Wingsuit Progression Series
A series covering WS skydiving, from your FFC through Exits, Skydiving with Others & Safety, by Matt Gerdes & Taya Weiss...
This year's World Cup of wingsuit flying was held at Skydive Fyrosity, Overton, 1 hour east of Las Vegas, and hosted by Sammy Vassilev from Bulgaria. The placement of the competition was super cool and added a tradition to the event – like a scene straight from an old western movie.
This was my introduction to the geeky side of skydiving!
I haven't been part of a first category event before and have not long started wingsuiting. This was my introduction to the geeky side of skydiving! I purchased my first Flysight just before the comp – and had no idea how to use it! My first jump was Flysight-less as I forgot to turn it on before entering the plane. I learnt quickly, that's not the way to get good results in Performance Flying. Luckily, Steve Hubbard was there to save/laugh at me.
Chris Geiler set the bar high for the future of performance flying, smashing 1st place with room to spare. Alexey Galda, a new pilot and scientist was not far behind however. With just 3 years in the sport he makes us all look basic with his technical and systematic training approach. Chris had better watch out next year! Travis Mickle rounded out the podium with a last minute finish.
There was some frustration from the competitors after the first two performance tasks when a bunch of zero scores were handed out, due to deviation from lanes. The weight of this penalty determined a much lower outcome than anticipated for those 5 or 6 pilots. So, the hot topic for conversation throughout the comp was on “lanes”. As this is a fairly new sport, there is a lot to be discussed. There were many productive chats between participants and organisers to improve the competition format for the future.
Espen Fadnes, Eirik Syversen and I entered an acrobatic team, which was a humbling experience to say the least! While the other teams were taking 20+ docks on the compulsories we were struggling to take one. It was extremely difficult. When competition was finished we had a competitors' meeting, Espen suggested to change the 65 second working time to a 6,000ft altitude window. He hopes that this can open up the acrobatic side of the competition to a wider variety of suits and a larger number of teams joining in the future.
Squirrel, as a manufacturer, is doing great things for the sport and bringing the development steadily forward. It is clear that the performance wingsuiting community is moving with the progression of the equipment. Back in 2015, just 7% of the competitors were using Squirrel suits. But, now 66% percent of competitors are flying Squirrel suits, which is an outstanding increase.
Sammy did a fantastic job involving the community with the event, which created a very free and comfortable environment. The locals from the surrounding areas came to watch and kids cheered on the competitors as they landed. It was a memorable experience to put our sport amongst such a small, classic township.
wingsuiting is the most ultimate form of flying ... a chance to take all the hours of meticulous fine tuning and put them on steroids
Coming from a tunnel and freeflying background, wingsuiting is the most ultimate form of flying – giving more power, speed and time to all angles and transitions. For tunnel rats and freeflyers it is a chance to take all the hours of meticulous fine tuning and put them on steroids. So come on people, the World Championships is happening in August 2018!
(World WS Flying Championships – 26-31 August, in Prostejov, Czech Republic)
Over 50 records (world, continental and national) were broken at the competition.
Alexey Galda commented, “It was the first competition I’ve been to that was so heavily influenced by atmospheric conditions. We had 50+ knot winds at altitude and the daily thermal activity created (often very challenging) conditions that allowed competitors to break multiple FAI and PPC records.”
These included Travis Mickle (USA), who set a new World and North American Speed Record of 325.4km/h, and Amber Forte (Norway), who set a new Women's and European World Speed Record of 274.0 km/h and then beat her own record with 283.7km/h. Marcelo Zoni from Brazil set a new South American Distance of 3.948 km and a new Time record of 85.3 seconds. Stacey Meisner of Canada set a North American Female Speed Record of 267.1 km/h. Oceanic Records were set by Australians Chris Byrnes (Speed, 314.6 km/h) and Luke Rogers (Distance, 4.654 km). In the Asian category, Rameshwer Jangra of India set a new Speed record of 284.4 km/h and a Distance of 4.730 km, while Udit Thapar, also of India set a Time Record of 81.9 sec. Phew! Many of the above set additional records, and then beat them.
“There was a wave generated during strong (240/50kts) SW windline aloft (10,000 ft) downstream of Mt. Charleston and related high mountain terrain SW (west of Vegas). During training, there was an “up” wave in the window and some flyers were getting amazing time and distance runs. However, on Day one of the meet, we “only” had (230/35kts) aloft and it didn’t help as much, although on one jump run the pilot struggled with a -1000 fpm “sinker” at 12,500’. We had one 5km+ distance run, with some PBs and Records in those favorable conditions. The speed records are less dependent on winds and were set later in the meet, with a more westerly (280/25) wind aloft. WS records are quantitative, like CP speed and distance, depending on conditions and winds in the window! But, I credit most of the records to the improved flying ability of pilots and the new Squirrel suits, CR+, etc… Happily, the malfunction rate plummeted from the absurd rate– 8%! – at Z-Hills last Nov 2016; obviously, the community found solutions and shared! We had only 3 total.“
“This sport is in its infancy (only 3 USPA Nationals, 2 World Cups and 1 World Championships), and the community is still figuring out basic rules and principles. I’m happy to see that competitors are starting to focus more on how we can improve, rather than complain. Skydive Fyrosity made a great effort to make sure everything ran as smoothly as possible. Meet Director James Hayhurst did his best to run a fair and successful competition. Overall, I’d call the event a big success. Everyone had a great time and I think we all learnt a lot from each other and the knowledgable judges, I know I did.
“I was amazed by the beautiful landscapes around the DZ. We were exiting the aircraft directly above the Valley of Fire state park, which looks like the surface of another planet!“
“The competition got off to an interesting start with a number of new names in the top 15. As it turned out weather conditions on the first couple of loads provided more lift and push, with quite a few people beating their personal bests. Further into the competition the results started to average out with the usual suspects making their way back into the top 10. Personally it was a bit of a roller coaster, making my way up to third place only to be bumped off the podium on the second last jump, missing out on bronze by 0.9 points. However, it was a great performance by the US Team, taking the top 4 spots and having 5 US members in the top 10.”
“We were so lucky to have the airplane pilot - John Fuller . He showed me how a pilot should fly at such a competition. It was totally different and a massive improvement over what I have experienced over the years. So many details in what he does better – though he claims it is easy to explain to fellow pilots ;) Being a wingsuit pilot himself, he had a perfect understanding on how this should be done. He did not make one mistake during hundreds of exits. We have asked him to create a cookbook for other pilots to learn from. I would love to see him come to Prostejov next year as a pilot co-pilot or advisor.”
Performance placings are below, courtesy of PPC, where you can find detailed results.