Wingsuit Progression Series
A series covering WS skydiving, from your FFC through Exits, Skydiving with Others & Safety, by Matt Gerdes & Taya Weiss...
Charismatic big-way organizer Patrick Passe has achieved many world records where others have tried and not succeeded. He organized four World (and European) records in one day; a 2-point 106-way, 3-point, 4-point, 5-point .. and was one grip away from a World Record with a total break! Patrick, with his partners Dieter Kirsch and Milko Hodgkinson, were the first to complete a 100-way outfacing diamond., and the first to do 200+ way Sequential.
The annual Klatovy Challenges have become legendary due to the beautiful formations, the eclectic group of top skydivers, and its fantastic social vibe. The Klatovy formations have run over four consecutive years and have a 100% success rate. The dives are superbly slotted – frequently without moving a single person at the event. The organization rocks, with the dives and slots released well before the event in a comprehensive participants’ booklet. Patrick's briefings, in his adorable French accent, are short, to the point and usually hilarious.
Patrick was a world silver medallist in 8-way. He has over 20,000 jumps, and 40 years in the sport. His two ground-breaking films Crosswind and Antigravity, made in the eighties and nighties, are still really cool, they don’t seem to date. Patrick has been organizing skydivers for over 30 years. He was a World Team captain at every event, spanning 20 years of World Team; 1994 (Bratislava, 216-way Guinness Record); 1996 (Anapa, Russia, 297-way Guinness Record); 1999 (Thailand, 282-way Word Record); 2004 (Thailand, 357-way World Record); and 2006 (Thailand, 400-way World Record).
How did you get on the French 8-way team?
I started skydiving at the end of the seventies, 1977. In those days it was all about RW- relative work. 4way and 8-way was the cool discipline – now it’s freefly but then it was RW. After one or two years of skydiving I had in mind to build a 4-way team with my brother Bruno [Editor of Paramag]. We did quite good and were on the podium quite often. The French Federation started selecting the team for world meets, they chose myself and Bruno.. also Didier Boignon, Patrick de Gayardon and more …for the National French 8-way team. In ‘83 our goal was to go to the World Meet of ‘85 in Yugoslavia. We finished second behind USA. Then I decided to stop with the 8-way. I like skydiving when it’s really, really fun. enjoyed the 8-way but it was a lot of work. Training and all of that wasn’t fun enough for me! I even declined an offer to be part of the French TAG 4-way team that became World Champion 2 years after. I've chosen to travel around the world with my 16mm cameras in my luggage, and I've jumped in lot of very special places.
What did the World Team do for the sport?
During many years it was a great goal to many skydivers interested in large formations. Every two or three years this great trip. It was not only about skydiving but because the World Team made a wonderful travel adventure round the world – in Thailand, Russia, Bratislava. It was great! I think we are missing this now. To have a world record event like this, and also in a very special country, that was a good combination. Thanks to BJ Worth, creator of the World Team, for all the fantastic adventures and unforgettable memories.
You made the most points World Record sequential in 2014, at Empuria, with the 5-point 106-way Euro and World record. Will you organize this kind of many-point sequential again?
The main difficulty actually in Europe is to have the planes. We can have many ideas but the problem is the fleet of aircraft is very difficult to get. We are waiting to see if there is a place that can accommodate the number of planes needed. At the moment it’s good to have our event in Klatovy, it’s a kind of challenge and a fun event. People are more interested in that format rather than doing world record events with something like 120 people to get 4 or 5 points. The problem with sequential records is, the best way to get the record is to have the outside people doing the moves but it’s not so interesting for the people in the middle, who just stay still. It’s okay for a big one, like more than 200 because it’s always special to go that big, plus it’s a challenge for the base to build as fast as possible, to give the time for the sequential. Below this, for about 120, there is a lack of interest, people prefer the Klatovy style event, the Sequential Games… 100 people and a difficult formation, with challenging slots in the center. A good challenging slot for everyone. They all have to fly their best.
How did your organization, Sequential Games, begin? Dieter was jumping often in Klatovy before he came with the idea of organizing something of a big-way in this place. He had the idea of doing the [[100-way] Diamond](https://skydivemag.smallteaser.com/article/d100). Other people have tried. It’s a good challenge, and that’s how it started. Right after the Diamond in Klatovy we found that Dieter and I could work very well together. We have the same ideas. We were missing one guy – two organizers is good but three is better. We thought about Milko who was already with us for the 100-way Diamond. He doesn’t get involved in the planning details but he is very, very good on site. Dieter and I do all the administrative side, preparation for the dives, the office work. We are very happy to. Milko is full of energy when he is there. We work very well together, the Sequential Games trio.
Two years ago you, Dieter and Milko set the first 200way+ sequential record at Perris, a milestone that many tried for, but fell short. How are you so good?
It’s not that we are so good. It’s about preparation and communication. It’s about spending the necessary time before the event. It’s office work. We have all the necessary information about the people we jump with. We know them very, very well. We work a lot on the slotting before the event. We can spend weeks on it. It’s about good preparation. Then on site it is easy, like with the 202.
