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September 3 to 6, some of the best freeflyers in the UK met up at Hibaldstow to attempt to set up a new UK Head Down record, under the lead of organiser Adam Mattacola (aka Killa) and of plane captains Ally Milne and Paul Cooper, with videography by Ewan Cowie
Only one warm up camp had been managed by the event organiser at Sibson back in May, mostly due to unfriendly weather. So, the 2 days warm up should enable Adam to figure out who can do what:- base, first stinger, second stinger or pod closer, right or left grip, floater or diver – quite challenging over a 2-day period!
It is also a chance for the less experienced crowd to get better at big way and show what they can do. I am definitely in that lot with less than a thousand jumps despite having done a few big way camps in the UK and abroad in the past year.
On day 1 of the warm up, people slowly turn up and they manage two single-plane formation jumps before the weather turns cloudy for the rest of the day. By the end of the day we number 23 at the dropzone.
Day 2: we are now 32. It is very promising number wise for the record attempt. The more we are the more chance we have to get the record. The weather is not playing ball at all though.
We do brief a 2-plane jump, not so much in the hope that it is going to happen, but to get the participants used to this kind of briefing, as it is relatively new for some of the crowd that turned up to the warm up. The bad weather also gives an opportunity to Killa to prepare the formation, with the help of Ally Milne. With at least 15 other jumpers turning up on the Saturday morning, we will be over 45 attending but with an initial record formation of 36, it is not an easy job to prepare the formation. Us participants will have to wait and see on Saturday morning who makes it on the initial formation.
Saturday 5 September - I am very lucky to be on the first formation, lucky because there are some very good skydivers on the bench. The current record is 30. We are going for a 35-way; consisting of a 6-way base, 3 pods with 3 bridges, and a few stingers on the pods plus video, with the support of three G92s (Turbine Dorniers)
The first jump is very promising. Nearly everyone was in their slot, levels were good. The right trail plane left maybe a bit late and it causes one part of the formation to built a bit late. With this fixed, and the cobwebs out, we may get the record on the next one.
After the jump, I am literally out of breath, flying with 35 other people is sooo intense but I love it. Talking to more seasoned big way jumpers, they are far more relaxed than me and even manage to laugh during the jump. One day! The bench also starts to jump with Ally.
Jump no 2 does not go as smoothly as the first one with a few level issues across the formation but we are all here and we still are very close. The plane exit timing issue is resolved but other issues come up on the formation. This is a mega team effort, it needs to work everywhere at the same time for it to be completed. Unfortunately we go on a weatherhold for 3-4 hours.
Killa and the team captains make a few modifications to the formation and cut a couple of people, and take onboard a couple of people from the bench. They also give all participants some precious tips to resolve the hotpoints that came up on the last jump.
Jump no 3 is again a close call but we do not complete the formation.
One flyer docks on the wrong pod, realizes it, goes to his planned slot, burbling a couple of flyers on the way (including me) but it is too late. There are other things going on as well during the jump. The footage of the jump is legendary: it takes some skills to dock on 2 pods during a big way. We all have a good laugh watching it.
Most of the flyers have been flying together all year long to prepare for this, and in most cases have known in other for a few years. The atmosphere is very very friendly. I am feeling very honoured to be part of this bunch. Killa also does an excellent job at pointing out the difficulties on the attempts in a positive and helpful way. Spirits are up.
Jump 4, the last of the day: the base blew up on this one and only partially rebuilt, giving us little chance to achieve the record. The base did such a good job so far, you cannot blame them. We will nail it on the next one.
On Sunday morning, the weather is glorious. A couple more jumpers arrive and 2 more will turn up later on (… Rockstars turning up late!).
Either we make it on this jump, or there will definitely be some changes to the casting. I am now a second stinger on a pod and I really wish we get it on this jump… And of course that is when I fuck up a bit. Not that we would have had the record if I had done my job awesomely. But with a top flyer turning up, this was the wrong jump to screw up and I unfortunately lose my slot. Overall, we still have the same issue on jump 5 as on jump 3.
Damn! I am obviously quite upset to have wasted my chance to be on the record and, after a fair amount of refocusing, I get to jump with the awesome bench, which cheers me up a little.
The record formation is going stronger. On Jump 6, when flyers are landing, it is now extremely close. They may even have had it. There are different versions, a lot of suspense. It seems that everyone docked on the formation but maybe not all at the same time. It is so much a team effort!
They go again as soon as possible but when they land after jump 7, there are mixed feelings about having it or not. As we land from the bench jump, the verdict has been delivered: they did it – the UK has a new Head down record with 37 flyers!!!
I know all the flyers on the record and I am so happy for them.
Yet, having been cut 2 jumps away from the record is a bit bittersweet. This is part of the big-way journey, isn't it? A few have been there I believe.
It is 3 pm when they get the 37-way record, the weather is still glorious, the jumpers are here as is the plane power. The team goes for a 40-way attempt but it does not work out. Big-ways put so much strain on the flyers, even though they only have done 4 jumps before, they gave everything they had on these jumps and everyone is tired. That is it for the UK head down record of 2015.
The goal of getting a bigger record going from 30 to 37 has been achieved. Killa did a good job making this record happen despite little prior organisation. He engineered this record with his good vibes, years of load organising experience, and with the key support of the plane captains Ally Milne and Paul Cooper. Ewan Cowie filmed some amazing images of the attempt jumps and record jump, as always.
There has been some awesome flying over these 2 days. I especially have much respect for some flyers like Rich Madeley, Brian Jackson, Sarah Boyd or Chris Foster to name a few who have very little big way experience but made it on the record in style. Big up to
Skydive Hibaldstow for hosting this event seamlessly and especially to their pilots who demonstrated once again their skills at flying planes in formation.
With over 15 good jumpers on the bench and more good flyers in the making, and a plane power of 4 dorniers at Hib, there is definitely room to go bigger for the next UK record.
So, when is the next UK head-down record so I try to get on it again??
Never confuse a single defeat with a final defeat
Follow my journey into big way head down skydiving. From the warm up camps to the attempts for a new UK record.
Thanks to all involved in the making of this edit. The UK possesses some truly talented freeflyers and I'm proud to have had the opportunity to fly with you all.
Lee Ribak Crudge
Videographer: Ewan Cowie
Killa is organising the UK head up record at Sibson on September 17-20, get involved here