Blue Hole Skydive
The Bucket List adventure of a lifetime...
In November 2014 the planets aligned when purely by chance James Hayhurst, Graeme Windsor, Klaus Rheinwald and Jackie Harper all met at the CP World Championships at ZHills. The idea of hosting the first World Cup of Wingsuit Performance Flying in the UK was discussed with great enthusiasm. This set in motion a rapid chain of events that would lead to an historic event taking place.
This was equally momentous for British skydiving as it would be the first ever FAI First Category Event in any IPC discipline to be held in the UK. Unanimously agreed at the IPC Plenary in January, the date was set for the end of May as the optimal window for airspace allocation but it was just 4 months away - eek! The excitement was evident as the registrations flowed in from around the world.
The first competitors arrived complete with Police escort! Marcelo (BRA) and Marc-André (CAN) got completely lost and were found driving on the wrong side of the road in the middle of the night. They wouldn’t be the last to get a little lost in the Wiltshire countryside as spotting Netheravon Airfield from 3.5 miles away at 12,500ft proved equally challenging at times. It’s just all so green here! Luckily we would have Stacey and Wez on board each of the Cessna Caravans to assist the competitors in identifying their lanes before exit.
The opening ceremony saw a spectacular display by the Red Devils Freefall Display Team. They wowed the crowds, skydivers included, with their 5,000ft Union Flag which they had been saving for a special occasion. This flag is the size of a football pitch! The display also featured Gary Connery flying his Union Jack canopy that he used when he jumped into the opening ceremony of the London 2012 Olympics dressed as the Queen. Graeme Windsor and the Mayor of Salisbury officially opened the event and the FAI flag was proudly raised above UK soil.
With participants from 17 different countries and 5 continental regions there were a lot of differing expectations of the UK weather but the Brits were quietly confident we would get people in the air and very soon we did. With strong winds at altitude, just about everyone improved their personal best scores and suddenly spirits were really high.
After each jump competitors would congregate around the screen in the hangar to await their scores that appeared within minutes of them landing. The Paralog website hosting the online scoring system had 60,000-80,000 hits per day from a global online audience who followed the event as it unfolded. You don’t have to be here to get the excitement; this is truly a worldwide event.
The race was on from the start with the top athletes jostling for position. Espen (NOR) dominated throughout with a simply faultless performance. Not everyone was so capable and a few lane violations caused some disappointment as competitors scored a zero for the task. This competition truly demonstrated the best of skydiving as competitors freely shared tips and advice with each other. British skydiver Paul Fletcher had designed a stunning bespoke World Cup trophy for us and it was a huge motivation for the Brits to try and win… but sadly Spike had to make do with second place and watch Espen take it home.
Gold – Espen Fadnes (NOR) – World Cup Winner
Silver – Spike Harper (GBR)
Bronze – Marc-André Denault (CAN)
Full results are available here
The competition completed with 506 descents in 48 hours, so by 09:30 on Thursday morning we were done. Time for a visit to nearby Stonehenge while others did a few fun jumps including an awesome XRW jump.
There were 6 new World Records set during the competition and numerous Continental and National records.
Espen Fadnes broke his own world record in Distance, with 4.501 km compared to previous 4.157 km. Marc-André Denault set a new Time World Record of 88 seconds (previously 87.3). Spike set a new Speed record of 312.8 km/h, a massive advance on the previous record of 273.3 km/h. Jackie Harper increased the Female Distance World Record from 3.594 km to 4.059 km, and Speed to 271.5 km/h from her previous record of 234.4 km/h.
Two further performance World Records were set during a high altitude drop from 20,000ft on Saturday. Spike set a new overall Time World Record of 5 minutes 58.2 seconds (358.2 sec.) and Jackie set a new overall Distance World Record of 18.142 km.
”I am humbled and baffled by the fact I ended up winning and becoming the World Champion. Huge thanks to the awesome crew here at Netheravon that hosted a perfect competition. I made it due to help from many many people throughout 15 years of wingsuit flying… From Loic Jean-Albert.. Mirko.. Robert Pecnik.. Tony Uragallo… special thanks to Steve Hubbard for setting up the GPS warning system in the last second here. I guess you become a product of who you meet along the way… and for that I'm superglad and thankful for growing up in a family that let me take risk for fun from an early age.”
Espen Fadnes (NOR)
Competitor & World Cup Winner
“Great Britain has just hosted its first ever FAI First Category Event with great dignity and honor. One could even say it was “shipshape and Bristol Fashion”. Allow me to introduce the architect of a masterpiece, Jackie Harper. This World Cup was conducted in the middle of a pile of ‘firsts’ like skydiving has seldom seen. Jackie's planning and project management was so good that she was able to hand everything over to the FAI Officials and the Netheravon staff and then go compete!”
Randy Connell (USA)
FAI Chief Judge
“My congratulations to the athletes and officials, who conducted themselves with the utmost competence and sportsmanship at this historic event. A smashing debut.”
James L Hayhurst (USA)
FAI Controller - USPA Director of Competitions and IPC Wingsuit Committee Chairman
”It was great to see over 100 competitors and officials from all over the world together enjoying themselves during an exciting and well organized event. I’m proud to see what became of what started almost 10 years ago in Gransee.
“This journey would not have been possible with all those out there who supported my dream and helped to improve and spread it all over the world. While the acceptance by the IPC felt a bit like sending a child off to college, this event felt like graduation day. 'My baby' PPC has now grown up and proven that it can stand on its own feet. It is now in your hands - please treat it well!“
Klaus Rheinwald (GER)
FAI Judge and Competition Inventor