VR Proximity flight!
Feel like you're really flying down Tianmen Moutain
Today was the first day of World Record attempts following three days of preparation (see previous update. Yesterday’s jumps were planned as a single point 202way. Up till now the sequential move has not been included in the 202way, just the build-up jumps.
We meet at 7:15 to dirt dive the formation and sequential move before the heat of the day kicks in. It’s been so hot here the last few days it’s actually pleasant at 6am to feel chilly!
Patrick speaks to the group and says what a great start it has been. He talks of World Team and how we always made ze record on ze last fecking day .. on ze last fecking jump .. and it’s okay because we have a world record but it’s very tiring!! His plan for this group is that we do the world record quickly, today or tomorrow, and then drink beer, with 2 days afterwards to relax, do some nice jumps if we wish, and celebrate our successes. We have to focus as if it was the last day and the last jump and then we will get the record.
We dirt dive the sequential move with the whole 202way, for the first time. Patrick has been holding a streamer to assist with identifying line of flight. When he releases the streamer, at 8,000 feet, this is the key to go to the second point. It’s almost impossible for the base to physically check over 200 people are docked, so the plan is to key at an altitude, and hope everyone is already docked in the first point. There is a good energy and you feel this is going to be a good jump., I always find myself thinking, wouldn’t it be great if we knocked it out on the first attempt - but it’s never happened yet!
Now we have a second point to do, the exit altitude is raised to 18,500 feet. The jump is not so good. Many people went low and zoomed around, making it very hard for anyone in that area to approach the formation. Nevertheless other sectors completed, and made the sequential move – it was a piece of cake!
Pack, debrief, re-brief and up we go again. This was a beautiful jump, almost perfect. Nice fall rate, smooth approaches, gentle docks, the formation flying smoothly. The streamer is released - move to second point, again, smooth, level, no tension, it felt so good. Time to sit in the second formation and feel fantastic. But was it a record?…
Nope!!!! It was a 2-point 201-way. One person was out on the first formation, so also on the second. So frustrating! But this dive was so close it adds so much belief to everyone’s hearts. A gnat’s cock away from a world record on the second attempt speaks volumes. It shows everything has been planned very well; the formation design, the exit order, slotting, second point, it’s all working.
Patrick’s pep talks are the best! They are short, funny and get straight to the point. No blah-blah-blah. He says he has a feeling we are going to get it on this jump. How awesomely fantastic that would be. It’s perfectly possible to step it up. It’s now 2pm so the heat at the middle of the day will make it hard for the aircraft, especially the Skyvan, to climb at the higher altitudes where the air is thinner. It’s a long climb of full concentration.
The jump itself… I wasn’t on it, I was watching from the ground. I came here as a reserve on the all-stars team. We jump with each other until/if needed on the record jumps, so we manifest on the load after the bigway so we would always be available till needed. It also means we can watch the attempt, then get dressed while the others are under canopy.
There are quite a lot of spectators there watching, locals attracted by the sound of a fleet of aircraft and sensing something important was happening. I found myself providing commentary, as they were asking so many questions, I talked them through the skydive. The V-shaped aircraft formation runs in and we watch the group get bigger, and bigger, and bigger. It’s hard to count the videomen from the ground but I have a good feeling that the formation is done. I see something white fly off from the center and realise it’s the streamer… the signal to the second point. There is lots of time for the move. I’ve seen it on video. As they track off and open canopies once again I have a warm fuzzy feeling that this could be it - the world record jump… People start coming back into the packing area, all smiles, boxing the air and doing the happy dance with triumphant, flushed faces that I recognise as the scent of success after the hard work, and the joy of making a beautiful skydive with a massive team.
I want to stay and hug my friends and get the full story but I have to get on the plane and make a skydive with the reserve team – and skydiving judge Jim Rees, who will be judging the ‘record’. That will keep the suspense going I thought as we climbed to altitude. Jim thought it wasn’t a record as he was watching the dive and saw someone track off at 8 grand. I said I thought it was the streamer. Who knew until he saw the video. I really hoped it would be the record.
