The purpose of this article is to discuss some of the things that competitors can do to get the best score possible from the Judges.
It is not about how to make a kite that will impress the Judges. It is about how to impress the Judges with the kite you have made.
1. Read the Rules. - The single most important thing a competitor can do to get a better score is read the rules! Does that sound too silly or obvious? It’s not. These days people with computers don’t even have to shell money out for a book. The Kite Making Rules are on the AKA web site, http://www.aka.kite.org/km_rules
2. What kind of kite is it? - The first step in competition is Registering. What category should you register in to? Seriously, some strategy can come in to play here. Many kites can fit just as well in to more than one category, but they can only be entered in one. Pick the category yours will score the best in. Take a look around and see what else it will be competing against. Clearly, if it is a Rokkaku, it needs to be in Rokkaku. But a Circoflex can be argued for Cellular, or Semi-Rigid (only one stick . . .). Some ‘Figure’ kites might do better in ‘Flat & Bowed’. Have an idea what category your kite fits best before you Register. Figure out where you will do best, and argue for it. If you aren’t happy with the category they want to put you in, see the Head Judge (usually Steve Ferrel) and make your case. Of course, this assumes you have shown up on time and the category you want hasn’t already been run . . .
3. What are those numbers? - You register, you get a number, and when it is time, you are told to go stand next to a flag with the corresponding number out on the field. This is so Judges can equate Numbers with Kites before they start judging them. While competitors are standing at the flags, judges are writing “1. Yellow Kite” “2. Fish Kite”, etc. The theory here is that if the Competitors are all lined up at the flags, Judges can fill out their score sheets faster, making the whole process shorter for everyone. For the Judges, having a note next to the number just makes it a whole lot easier to score them when they are flown, during which time the competitor wearing the number is not right next to them.
Here’s the salient point: The Numbered Flags are not where the competitor needs to stand to fly. They are only there for judges to fill out the score sheets. When it is time to fly, the smart competitor will determine, and head for, the most advantageous spot on the field to fly from.
Here is a hint: Do the rules say anything specific about having or not having an assistant hold and release the kite for launch?
Here’s another hint: If you read the rules, you know that ‘Retrieval and Line Handling’ is part of the Flight score. A smart competitor has figured out the best way to bring the kite back to ground under the best control. And again, do the rules say anything specific about using assistants for Retrieval? It can be inferred that the kite needs to be under to control of the flier, but if the flier is directing an assistant, isn’t it still under ‘control’ of the flier?
4. Flight Scores: - Remember that when the kite is flying, it is being judged two ways. Half the Judges are judging how well it flies, half are judging how good it looks. Most of the reason for the ‘100 foot’ flight rule is to see if graphics on the kite are as good far way as they are up close. What do the rules say about Flight? The smart competitor is doing everything possible to make the kite climb to its best ability, stay as stable as possible, given kite type and conditions, and then bring it back to hand under complete control.
When flying is concluded, head for the other row of numbered flags. This is where the Judges will come to do the ground judging, or Static Scoring.
5. Static Scores: - These are scores when the kite is standing still. This is the competitor’s chance to ‘sell’ their kite to the Judges. Again, there are two types of judging. Structural Design, or what was done to make the kite, and Craftsmanship, which is how well it was done. Design is what kind of materials, fittings, seams. Craftsmanship is how well were they made and sewn.
The Judges are in two groups. Their badges identify what they are judging. Have a ‘talk’ ready to give to each set of Judges. One well-seasoned competitor has index cards for his kites. He has a ‘Design’ list of everything he wants to point out to the Design Judges, and a ‘Craftsmanship’ list of everything he wants to point out to the Craftsmanship Judges. That way he doesn’t forget to mention something important when a half dozen Judges are staring at him.
When a Judge engages a Competitor in conversation, they are trying to give the kite the most honest score. Sometimes a Judge asks; “So, what problems did you have to solve?” The translation is; “Please give me some design things I can score you on.”
What’s the worst thing a Competitor can say in front of the Design (Structural) Judges? ‘I made this from plans and I didn’t change a thing.” Or, “I made this in a workshop, exactly as presented.” It tells the Judges that the builder put exactly zero design input into the kite. The Competitor is saying: “Please give me a ‘zero’ Design Score.”
What’s the worst thing Competitor can say in front of the Craftsmanship Judges? “Don’t look at my seams.” “I got oil on the kite right here.” Cover those places up while pointing out some really good work.
One last tip; If I am on a panel, don’t forget to make the Knot Guy happy. Knots, or lack thereof, can be scored in both Design and Craftsmanship, and I do, whichever panel I am on. There is one well-known Competitor who, in competition, pointed to a Splice and called it a ‘No Knot’ ®. He hasn’t stopped hearing about it ever since. <grin>
The bottom line is: Read the Rules and Criteria for Kite Judging. Do everything possible to make the kite perform the best it can in accordance with each criterion.
The reason for this article is that we Judges have frequently walked off the field after judging all day and said that this person or that person would have done much better if only they had looked at a rule book and knew what they were actually being judged on. It has been said more than once; “Somebody should write an article!” Okay, somebody did.
One last thing. Some folks have been through the Comprehensive Judging process and found it wanting. Some Judges have said the wrong things, or the wrong way. Different judges have different opinions. There’s more than one former Competitor out there who has decided they will never compete in Comprehensives again. That’s okay. But here’s a suggestion. If the system has that much room for improvement, and you’re not competing anyway, then come on along and improve it, from the inside. Be a Judge! Be a voice for change from within. – Gary Engvall 2003
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