World Peace Skydive
Join an international memorial for Axel, spreading love across the planet...
“Teamwork is the ability to work together toward a common vision. The ability to direct individual accomplishments toward organizational objectives. It is the fuel that allows common people to attain uncommon results.”
This is the story of The Compasses Box – and I’d put the goal of building this formation in the ‘uncommon results’ without any second thoughts whatsoever… To do this we needed everything to go ‘perfectly’: the organizers, the participants, the dropzone, the pilots, the weather… The 100-way outfacing diamond seems easy in retrospect… I would never have thought that I would write these words, because one year ago (and even now if I am honest about it) that Diamond was hell to build and to fly. But as Dieter said, “We had much more knowledge about diamonds, we knew how they flew. The Compasses Box was like stepping into something completely new with no knowledge to where the difficult parts will be.”
The skydiving community waited to see the plan for the Klatovy Challenge 2015 for a year. Nobody except the organizers had any idea. Interest for the event was incredibly high! From this point of view the organizers, Patrick Passe, Dieter Kirsch and Milko Hodgkinson had an ‘easy’ job as they could pick the best people. If you have Tom Jenkins traveling from US to be a simple participant and Pal Bergan coming back from his retirement you know it’s going to be good!
Patrick Passe: “We thought about what we’ll do in Klatovy for a long time, then we had the idea with the Compasses Box. All three of us loved it. Dieter started to work on the engineering of the formation. Then we had many, many, MANY talks considering different ways of building it until we settled on the one we thought would work best. And the thing that I liked best is that we broke the 100 people ‘limit’ which is the maximum organizers usually consider for this kind of formation. That was cool!”
So… you show up to one of the best dropzones in Europe – my favorite for sure!!! You start hugging and kissing people as soon as you stop the car, you are greeted by name by Katka – the Manifest guru who hasn't seen you in one year but still knows your name! – deal with the fastest registration ever (around 30 seconds) and you are ready to go.
Skydive Pink Klatovy lived to its reputation again. Patrick Passe said it best: “they make everything easy”. At this dropzone people expect the best and you GET the best! I can only imagine the work done by everybody in Thomas Lewetz’s team. From the general efficiency to the friendliness of the staff to the amenities to the best formation pilots you can find! I was rather shocked to find out from Thomas Lewetz that ALL the Skyvan pilots are new!!! I will give you an insight on one part of their performance level secret in a week or so. ☺
We started the event in the usual style - doing some training jumps on the first day imitating on a smaller scale the jobs that we would have to do later on. Andrey Veselov, Henny Wiggers and Gary Wainwright made up our amazing camera team. After the first few jumps we had a good feeling about our chances of success. The Compasses Box seemed doable. We had 30+ ways and 50+ ways completions, even ‘scoring’ 2 points when possible. We also had some not so perfect jumps, but still in the normal range of progression for this kind of event. We were a bit hasty in judging this formation. For sure it was a bit early to get relaxed and show even a little arrogance… because the next day the BEAST appeared!
We didn’t give the name THE BEAST lightly ☺☺☺ It proved to be quite a ‘wild’ formation. Much more than we would have imagined… I can guarantee that at the end of the day nobody felt arrogant any more!
The formation itself is formed by twelve 8-way compasses (from the 8-way dive pool for my freeflying friends) connected together and completed with two 3-way ‘luxury handles on each side to carry the box’ as Patrick said (yeah… like nobody thought that it was an easy way to be able to cut bad performers without changing the form of the Beast ☺).
The difficult ‘partner pieces’ – the compressed accordions and the cats, the number of people in out-facing positions, all the angles that had to be just right for this formation to be able to build correctly proved a high and stressful challenge, even for this team.
The first 4 jumps with the whole team proved to us that this formation was NOT going to be a piece of cake. The LOs (Load Organizers) stressed again and again the key points that MUST be respected – the waves of building, perfect no momentum docks, the importance of all skydivers flying ON THE LEVEL way before it was their time to dock – the stadium was useless here as a lot of the people already in the formation had to take their level information from the outside people as they had a minimalized view or NO view of the center.
The Base proved to have an incredibly hard job, the core 32-way trying to build as quietly as possible and to fight the waves as the outside rows of the formation were docking. On the 1st jump we had the normal number of semi-lost people and rushed docks; on the 2nd jump the Base still had difficulties in building and a small collision that took time to fix; on jumps 3&4 we could see progress but still we were far from success.
The Los spent a lot of time reviewing the videos and asking the participants for their input. The conclusions were: the Base had to slow down after the first 30 seconds or so for the outside people to have a better chance to dock quietly, Dieter was going to signal when the outside rows were allowed to dock and, of course, all the skydivers had to perform whatever movements they had to perform in the exact order and 1000% correctly.
The first jump the next day was on the rushed side, with off-level and hard docks and pieces of the formation breaking. Back to debriefing and back into the air for the 6th attempt determined to perform our best…
…AND WE DID!!! The feeling was good during the freefall, but it’s impossible to be sure until you check the videos. A good sign was when they called the whole team together for debrief. Patrick looked at us and simply said: “We did it!” You can imagine what followed: cheers of joy, lots of hugging and huge, huge smiles.
The completion didn’t come easy. We appreciated it more because of that. The building was almost perfect and that was good enough to tame the damn Beast!! ☺ ☺ ☺
Milko, LO: “I felt incredible! Just the sheer balls to try this formation made me feel good ☺. This was for sure harder than the Diamond and after the first jumps it was clear that it was going to be hard work. But everybody DID that hard work and we had another success!”
Henny Wiggers, cameraman: “My favorite skydiving discipline is camerawork and filming such an incredibly baffling formation is a real highlight. Though, it’s not often that flying around a formation my thoughts were that I should have been IN this formation instead of being above. On most formations catching all the right shots from the required angles is a bigger challenge for me than flying one slot but this was way different, exceeding the imagination of all bigway skydivers.”
Dieter, LO: “After the 4th attempt on the second day I thought ‘wow, this is going to be much more difficult than I thought’. THIS formation was a real challenge and the progress was unbelievable! Amazing skydiving!”
As it was only 11am the organizers decided not to carry on with a fun formation – an 102-way open accordion. They were not the best jumps this team could do… Sometimes, after a great accomplishment, all the concentration evaporates. This or the 32-34 degrees heat – choose your excuse. We even had THAT kind of jump! Milko said it best: “this jump NEVER happened… I’m serious… it NEVER happened… We are going to debrief it because we are professionals and no, you are not allowed to close your eyes while the videos runs… then we’ll destroy all the evidence!!! On the serious side, maybe we need this kind of jump sometimes to show us we are not indestructible. Please remember that every time you put your rig on YOU make a commitment to your team that you are going to give 100% of your skills, of your focus!!! If you can’t do that, don’t put the rig on!”
The next day we tried for the last two remaining jumps to build a Skyvan as a token to Klatovy dropzone. They for sure deserved it! Unfortunately, the team did not perform at its best; maybe we needed the third try. But, no matter, we 'common people' had tamed the Beast and that was a super-special 'uncommon result' brought about by superb teamwork.
Watch the completion videos and read participants' comments here