You’re known for building in total breaks. Do you think the sequential qualifications are too easy?
I think the rules should be different depending on the size of the skydive. The rules are good enough for a big formation, But for a 100 or 120-way the rules make you design the dive by having only a few guys doing the move. Building a 100-way with an international group of people, all facing in, is not so difficult any more these days. It’s not very interesting for the center guys. Now when we are talking about the bigger formations, like 200-way, to get the first point complete is quite a challenge. We should have rules depending on the size. The rules need to change for sure. The time. It doesn’t matter if you jump from 14,000 feet or 20,000 feet, it’s the same. In RW we have a working time. It could be the same for large sequential, to make it fair.
We cannot get a challenge formation straight away. Sometimes it’s two months of work. Dieter and I are on Skype every week coming up with ideas. After different talks we come up with the final plan. It’s hard to come up with a new idea, which is challenging but not too crazy. But difficult enough to excite people. It was quite difficult to come up with the 17 Rings this year.
What was the inspiration for the 17-rings?
Dieter was so fond of the book titled The Flower of Life. On the front cover there was a circular logo that looked very cool. We started to draw out the logo with a formation. It’s very difficult to make a formation from a picture, that will work for a skydive. We are very happy because before the challenge we knew it was going to be a difficult one. To be honest, we didn’t know if it was going to fly. For the Olympic Rings opening ceremony dive, in 89 in Seoul, BJ selected only people from the podium at World Championships. It had five 6-way rings and it was a challenge. We had the same formation but with 17 rings. So, we were happy it worked out!
What’s going to be your approach at the 3-point 225-way world record event coming up in October?
For Dieter, Milko and I, the plan in Eloy is to go for 3 points so we need to have a fast base with people moving around it. We have to work on what we achieved last time, the same kind of stuff. Now we are going to have nine sectors. For the 202 we had eight. We have 225 people. Because it’s quite big, the 1st point is going to be already a challenge. We could have thought to play with a total break this time but we don’t want to lose the 3-point world record by trying it. Okay maybe in the future, it could be a good idea to do a specific 200-way event, with 2 points and a total break, just to see how it works with so many people.
How do you slot 200 people? I’ve never been to any other record events where they don’t move people.
In a group with more than 200 selected participants, between Dieter, Milko and I, we know 70% of the people very well and we know the background of all of them. Then we work with the other captains (listed below). They have their own sectors, they know how to slot their own people. So we tell them to place their people, and that makes it easier for the rest. We pay a lot of attention about the weight, the height, the experience and the skills of everyone. You don’t need much to have a bad skydive. Just two or three guys not in the right place can make it bad… and a bad skydive with 200 people is just terrible! We do our best to avoid making one skydive just to discover that one guy is in the wrong place.
Your approach is very minimalist, not much dirtdiving, why is that?
During more than 30 years as a dive organizer, I have never wanted to annoy people and make them tired. Long briefings are very annoying. That's probably my French side. French people get quickly impatient with annoying things. And I discovered it was the same for Milko and Dieter. They don't like long briefings. When we have this category of jumpers, this caliber of people. They are clever. They know what it's all about.. We don’t need to tell them the basic stuff. They just need to be told where to go, and perhaps some small details about their slot. They are used to visualize. They can do it by themselves. We trust the people invited to our events because we spend a lot of time on the selection. People enjoy this, and they are more relaxed.
Tell me about your approach with the ‘bench’, it’s very different to usual practice.
The alpha team have to be really good people. We cannot replace someone making a mistake with someone that you don’t know so well or a guy who is there because he didn’t make the selection. It’s not logical. We need the best people waiting for replacement. It’s also a key of the success. It was the case when BJ organized the 400-way, the alpha team was only jumpers who were on the international podium. It was definitely a good idea, Dieter, Milko and I agree. It’s a priority to have super good people in the alpha team, who can take any slot, from the base to last diver.
Anything else you'd like to say?
We had success with the 202 because Dieter, Milko and I decided to move on from the past. For the 202, we decided to say, okay, now let’s try to build another big family. We just want to go for a goal that no-one reached before, to make a record together. We wanted to build the best team we could, so we had (and we still have) Dan BC, Solly Williams, Lise Nansen , Doug Forth, Marco Arrigo, Alia Veselova, Andrey Barabash, Kate Cooper-Jensen, Polo Grisoni, and we have now Craig Girard who just joined us. All these captains coming from different backgrounds of large formation organization and coaching. It worked very well, when we worked together on the 202, and it will be great again this time. It’s so nice to work with these guys… Earlier, I said it’s not good to spend too much time on briefing the people. It’s the same with the captains. It’s so good to go straight to the point. When we are working together, it's like this.… in 5 or 10 minutes we can have a captains’ meeting. Done! With final decisions and ready to go again. It saves energy and it makes the events run very smoothly.