Maja Kuczynska – Bigger than the Sky
Stunning routine by Maja Kuczyńska
This is the first ever official IPC event in Speed Skydiving, after it was successfully run as a trial discipline at the Mondial and DIPC 4 in Dubai. As such there are no established official IPC records of fastest speeds, only ‘unofficial’ results from the old ISSA (International Speed Skydiving Association) rules. So this competition will see new IPC official national and international records.
Marco Wiederkehr established an IPC World Record of 511.23km/h. Stefanie Hipp set a new IPC women’s World Record of 461.40 km/h, which is faster than the previous ISSA world record holder, Brit Clare Murphy.
The rules are almost exactly the same as in the ISSA World series, which has been running for many years. Jumpers leave at 13,000 feet and the result for the jump is the average speed from 2,700 m to 1,700 m, measured by two Larsen and Brusgaard ProTracks. If the two speed recording devices differ by more than 30km/h, the jump is declared ‘out of bounds’ (OB) and scores zero.
Competitors make 6 jumps and take the best 3 rounds from these to give a cumulative score and their average speed for the competition. The only difference is the addition of a semi-final (one jump) and a final (one jump). After 6 jumps the greater of top 10 or 50% go through to the semi and 5 to the final. Then the best 3 jumps from each skydiver overall are combined to work out the winner.
Judge Elizabet Mikaelsson together with ISSA chair Arnold Hohenegger and competitor Tim Mace did a lot of work recently putting the rules together which enabled the discipline to enter the IPC group of disciplines.
Here in Prostejov we are at a slightly higher altitude than sea level, which means generally marginally faster results due to the thinner air. There were 16 entrants, from the UK, Austria, Germany, Sweden, Switzerland and Belgium. The comparatively low turn-out was a little disappointing, considering there were 52 at world series in June, the biggest speed comp ever run.
Winning the speed event and becoming the first IPC World Champion was Marco Wiederkehr, winner of the ISSA World series for the last 4 years. As is often the case he was considerably faster than anyone else, being virtually unchallenged almost 40km/h faster than anyone else. He is by far the most experienced competitor, as he has been doing speed meets right from the beginning. Marco is originally from Lichtenstein but competes for Switzerland. (The video of Marco's round 6 is shown at the end of this article.)
Second after being in the lead after round 1, was Thomas Friess, better known as Moritz, who has been organising speed skydiving in Germany for a long time. He is one of the ISSA board, along with myself, Arnold and others.
It was excellent to watch a very close battle for bronze between the next 5 competitors, the third placed position changing constantly, with just a few km/h between them. In the end German Stephanie Hipp took the bronze, the only woman in the competition and proving gender doesn’t matter.
Further down the field is a newcomer to this discipline, the likeable Luc Maisin, who scored incredibly well for his first year competing in speed skydiving. Luc has gone into it very confidently and is performing like a very experienced speed skydiver. He has taken to it like a duck to water, he must have brought something in from the other disciplines he’s excelled at for so many years. [He’s previously been Belgian 4-way champion, world record 400-way and won tracking competitions among other achievements.]
1, Marco Wiederkehr (Sui) 508.88
2, Thomas ‘Moritz’ Friess (Ger) 470.22
3, Stephanie Hipp (Ger) 450.69
4, Lars Ekland (Swe) 449.72
5, Reinhard Wiesenhofer 444.32
6, Luc Maisin (Bel) 442.74
7, Henrik Anderson (Swe) 439.88
8, Markus Fuchs (Sui) 436.61
9, Daniel Hagstrom (Swe) 432.83
10, Jason Bird (GBR) 421.41
11, Mikey Lovemore (GBR) 418.38
12, Marco Hepp (Ger) 412.12
13, Mike Longford (GBR) 409.78
14, Peter Schmid (Ger) 406.90
15, Matt Holford (GBR) 380.01
16, Lewis Young (GBR) 316.91
The speeds are the aggregate of the best 3 rounds
As a group, speed skydiving is very friendly between competitors and nations. There is a lot of discussion and sharing of techniques, even at a competition. This sport is still a relatively new area so we are all still learning from each other.
There are lots of slightly different techniques for going fast. Some exit and go into a vertical dive in the first few seconds, whereas others start by going into a track and wait until comfortable, then go into a dive. The dive position is similar but there are lots of different positions with the arms. Everyone agrees that smooth and steady is the best way to keep the acceleration. It’s very much a mind game… because you’re trying to go fast but if you overthink it you can be tense and too rigid, affecting performance, and inducing a buffet at higher speeds. Some people aim to be at a slight angle so feel some air on their chest - that is termed a positive position, this helps with maintaining a smooth and steady acceleration. A speeder is in a negative dive if they’re laying too far on their back. Flying totally vertical is very hard to keep smooth and you are more likely to wobble.
In order to get off line of flight and avoid proximity with other speeders, everyone turns 90 degrees off aircraft heading; the first jumper goes right then the second goes left, and so on. Here they were manifesting a whole load of speed skydivers, requiring 2 or 3 passes. Clothing wise, the latex ‘gimp’ suits have become a thing of the past as they didn’t necessarily add speed. Now many people wear jeans and a rash vest. A tiny bit of drag on the legs is helpful to keep smooth and stable.
There can be a lot of increased noise, even loud and aggressive depending on body position. For this reason I wear 2 audibles but not everyone does. I set them both at 5,000 feet, which is below the bottom measurement ‘gate’. It’s important to bleed the speed off gradually, rather than extending your arms into the airflow, that can cause injury. I come out of it in a small tuck, protect my handles, and then go into a mega, mega slow fall to decelerate before deployment and avoid aggressive openings. My faithful JVX 91 works for me but some speed skydivers do get hard openings if they fail to slow down sufficiently. I look at my alti as soon as enough speed has washed off to make this possible. You know it’s a fast jump when you come out in slow fall and look at alti and it’s 3,000 feet, time to pull – those 2,000 feet can go by really quickly! Sometimes you land thinking it’s been a very fast round but are surprised by a slowish result, usually caused by horizontal movement.
We acted as a team and all supported each other
In a good position speed skydivers don’t exactly break the sound barrier but they do make enough noise to be heard on the ground!
The Brits had the largest field here of 6 speed skydivers, which is the biggest we have had. We’ve definitely seen an increase in interest because it’s now an IPC event. There was a great spirit with the Brit guys here, we laughed a lot but were also there for each other. Jason did really well as a relative newcomer, in his second year competing. It was the first competition for 23-year old Mike Longford. He performed really well straight away, he’s a good freeflyer and has taken that into speed. Unfortunately they diid not run a junior category as not enough under 24-year olds, otherwise he would have been in contention for a medal. However, Mike did set an excellent Junior World Record of 416.22 km/h.
ISSA will now take IPC rules for its competitions, so we will have IPC judges at the ISSA meets, making them Category 2 events. The UK National Championships, which is an open competition is till to come in September but a lot of countries have already had their Nationals. The next world competition is DIPC (Dubai International Parachuting Competition) in November/December. After that I’m excited to see what 2015 will bring.
World Championships website for day videos and info
New World Champion Marco Wiederkehr's Round 6 at the World Championships, Prostejov – this is what 506.99 km per hour looks like (average speed).