Kites have been popular in Suffolk since their introduction into England in the 19th Century.

In 1873 Oliver Holmes was flying his kite near Aldeburgh when the wind started to blow really hard – Oliver had difficulty holding on to his kite and thought that running with his kite would make it easier to control. This proved to be true. Oliver was seen by his friends and they tried running with their kites too. Soon a race was on, which was only brought to an end by a set of trees near Rendlesham Forest.

Thus the Aldeburgh Kite Racing Festival was born. It’s held in October and lasts for a week during which racers have to be ready to race at all times. When the judges decide that the wind is strong enough for the longer races to be run to their conclusion, including the 10-mile Kite Marathon, then racers have 10 minutes to prepare.

The courses are over sand dunes, across dykes, and through the Forest of Rendlesham. There are four races over 1 mile, 3 miles, 5 miles, and 10 miles. The winner is the person who crosses the finishing with his kite still intact and having not touched his kite during the race. This latter rule was introduced in 1897 after Jerry Payne hauled his kite out of the sky and carried it with him to the finish.

Extract from 40 Humourous British Traditions