13/14 April 2016
The “retirement” of three-times World Champions, Scratch Bunnies guarantees there’ll be a new name on the trophy. This ought to be a stroll in the park for French National Champions Start Air who, in recent editions, have consistently pushed the Scratch Bunnies in all departments. However there are quite few rising players involved who could cause some surprises and will be aiming to make sure Start Air don’t have things entirely their own way in this edition. Here’s a preview of this year’s contenders in the order that the teams appear in the start list for Precision on Day 1.
Opening the Competition for France it’s Panamair, the first of the rookie teams. Panamair performed well in the separate Concours de l’Avenir category in 2014 and earned the right to join this edition as full WSKC contestants. Although the team is based in Paris, they use Berck as their preferred practice location, so effectively, they’ll be “playing at home”. Due to a change of personnel, they did not compete in the 2015 French National Championships and had still not entirely “gelled” as a team by the time they got to STACK European Championships in September 2015. The potential is certainly there and a winter of practicing together should see them emerge as a more cohesive unit in 2016.
Next up is Team Flame from UK. They are the only team to have competed in every edition of WSKC to date and current line-up of 3 pilots includes two of the founding-members. Their experience and ability to cope with a variety of conditions usually sees them scoring well in the Compulsory Figures & Precision section. They now have a lively Ballet with some high-risk elements that could score highly if they can execute without mistakes, but the Ballet performance will need to match the quality of their precision if they wish to attain their true potential. Flame is a team who really should be challenging for a top 5 place. They come to WSCK 2016 in good form after placing 3rd overall in the STACK European Championships held at Dunkerque in September 2015.
Entering the arena next come Win-Sky Shanghai, the first of two teams from China. Since their first appearance at WSKC 2014, Win Sky travelled to compete as guests in 2015 STACK European Championships. There, they flew a new ballet that impressed the judges however in the precision section, a weak technical routine dropped them down the rankings. Since Dunkerque, they’ve fully re-equipped with CR Fury kites which should help to make them more competitive. They’ll also be fresh from 3 days of flying demonstrations at the Dubai International Kite Festival and, for the first time, will be fielding a team of 4 pilots rather than the 3 they’ve flown all their previous competition outings. It’s a lot of changes to cope with in a short time span. If they’ve done their homework, things could play well for them, though the converse is equally true.
Air Zone Flight Team from USA are second only to Flame in terms of experience and have a better track record at WSKC, regularly finishing among the top 5. However, they’ve not yet made it onto the podium. Could this be their year? After flying as a 3 man team for 3 consecutive editions of WSKC, they’ve now added a fourth pilot, so the added choreographic options could help, although bringing an extra player into a settled team doesn’t always work. AirZone are particularly adept at handling adverse wind conditions and can usually be relied upon to produce consistent quality performances. Barring any major mishaps, you’d expect Air Zone to be among the top contenders this year.
Talking of contenders, the next team is Start’Air who must surely be the hottest of hot-favourites since Cutting Edge in 2006. They’re multiple STACK European and French National Champions and it’s very much to their credit that they continue to maintain an incredibly high level of performance, year after year. Their compulsory figures are always well practiced and their technical routine is a pleasure to watch, with tight precision, changes of pace and the use of perfectly synchronised tricks that punctuate the whole performance. Their richly choreographed ballets exhibit all the same technical skills and are certain to find favour the appreciative crowds on the Promenade. There’s no department in which Start Air don’t excel. They’ve been on the podium 3 times in the last 3 editions of WSKC. They are, without doubt, a class act.
The rapid rise of Cerfs-Volants Folies (France) has eclipsed several longer-established European teams so are they now ready to mount a serious challenge to Start Air? Results from both the French and Europe Championships in 2015 suggest Cerfs Volants Folies still have a way to go before they can match the technical excellence of Start’Air in the Precision section. However, their ballet, flown with 6 pilots, was certainly an impressive spectacle. For 2016, they’re reported to be fielding a new ballet featuring 7 pilots, but it will still need to well-flown and well-choreographed in order to impress the judges. Little has been seen or heard of them over the winter but, with a former Scratch Bunny now “in their corner”, Cerfs Volants Folies could be reaching for higher standards of both technique and choreography in their performances.
With long time WSKC favourites Equipo Bogota 2600 gone into retirement, it has fallen to Atemoc to take up the banner for Colombia. Atemoc flew in the separate Concours de l’Avenir category in 2014, narrowly beating Panamair. That performance showed they are ready to join this edition as full WSKC contestants. They’ve had a settled team for a few years and, participating in the Concours de l’Avenir should have served to remind them that they’ll need to be in good form. Atemoc have always been a team with ambitions and if they can consolidate and improve on their performance in 2014, they should do well.
Giving the judges an opportunity to compare the two Colombian teams, Andesky are next into the Arena. One of four debutant teams in this year’s competition, the photographic evidence suggests Andesky have been practicing hard and are looking good. Still photos don’t always tell the whole story, although the team have had the benefit of some coaching from ex-Bogota 2600 pilot, Nilza Riveros. They should also be relaxed and well-practiced after recently completing their demonstration commitments at the Dubai International Kite Festival.
