at Rencontre International Cerf Volant, Berck, France 14-22 April 2018
Competition days: 17/18/19 April 2018
This year, twelve teams representing seven different nations will meet in competition on the sands of Berck to decide who will wear the World Champion title for the next two years. Here’s our correspondent’s 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 Les Mademoiz’Ailes who took advantage of the mainly light winds in 2016 to place only just outside the top 5 placings. They will have gained confidence from that result and have the advantage of an unchanged team for this edition. The draw for flying order hasn’t put them head-to-head with Shanxi Taiyuan, the other all-female team in the competition but there will doubtless be intense interest when their ballet performances are scheduled quite close together on the afternoon of the first day’s competition.
Equipo Atemoc from Colombia are one of the well-established teams and feature some of that country’s most talented flyers. Their dedication and willingness to promote the sport through coaching and taster-courses is creating an upsurge of interest in sport kite flying in Colombia with new adherents trying the sport and new teams being formed. With one change of personnel since 2016 and several supporters making the long trip from Colombia to encourage them, expect Atemoc to be fired-up and eager to perform well.
Team Flame from UK is 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. With former pilot Tony Shiggins now “retired” from competition, Flame has recruited experienced ex-Air Heads flyer Vee Griffiths to join the remaining line-up that placed 5th in 2016. Flame has always excelled in the Compulsory Figures & Precision section but will need to produce a good Ballet to retain their status as title- contenders.
The first of this year’s WSKC debutants, the Handan Conqueror team from Hebei Province in the North East of China are next to entering the arena. Handan won the invitation to compete at WSKC on the strength of their performances against some internationally well-respected teams at the Asia Pacific Sport Kite Championships. On that occasion their complex and well-crafted ballet was among the best, but their lack of experience in flying compulsory figures proved a weakness. Armed with that experience, Handan could cause some surprises if they’ve done their homework.
The arrival of Four-Ce will again be eagerly awaited. The team flashed moments of brilliance in their 2016 debut but despite their excellent pedigree, they looked a little ring rusty in competition. Despite some serious set-backs on the way, the team placed 8th in 2016, but they will now have a clearer idea of the standards in current competition and should be better prepared this year. The team are fiercely determined and could jump out of the pack to challenge for one of top spots.
Red Alert are usually a team of four but are without recent new father Slava Mischenko for this contest. Weather reports suggest that Russia has had a milder winter than usual, but that still means practicing in sub-zero temperatures! Team leader Mikhail Loskov says the team members have been busy preparing for this competition and with a recent trend towards larger teams, the last time a 3-man team won WSKC was USA’s Cutting Edge back in 2006. Perhaps Red Alert can reverse that trend.
For this edition Dalian Storm revert to their original, and possibly strongest, line-up of 3 very well-matched flyers. They had been keen to use the important Daishan Island Sportkite Competition in October 2017 as preparation for WSKC 2018 but that event was unfortunately curtailed due to typhoon winds and a tidal surge! Dalian Storm made a good impression on their WSKC debut in 2016, especially in the ballet section where their neat synchronised tricks, complex choreography and secure landings caught the eye of the judges. If the winds in Berck remain light, look out for Dalian to be in the top tier!
In 2016 Team Silat from Sarawak, Malaysia, surprised a lot of people with their well-deserved 3rd place on only their second WSKC campaign. They have been working hard developing a new ballet but team leader Roslan Omar reports that actual flying practice has been hampered by heavy rains and tropical storms which mostly seem to arrive at weekends! Silat work hard to be well prepared and should again be among the contenders for top honours but they get little opportunity to practice in stronger winds. They may also some stronger challenges coming up behind them.
AndeSky from Colombia followed their WSKC debut with a first place at the Doha, Qatar International Kite Festival in 2017. Despite two enforced changes of personnel due to work commitments, the core of the team is intact and probably stronger following the recruitment of former Bogota 2600 flyer Jorge Beltran. Multiple changes of personnel can be disruptive but, Jorge’s experience will be invaluable in preparing AndeSky for their second WSKC campaign. No longer a rookie team, they will be aiming to start climbing up the placings.
The rise of Cerfs-Volants Folies (France) took a further step when they became Vice-Champions of the World at WSKC 2016. The sheer scale of their choreography has always been impressive, but the quality of execution has never quite matched their ambition for a big team ballet. Competitions can be won and lost in the compulsory figures and technical routine which is where the Folies will need to start their challenge. We have yet to discover whether former Scratch Bunnies pilot David Morley will fly with the Folies in competition but his experience is likely to be influential.
Penultimate performers are the Shanxi Taiyuan Ladies Kite Team, affectionately known as the “The China Dolls”. They are second debutant team in this year’s competition which this will be their first appearance outside the Asia region. Like Handan, the team won the invitation to compete at WSKC on basis of a strong performance at the Asia Pacific Sport Kite Championships. Their ballet on that occasion was competently-flown and they also showed a good understanding of the compulsory figures. The ladies are also accomplished multi-line flyers so look out for them in the programme of demonstrations.
Finally we get to see what Start’Air have to offer in 2018. As the reigning World Champions and with an unchanged team, they must start as strong favourites to retain the title. The members of the team were originally based around Amiens but work and life commitments now find them scattered across the map of France. Inevitably, this makes it more difficult to maintain the consistency of performance that comes with frequent practice. But perhaps Start’Air now have such a depth of experience that regular practice becomes less essential.
Et voila . . . the teams for 2018!
On the staff side, Lisa Willoughby (AKA) takes over the WSKC Chief Judge role and will be in overall charge of the competition proceedings. Jürgen Schneider (Germany) makes a fifth appearance and will serve as acting Head Judge for the first day’s competition. Sia Jau Ren from Malaysia is new to the WSKC judging panel but brings a wealth of experience as flyer, coach and judge within the Asia-Pacific region. He will wear the Head Judge’s armband during the second day of competition. Pascal Martel (FFVL) also makes a fifth appearance as judge and takes charge of the final day’s competition. Veteran UK judge Andrew Taylor completes the judging panel.
On the field, multilingual Directeur de Terrain Stephan Fiers from Belgium will have the task of monitoring the wind while helping the competitors to stay both within the safety boundaries and within the rules of the competition.
Nilza Riveros from Colombia, who previously served as a trainee/shadow judge, continues her professional development at this level taking on the role of Official Scorer and will be available to step into a place on the judging panel should it become necessary for any reason.
WSKC takes place within the framework of the Berck Rencontre International des Cerfs Volants (RICV), a vast nine-day kite event . . . and major logistical operation! Organiser, Gerard Clement is all geared-up for the huge influx of competitors, officials, demonstration performers, single line kite-flyers plus families, supporters and international guests who come together at this time for the flying, the friendships and the fireworks!
You can follow the progress of the 11th World Sportkite Championship
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