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Are you ready to hear a 'fairytale'? I hope you are, because this is going to be a good story. So take a break, make yourself a coffee or a tea, open a beer or pour a glass of wine, grab some cookies (I strongly believe if nobody sees you the calories don't count) and just keep reading because what happened in Teuge last week at the Women on Wings event still feels like a fantasy…
I have said this before: I wasn't always a fan of only-women events. Too many women in the same place doing the same thing didn't appeal to me… Go wild imagining the reasons :). But time has passed and I became wiser… Women's events ROCK!!!
Time and again I saw women all over the world proving to be easier to coach, more determined, more empathic, ready to give their best even after bad moments. And for sure they are better at having fun! So we “bitch” sometimes… so what?!? We always think we are right when we do it ☺, men also do it in spades… and in the end we never pretended we are perfect :)
I was there, in Perris, California, almost one year ago, when the idea was first mentioned by Marloes. It was just a friendly conversation over the possibility of organizing a new 120-way European Women’s Record sometime in the future. In the next few days Kate Cooper-Jansen and Henny Wiggers were signing on the project. I can only guess the level of organization and work Marloes and Lesley put in in the following months, although I could bet anything that neither of them dreamt the end result will be so stunning.
So on the last days of August almost 80 women invaded Naational Paracentrum Teuge in Holland answering the call. The goal - to set a new women’s European sequential record for 2 points, the “old” one being a 28-way.
There was the “Record group” formed by 46 ladies and a Big Way camp organized with some specific goals:
1, Take advantage of the presence of 3 planes on the same dz doing formation loads in order to help more European women improve their big-way skills. This was extremely important, as the ultimate goal of this project is a new +120-ish-way Women Record big-way to be attempted in 2017. This is also the reason why two skydiving big-way female “giants”, Kate Cooper-Jansen and Lise Nansen, were asked to run the Big-way camp
2. Offer a pool of possible additions to the Record group if needed. Well, no less than 11 ladies from the Big-way camp were added to the Record team during the event, all of them rocking their new slots!
3, Offer a great option for a training event for the interested male skydivers
There were some challenges… well… welcome to big-ways! ;-)
Teuge is unfortunately close to Schipol Airport, so their traffic control rules the game. We were allotted four 1-hour slots during the day when we were allowed to go over 3,000 meters. The slots were fixed with minimum chances for Schipol to approve any changes. Take also into consideration the weather that played games with us all the time. Just put these two factors together and you have a difficult setup all in all, but we were optimistic things would work out :)
So… on Wednesday morning we were ready to start working - when the first challenge took place - on take-off one of the Caravans struck a goose. Some mean people said it was a swan, but I refuse to believe that… swans look so graceful (I trust you, Freddie, when you say they can be sometimes vicious) … but on the other hand I can easily imagine a goose on a pat of cabbage so in my story the plane hit a goose, not a swan, and that is that. Fortunately the pilot was able to land safely and nobody was hurt, but the damage to the plane was serious, so Simon Woerlee, Teuge DZ manager, immediately contacted Texel and a new plane arrived in less than 2 hours.
The 1st point of the formation was a beautiful butterfly. No surprise there. I could almost feel the reminiscence of Lesley's 2013 Brit Chick's “one grip missing” butterfly. Well, Lesley, I hope we delivered enough butterflies to last you a life time! :)
The priorities of the event were clear from the beginning:
2. Fun :)
We spent the first day of the event trying to build the 46-way butterfly with the organizers facing the usual big-way problems: some people floating, some small collisions, etc. One person from the record team had to cancel in the last moment so one lucky lady from the camp joined the team from the first jump. We ended the day with no completion. The organizers decided on some slot changes and some ladies were moved around.
The changes worked… The butterfly was completed on the first jump of the next day!
On the second jump we again completed the butterfly, then we proceeded to the 2nd point… then to the 3rd point before the kicks came from the base… We started tracking grinning from side to side. We landed yelling :). It was a great jump, but we knew it was going to be difficult to judge as we had a layer of clouds in the last part of the skydive.
Any record jump is difficult for the camera crew. Their work is crucial, more so if the weather is challenging. So CLAP CLAP CLAP Andrey Veselov, George Katsoulis, Henny Wiggers and Fonsz Kriegsman. You guys rock!!!
After a long deliberation and every frame of the footage studied the judges confirmed our success… The ladies had made new European Sequential Women’s Records for 2 points AND 3 points of 46-way :) :) :)
Then Lesley and Marloes dropped the cherry on the cake. The 3-point was also a WORLD RECORD. None of the participating ladies had ever thought to check that. Crazy cheers erupted with all the girls jumping up and down like kids! Hugs, lots of kisses, some tears (well… we are women after all :)), more yells, Marloes and Lesley almost “attacked” by the crowd :) :) :)
And this was only Day 2 :)
The next day four more ladies from the Big-way group were invited to join the party. On the first attempt with 50 ladies we made an impressive jump - 5 fucking points!!!! My heart was beating like crazy and I could feel the adrenaline pumping in me while I was doing the transitions. Unfortunately we had a bust after the 2nd point so only the first 2 points were approved by the judges. The organizers challenged the decision as it was a “never met before” situation, but it was more for form. These are PERFORMANCE records. If you say you are going to deliver points 2, 3, 4, 5 etc in a specific order you need to deliver them like you said. A single bust stops the record right there. It was a correct decision from my point of view and it still was a new European Record for 2 points!