The arrival of Four-Ce in the arena will be eagerly awaited as the team, representing USA, includes British-born pilots Mark and Jeanette Lummas, both legends in sport-kite circles for their exploits as the founder-members of World Cup Champion team Skydance. Would Mark and Jeanette risk their (not inconsiderable) reputations if they didn’t feel they could make an impact? They’ve been absent from the competition scene for around 15 years, but during that time have continued flying with demonstration teams Bay Area Sundowners and Too Much Fun. Their experience should be reflected in well-prepared figures, a well-planned technical routine and a closely choreographed ballet. Many people have seen something of the original Skydance choreographic style in the performances of Start’Air. It’s not quite like they’re appearing on the same stage, though this may be as close as we ever get. As FourCe have never previously appeared at WSKC they are, strictly speaking, a debutant team. Could they cause an upset? We’ll have to wait and see!
Les Mademoiz’Ailes gave a great performance in the 2015 French National Championship to earn some decent scores and a well-deserved 3rd place. However in the heavier wind conditions of Dunkerque they struggled (as did several other competitors) at the STACK European Championships. Far from being downhearted they went away and developed a new ballet which will be unveiled in Berck. We can expect a step-up in terms of both the execution and sophistication of their ballet. With a settled team and increasing experience and confidence, les Mademoiz’Ailes should progress up the rankings. However they’ll need to produce some good compulsory figures, an area where, in both 2012 and 2014, they were a little unlucky.
Two years ago, at the Borneo International Kite Festival in Bintulu, Sarawak, Dalian Storm from Liaoning Province in north east China, made a huge impression in their competition debut under International Rules. Although their compulsory figures needed work, it was the tight, high energy, trick-loaded ballet that made an experienced international judging panel sit up and take notice! At the same event the following year, the energy and excitement were still there but with a change of personnel and a new pilot still settling-in, the performance seemed less confident. However, the team are clearly serious about making their way in competition. They’ve since added a 4th pilot and have been working hard throughout the winter months, practicing in seriously sub-zero temperatures on a frozen lake! At their best and in lighter winds, Dalian Storm are capable of causing a few upsets. Whatever happens, expect a lively debut from them.
Red Alert jumped up 5 places to 8th on their second visit to WSKC in 2014. If they can repeat that kind of progress, they should be more than happy, though they’ll be aware that it gets tougher at the top. Their last competition outing was at the STACK European Championships in September 2015, where their new ballet still had some bugs to be ironed out. Six months on, they should have sorted the problems and could reasonably be focussed on a top 5 placing. Red Alert are one of the hardest working teams around and have, as always, been putting in a lot a practice despite some seriously cold winter temperatures in Moscow.
Malaysia, are again represented by Team Silat. They have one change of personnel since 2014, but in their case, it’s unlikely to make a difference because, as members of the Bintulu Kite Flyer Club they have a strong squad of 15 or more pilots who fly together every weekend. On their first WSKC outing in 2014, Silat finished in a creditable 9th place making them top debutants for that edition. More recently, they achieved a strong second place just behind Cerfs Volants Folies in the Bintulu Cup Competition. Flying on their own home field may have helped, but, thanks to hard work and their increasing level of experience, Silat could be one of the teams to watch. However, in Sarawak they have little opportunity to practice with their vented kites. Strong winds in Berck may the biggest obstacle to success.
So that’s the teams.
WSKC will take place within the framework of the Berck Rencontre International des Cerfs Volants (RICV), a vast nine-day kite event and major logistical operation! Just as 2016 will be 10th Edition of WSKC, it will also be the 30th year of RICV, so a double celebration. Organiser, Gerard Clement is all geared-up for the huge influx of competitors, officials, demonstration performers, single line kite-flyers plus supporters and international guests who come together at this time for the flying, the friendships . . . and the fireworks!
On the staff side, scorer Susan Skinner (AKA), will again be wrestling with the judges’ handwriting. Aiming to keep both judges and competitors in order on the field will be Directrice de Terrain Mary Ann Parker (STACK UK). Sumiko Yamashita (AJSKA) will be a hard act to follow but we look forward to some spectacular shots from Julia Lezhnina (STACK Russia) who, this year, carries the “All Areas Access Pass” as Official Photographer. The WSKC 2016 judging panel welcomes one new member in Mark Quirmbach (AKA) and also sees a welcome return to WSKC duty for Germany’s Jürgen Schneider. Much travelled Lisa Willoughby (AKA) wins her third WSKC judging appointment while Pascal Martel (FFVL) gets his fourth. Ron Despojado was originally scheduled to take on the Chief Judge role for this edition but, following Ron’s unexpected passing, Andrew Taylor (STACK UK) is recalled to the judging panel for a 6th time. The Organisers have kindly allowed Pascal Vection (FFVL) and Nilza Riveros (Colombia) to work as Shadow Judges/Runners during the competition. It’s likely to be an intense induction to international competition judging for them!
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