When LESS is MORE
Techniques for Flat Turns, to conserve altitude...
Team Ripcord was created three years ago by Arizona jumper Kimbo Godwin with the goal of bringing together the 'cream of the crop' in the over 40 age group to create new skydiving records. While the FAI does not officially recognize POPS records there is a friendly rivalry between several different organizations to set new records – both in largest formation and in sequential points.
Almost 100 age-qualified jumpers convened in Eloy Arizona last week to do the latter – the goal being a 3 point 88-way. Dive Organizer Jim McCormick laid out an excellent manual available online that described the mission statement for the event, the dive sequences, and most importantly, the safety rules. Captains Doug Forth, Larry Henderson, Hal Spence, Tom Webber and Tim Weible worked with their individual groups while Scott Latinis kept the world class alpha team amused between jumps.
Unfortunately the usually benevolent Arizona weather refused to play nice with the team and on the second day, after only 6 jumps into the event, the winds and clouds grounded the team. The third dive on Thursday was almost picture perfect, with only one jumper out of their slot – the group had proof they could complete their mission – they just needed the chance to do that.
Tragedy struck before the winds on the second jump on Friday when long time Southern California jumper Eike Hohenadl was pronounced dead shortly after landing. He had been seen to be slumped and non-responsive in his harness after deployment. Early coroners reports show that landing injuries were not significant so it is believed that he suffered a medical condition on or shortly after deploying his main canopy.
Low clouds and wind Saturday mirrored the team's mood in mourning Eike. Photos of his always smiling face were shown on the debriefing monitors and a heartfelt tribute was paid to him by the many jumpers who had known him over the years. An excellent team dinner Saturday night proved the bonding experience everyone needed to bring the energy of the team back towards the goal – a new record. The price of excellence was high though – a 6 am call for dirtdive on Sunday, the final day of the event.
Sunday dawned bright, windless and not too cold… a great day for making a new record. The team rallied and the jumps Sunday morning were calm, quiet and almost perfect – but 'almost' does not earn a record. With four jumps made in quick succession the 15:00 wrap time loomed. Many had made flight arrangements and had to leave…. so the event management took a head count on who could stay and continue the hunt for excellence. A modified dive was created, new slots handed out, and the truncated team of 64 went up to try again.
The fifth jump of the day, using less aircraft and new slots, was excellent, but still not perfect. A few adjustments were made, pep talks given, and the team girded itself for a 6th and final sortie to 18,000 feet. For those of you who have not experienced high altitude jumps making 6 jumps from such a high altitude, with the accompanying long airplane rides and oxygen, is exhausting to the most youthful of athletes, but this group of tough seniors did not complain (much) :D
Slowly the three planes carrying now 62 people climbed to altitude – the plane ride was much longer than usual, everyone was tired – many sore from the unforgiving desert landings. The green light came on – climb out… Ready-Set-GO!!
62 over-40 jumpers flew to their slots, stopped, breathed and docked. All eyes on Doug in the center waiting for the key to do sequential. The yellow streamer was out… the lines let go, moved and redocked. The kicks started signifying break-off. The group tracked off and deployed. Where was the drop zone? …. WAAAAYYYY over there. Safe landings by all and the Eloy staff quickly picked up the jumpers who landed off – to give an example of how far we were only one of the three cameras made it to the landing area.
The dive felt good – but was it a record? The team captains were in the debriefing room for a long time but when they came out their smiles told the tale – a new POPS sequential record of a 2-point 62-way had been set that day. The names were in the record books. History had been made.
The jumpers cheered – from the youngest (just 2 days over 40 at the onset of the event) to the oldest. High fives, hugs and hurrahs were the order of the day.
Congratulations to the new POPS record holders! If you are interested in following or perhaps participating in future Team Ripcord POPS events please follow their webpage at Team Ripcord Skydiving for future events.