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In 2008 we tried to set a new Danish record to break the long standing record from 1995. That weekend the only record that was set was that for rainfall – over 100 mm in one day alone!
We regrouped in 2015 and decided to go after the elusive Danish 60 way. Denmark is a small country and to build a 60 person formation we'd need almost 10% of the active skydiving population – not a small task. Organizers Kim Friisgaard, Tim Brøstrom and Carsten Cooper-Jensen worked on the project for over a year.
Kim was celebrating his 60th birthday in 2015 and wanted a very special birthday present. Tim and Carsten worked every angle from coordinating the 3 Pink Skyvans (another first in Denmark) to getting the elite FS jumpers from the Project Teams to promise their participation.
The event was scheduled from Wednesday 2nd September through Sunday 6th, with almost 80 jumpers from all experiences and almost every club in Denmark arriving to train under the tutelage of Kate Cooper-Jensen and the other coaches. The Danish weather kept everyone one on the ground the first day. Thursday was better, but a grim forecast meant the plan of a day of “big way camp” style jumps would be accelerated. One jump breaking the group into smaller dives then a three plane formation load of 64 was launched.
After two jumps where the “spine” of the formation was allowed to build and others were encouraged to be close all participants were allowed to pick up grips. Exciting times. The jumpers not on the big way were trained by Herman Landsman and all jumps were expertly caught in the air by Michael Boe Ladegaard, Mads Nørrelund Olsen, Willy Boeykens and Ground Cameraman Erik Aasberg. The ground photography was crucial as in-air fogging could keep the aerial photographers from getting the photograph.
Thursday was finished with 5 jumps total (two of which were record attempts). The jumpers were elated – many had only been on 10-15 ways before! Friday put the team into the famous “Completion Zone” where any jump could be the final jump. Each sector completed at least once, but the completion eluded the team. The axe was sharp and the team had been pared down to 60, including bringing several jumpers up from Landsman's Bench team–all of whom performed excellently. The weather forecast was grim for the weekend, but there was a window–a tiny window–in the morning. Perhaps enough for one or two sorties to lift. The team went to bed knowing they might, or might not, get another chance at the record.
Saturday dawned cold, windy and – clear. The theme for the day was to be “When was the last time you did something for the first time?” The team assembled onto grips for the planned 8:00 take off. There were 59 people present. One of the team had overslept and would miss the load. Thus it goes. We lifted and the Pink Skyvan team climbed high, to 5,400 meters (18,000 feet) AGL. The jump was horrid. Huge waves went through the formation, the 8 way base broke not once but twice, several people went low, and an entire sector built then floated up and ripped off the formation.
Then a miracle occurred. The base built. The waves settled down. The low people came back up. The floating sector rebuilt and just like that history was made! A completed 59 way flew for almost 5 seconds over Lolland-Falster Airport.
The ritual of waiting for the judge (Ulla Maersk) to confirm the record was observed then 59 very happy Danes went straight to the champagne! The day's records were not over however as a new record in FreeFly (14 way) was set the jump afterwards before the high winds and low clouds stopped skydiving for the rest of the weekend.
The festivities that night were great, recognizing the 3 jumpers on the new record who were on the record 38 way in 1994 and the 12 jumpers from the record 55 way in 1995. Sus Nielsen, who was the ground master for the first records and this one (and virtually every Danish Nationals in between), was honored for her dedication to the sport. The evening was capped with an amazing cake showing the exact formation, including camera flyers and the the three skyvans.
Twenty years is a long time between records – will it take that long to beat the new Danish Record of 59? Time will tell…