On the next jump the group got bigger again - 52 ladies. We had another incredible jump with 5 points – only to have a new bust during the transition after the 1st point… Not good at all… It was a waste of points, as Lesley said. You need to have clean transitions in a sequential jump or it is all for nothing. The team went back to more training on the ground, the ladies doing the sequential moves increasing the level of concentration they put in their visualization. The transitions had to be fast BUT, more importantly, they had to be “clean”.
On the next attempt 53 ladies boarded the planes determined to do a better job! And we did… it was a beautiful 4 point skydive with almost all the free fall time between two layers of clouds… you don't get that every day… as Henny said - it was “magical”. The judges initially confirmed new European Records for 2, 3 and 4 points and new World Records for 3 and 4 points, only to have the decision reversed some days after the end of the event when all the jumps were reviewed. They said it was an “infringement” in the first inter – a non-stationary grip, difficult to see, but still there, so that records were denied.
I can only speak for myself, but I am pretty sure that when they received the notification some 50+ ladies had the same thoughts as I did: in a few words – “WTF!!!!” and “the judges can kiss my ass”. I looked at the videos over and over again and I can’t find the fucking bust! Anyway… after I calmed down a bit I realized that it was probably an incredibly difficult decision also for the judges to make and I am sure they think they did the right thing. To have records confirmed than denied just sucks! But, hey, that's the name of the game. So, I take back the “kiss my ass” remark and in the future I will call Day 3 of this event “The Bust Day”, And ladies, the busts were all ours. We had three incredible jumps, all with 4 and 5 points, all with busts. Not our best work for sure!
On Saturday the team increased again with 3 new ladies making a total 56 women ready to take the challenge to the next level… if only we had the aircraft we needed :). We were all waiting in front of the main hangar when it become clear we were missing 2 airplanes. The door of the other hangar was jammed closed. Fortunately the problem was soon solved and we could still make our allotted window. Unfortunately the Big way camp did not. They also had more rides to altitude without jumping than we did, and we are grateful to them for giving us priority!
The first two jumps had all you don’t wish for in a record attempt: floating, collisions, busts; not our best work for sure. We knew the 3rd jump of the day would probably be the last jump of the event as the weather forecast for Sunday was bad. In all honesty the jump started even shittier then the other ones… but I think all of us were in a different state of mind - the “WE WILL NOT GIVE UP” frame of mind. There was some floating that caused the base to break, the formation turned almost 100 degrees… causing minor heart attacks for all the late divers and “fuck! fuck! fuck!” comments in all of our heads! BUT there was also a huge determination not to fail again. 56 ladies refused to give up and reconstructed the butterfly, then made clean traditions to the 2nd and 3rd points, setting new European Records for 2 and 3 points and a new World Record for 3 points. Only women could do that… it was for sure my favorite skydive of the event :)
This amazing team had during the event a total number of 7 records: 5 European records and 2 World Records. The best performances that should remain “in the books”, (assuming they are ratified by FAI but as far as we know these are flawless) are:
• 2 points 56-way Women’s European Record
• 3 points 56-way Women’s European and World Record
Not bad :) :) :)
Amazing job done by Marloes and Lesley! You are superstars! Also a big “thank you” to Kate Cooper-Jensen, Lise Nansen and Alia Veselova. I can't wait for our challenge next year!
In the end there are just a few things I want to say
I am grateful for all the laughs and chats shared with all these amazing ladies, especially with Anne, Radya, Nadja, Eija and Siv. You are great company!
I loved, loved, loved the huge smile on Hannamari Rissanen's face (one of ladies that joined the team on the last day from the Big-way camp) when the judges confirmed the results for the last jump and she realized she is a World Record holder now. I met Hannamari in 2012 at my very first big-way event in Z-hills so I was super happy to see her cry happy tears!
I liked the number of jumps Lizzie Attwood, also an addition from the Big-way camp, had when she become a European and World record holder - 266 :) She was also jumping borrowed club kit!
Thank you to all the ladies in the Big-way camp for working so hard to improve your skills. Keep it up! I hope to see you all next year for the big one!
We all loved having Rob Lloyd around for the event. Thank you, Rob, for all the amazing pictures! It was great having somebody doing only ground photos - genius move from Sun Path!
I love Teuge Dz. I like the people, I like the facilities, I like the general welcoming atmosphere. I like how efficiently Simon Woerlee “runs the ship”. National Paracentrum Teuge is for sure in my top 3 list of dropzones. So I am keeping my fingers crossed for this dropzone to get a favorable decision in December - you more than deserve a not-limited flying space!
Thank you to the event’s sponsors: Skydive Teuge Sun Path, Allianz, Club-Bar De Wolk, Dagnl, Mini camping D’Oegenbos.
I can't stress it enough - it was a goose, not a swan!! ;-)
Rezzy's comments sum up the event:
“These incredible talented ladies, with incredible positive energy and desire to achieve and beat their own record at each time was in one place in harmony. Each time they broke a record, mind you it was not only European but also World Records, loud cheers, hugs, smiles, and screams! It made me smile, brought tears to my eyes and made my hair on the back of my neck stand up (gave me goose bumps). I was in a special place, with special people and witnessing history being made. “
Final Comment by Rezzan Aral Shiel (packer)
Article by Andreea Pistea (participant)