Pilot in Command – Take Control!
Flying a parachute confidently is far safer than being timid...
One of the reasons why I love being organised by Patrick and his crew is that they don't tell us how to do the job; they expect us to deliver. Dirtdives are minimal and not a single door-jam the entire event. “It is too ‘ot for zat”, said Patrick in his delicious ‘Allo ‘Allo’ French accent. Patrick’s partners in Sequential Games are Dieter Kirsch from Germany, and Milko Hodgkinson from Skydive Algarve. The trio works perfectly because the individual personalities are very different; each brings his own strengths to the party. Patrick excels at dive design, slotting and selection, Dieter is very organized with the admin, and Milko shines on the day by running the skydive. He always seems to pull a rabbit out of his sleeve and say just the right thing at each dirtdive. Herman Landsman made an able safety officer, reminding us of good practices and directing the landing flow.
Skydive Pink Klatovy was the chosen dropzone, with four Skyvans and a Caravan, flying in close formation. The DZ is large and hazard-free, it has a swimming pool and excellent restaurant, play areas for children, plenty of space for packing, and a Big Top circus tent for debriefing. Three of the five nights we had a 100-way evening meal at the DZ, making for a very social atmosphere.
The event began on Monday 1 August with four training jumps. Milko took the base group while Patrick and Dieter took the outside groups. The training jumps were excellent preparation with most completing or nearly so. One of the reasons I love big-way is there is always some drama along the way, anything can and does happen, leading to much hilarity. An example; on the first training jump a group with Patrick was exiting four aircraft, followed by Milko's group, exiting on the same pass. One of Milko's group accidentally jumped with Patrick's group – then found he did not have a slot. It must have been confusing for him as we were doing a very similar dive!
Tuesday brought challenging weather conditions, we made our first attempt at the crystal before standing down – but the management made great calls, releasing us so everyone made something useful of the day. This continued into the Wednesday when we were continuously stood down for a few hours but finally met at 3 pm and had time for 2 attempts at the end of the day.
Boom! We knocked that baby out on the last jump, only our third attempt! (Tom Jenkins, you still owe champagne!) 104-way crystal from 18,000 feet; what an awesome feeling, we had achieved our mission and now, the icing on the cake, was more 100-ways the next day with this super group of skydivers.
Thursday was finally sunny and blue skies all day. Sequential Games pulled a beautiful 104-way ‘Kaleido’ dive out of their back pockets, with a pattern like a Kaleidoscope (where have I heard that name before?!).
From hero to zero… We made 3 attempts at the objective, including a spectacular funnel.
The next dirtdive Milko said we needed to put the fun back into our jumping. He simplified the base formation but left the same open stairstep structure on the outside. Such a great call. This time at altitude when the 2-minute light went on, I had an internal ‘woo-hoo!’, which I didn't have previously, as I was concentrating so hard (at docking as a ‘responsible adult’, which made me laugh every time Milko said it, does he not know me after all these years?!)
The jump was one of the sweetest 100-ways I’ve ever done. It built so fast it was like a speed 100-way, but super-smooth. Everyone already had their approaches dialed in, it built level and gorgeously and was there in a flash. We held it for over 10 seconds – easily time for another point or two!…
Well, so we thought!!! You can’t take anything for granted in big-way!! The next dive was a disaster with some wallowing underneath from the start. We dug deep for the final 104-way – same plan but being the sixth jump from 18,000 feet on a hot day, concentration was beginning to wane. But it says a lot about the strength of every skydiver there that we built a complete, gorgeous 104-way skydive to end the event on, even if we didn't have time for anything else afterwards, other than smiling at each other, with gratitude for a fantastic week.
Next day was a wash-out but had a couple of bright sparks. One, the best way of doing a refund ever! We all were owed 50 euro as we were one jump short of the package. It could have taken hours. Instead we made a big round while they ran around the circle handing out 50 euro notes like dinner tickets. All done in 10 minutes! The organizers said the plan for the next year was this: after we build the goal formation, they will back off the difficulty and arrange relatively easy 100-ways so we can enjoy more of the holiday feeling. Patrick said the Crystal was ‘ephemeral ‘.. “It was zere, shining like a beyootiful snowflake… and zen it was gone”.
The camera team as usual was Gary Wainwright, Andrey Veselov and Henny Wiggers, who made some lovely images of our cool jumps. Thanks guys, and thanks Sequential Games! Same time next year please!
Addendum: There is always a classic Klatovy story – this year it was Andreea locked inside a lobby by an over-zealous barman and having to climb out through the Gents' window! ;-) .. Leading to the new catchphrase “Trust me, I'm an engineer!”
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