I examined this more fully in the plane .. was there a little part of me that wanted the dive to be a failure so I could still get on it? ‘No’ was quite definitely the answer. Remembering the joy and excitement on the faces of my close friends Marloes and Andreea, I could not possibly wish to wipe that off, I wanted it to explode into euphoria. I’d been through every part of this journey with the whole team, from being a base for the sectors to watching the videos, the briefs and debriefs, feeling the heat, the work, the effort that poured into it from participants, photographers and most of all the captains, and Monsieur Passe himself. It wasn’t just even this single event. The mission for a 200way record had taken about 5 years and 4 events, with all the captains and most of the participants doing multiple events. The team deserved it and I wanted badly for it to have succeeded on this jump…
When I land I sense a humming atmosphere with people chatting, relaxed yet excited. I feel pretty confident, by now if someone did something stupid it would have filtered through. Twenty minutes later they call us through to the hangar. We watch the skydive from many angles. It seems flawless. Every skydiver comes onto screen exactly on radial, moving to their slots with calm yet a sense of urgency; they meant business. The formation grows strong, like an oak tree, where before it had been a willow rustling in the wind. The first point is clearly there – everyone cheers. It seems to be held for an age before the streamer disappears. The transition to the second point is over before you know it.. time for more cheers before break-off. It was a truly marvellous skydive.
On comes Jim the judge who announces .. that they have checked all the grips individually and counted the first formation - 202 people. More cheers. They scrutinised the inter and all was correct with the sub groups. Yet louder cheers and hands in the air. They checked grips and counted everyone on the second formation – two hundred and two skydivers. Yells, yeehars and feet stamping. Finally Jim gives us what we want - he confirms an FAI official Sequential World Record!! The room explodes; howls, screams, even shrieks – enough noise to fill the Albert Hall. Everyone hugs, kisses and congratulates everyone else, whirling around the room like an excuse-me dance. For 200 people that takes quite a long time! We’re all hot and sweaty and not exactly smelling our best but no-one cares, we’re a team and we made history.
Eventually the captains call for a bit of hush and get Jim up again to explain that FOUR records were actually broken on a single jump – I guess that’s five records because that must be a record in itself! The Sequential World Record 202-way was a California State Formation Record (previous record 200), a California State Sequential Record, and a US Open National Record. Sensational! They gave thanks to Skydive Perris, the management, the pilots who flew such consistent formations, the packers, the all-stars, the truck drivers, everyone on this giant team that had been a part of building the record.
So, the plan is to meet tomorrow at 8am when the captains promise us some more sequential games. For today and tonight there is free beer, quite a lot in fact, as there has been a free keg by the pool every night but nobody knew! ;-) The atmosphere is brilliant. Almost everyone is thrown in the pool. We made NBC news last night and are on the news tonight some 2 hours after breaking the record.
Funny thing skydiving. When skydives work it seems really easy, and you wonder how we can manage to make it so complicated. Building on the third attempt, this is the easiest World Record I’ve (not) been on! Patrick is a genius in keeping things simple and not over-complicating matters. This was a superb event, well organized, almost impeccably executed (apart from one dirt dive that we won’t mention…), with a roster of top notch skydivers who are also super nice vibes. Moreover after the splits in the big-way community over the last years, this event seems to have married the different factions back together. Sequential Games, Patrick, Dieter and Milko's organisation brought their event to Skydive Perris, home of P3 Skydiving, and had a mixture of World Team and P3 captains. Participants included captains from both organisations such as Kate Cooper-Jensen and Pål Bergen, who really enjoyed being one-feather indians – laughing every evening that the captains were having a meeting while they were in the bar! ;-) Pål actually said “How could I be so stupid all these years, this is far more fun on this side”.
What else did people have to say?
“I’m so impressed with Milko. His attitude, what he says, his demeanour… really really professional”
“Milko’s twelfth, my eleventh world record and each one is better than before”
“I’m so happy we have the band back together”
“Everything was just right”
Sequential Games on Facebook
Videos of the skydives