Pilot in Command – Take Control!
Flying a parachute confidently is far safer than being timid...
“Your deposit has been received; thanks.”
“Great! I’m really looking forward to the camp!”
“…Just so you know, this is not a ‘camp.’ This is the real deal and everyone has to be on their AAA game. Welcome on board…”
After two years with Hemlin’s Gremlins, a Rhythm invitational, a year of P3 events, and a World Record, I thought I knew what to expect from Team Elite.
I had no idea.
On March 2-4, 2018, 32 expert formation skydivers from dropzones all across the United States and from as far away as Canada, Brazil, Norway, the UK, and Russia gathered at Skydive Arizona for 3 fast-paced days of phenomenal formation skydives. The organizational team of Guy Wright, guest captain Niklas Hemlin (Arizona Airspeed), and videographer David French (Airspeed) tested our intrepid team with 20 difficult sequential skydives from 15,500 feet over the Eloy desert. We shuffled slots and sampled the exit view out of both lead and trail planes as we were challenged to fly at 110%, over and over again.
Team Elite is Guy Wright’s brainchild. Guy has racked up more than 17,500 jumps since he started skydiving in 1980, doing everything from coaching and instructing to demo and stunt work. For the past 15 years, Guy has been organizing Team Elite invitational events all over the country to provide low-cost, high-end, complex bigway sequential events for formation skydivers who are accomplished in both bigway and competitive belly-flying disciplines.
Imagine… almost always building the first point within the first 35 seconds. Five-point 32-ways with complete breaks between points. Flying no-contact 32-way with every person close enough to take grips. Spinning 4- and 8-way pieces. Sixteen 2-way compresseds all linked together into diamonds. Burble-hopping two 16-way zipper chains over each other (in the middle of a 3-point skydive). Formations where more than two-thirds of the participants are not facing the center. Unstable formations with chains of cats amid bipoles and large open spaces. How about making 4-way cat chains off of an 8-way base… as the third point? And since that wasn’t hard enough, the group went big, and made Guy proud by successfully building an X in the skies over Eloy – 8-way chains of cats off of a 4-way star in the center.
Oooo those cats… So you think you can fly? This was perhaps the most humbling skydive many of us had ever done. As one of us said afterward: “Oh my, this jump almost destroyed my confidence forever!” First of all, despite all that deceptive open space between arms of the X, cats float. Which meant a lot of us wore too much weight on the first attempt. And let me tell you – it’s really hard to keep all your cats in a row when you’re guarding for all you’re worth.
Second, the longer the cat chain, the greater the tendency for it to turn into a whip scorpion… Because cats are sensitive formations due to the flyers’ lack of ability to use arms to assist in holding position. And because if you line up only with the person directly ahead of you, you may not be lined up with the base, and small errors in heading compound exponentially as the cat lengthens.
So how the @*$# do you build LONG cats?!
1. Mess up once so you know how much weight to shed (or drag to add) the next time.
2. Level, slot, STOP, BREATHE (!), dock. LIGHTLY. With both hands at the same time. On inside grips only.
3. As tempting as it is to just stare straight up the a** of the person you’re docked on, you MUST reference the base. That means you need to sit just far enough below the grips that you can see down the cat line to the person opposite you in the base, but not so far below that you are pulling down on the grips.
4. Do the best leg-flying you’ve ever done to stay parked in your slot no matter what sh*t goes down behind you.
Needless to say, when we finally nailed it – on the third attempt – the cheering in the conference room echoed down the hall and throughout the entire hangar.
In the morning on the last day of the event, the group gathered for a photo near the loading area. Every face was glowing, lit by sparkling eyes and huge smiles… because the dives were interesting. They were hard. They were different. And when 32 fantastic skydivers who gel with each other all bring their AAA game to the sky together, magic happens… What an incredible experience. Fly, baby, FLY!!!
Eloy Team Elite would like to thank Rhonda Kaletz and Skydive Arizona for 3 great days of formation loads to 15,500 feet on steady 40-minute calls, the SDAZ packing crew for keeping everybody going on a busy weekend, and the weather gods for providing blue skies and manageable winds for a full weekend at the beginning of spring!
The next Team Elite event is Team Elite XP, at Skydive ParacleteXP May 4-6, with guest captain Kirk Verner. For slot inquiries, contact Kirk directly, or Guy Wright at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you’d like to be part of Eloy Team Elite in March of 2019, contact Guy to discuss your qualifications!