One Minute of Pure Magic…
NEW AUSTRALIAN RECORD
The Aussie Bigways team pulled off a 130-way to set an Australian record at Skydive Perris.
The successful jump followed months of preparation and training, see previous article. It was one minute of magic, from 17,000 feet, to make a very expensive dream come true. Team members had cut away from jobs, marriage and study for this, investing about $7,000 each in the trip itself. Not to mention the travel around Australia for big-way camps, tunnel training and smaller sequential records.
Team captain, Greg Jack, is normally a tough military man, but his eyes leaked a little as he stood in front of the players, an Aussie flag draped around his shoulders, confirming the verdict from the APF (Australian Parachute Federation) Judges.
“Four years ago, at this very drop zone, we set a record of 119 skydivers in formation,” he began. “That’s gone now,” he shouted. “130-way!!!”
It happened on the 6th serious attempt, in early evening light, with a day left to spare.
The 5th attempt had been agonisingly close, with just one skydiver out of the formation. She was in this slot for the first time and would have made it with just another 500 feet, or one more jump, but that isn’t how big-way works. She ended up being capped, joining several other heartbroken people whose event had ended earlier than they’d hoped.
Unforgiving landing conditions at Perris had also boosted the size of the cheerleading squad on the ground, with many ankle braces and slings between the flag-waving relatives and partners. There was also a single bare bum out there, behind the trees, away from the cameras.
The record load took off at 6pm in four Skyvans and three Twin Otters. The jump felt smooth and calm, better than the one before. But could anybody dare believe that they’d succeeded? You never really know for sure when you’re up there because you’re focused on the centre and anything could be happening behind you or below you.
Dan Brodsky-Chenfeld, leader of the P3 coaching team, landed first. He was optimistic but unsure. Then came Norman Kent. “Wow, that looked good!” grinned Norman with a beaming smile and thumbs up. “Well, if the camera man says it’s good, that’s a good sign,” laughed Dan as he started to feel more buoyant. “But, we’ll have to wait for the judges!”
Meanwhile, the ripple of optimism was spreading across the landing area, with tears, hugs and high fives. Ecstatic skydivers were celebrating their success. Our superstar Aussie coach Melissa Harvie hobbled back across the runway on crutches after skydiving all day with a badly sprained foot.
The photograph of the completion was urgently emailed to the Aussie judging team, and the beers were cracked open at the end of a huge day.
It seemed like an eternity before Greg Jack was able to confirm the good news. It was a loud, happy celebration but also a surprisingly brief one, as the Aussies wanted to use that last day well.
They returned the next morning for three more attempts at a bigger record, adding back in some of the last people who’d been capped. The judges in Australia were hauled out of bed at 4.30 in the morning. The first load (134-way) didn’t complete. The second was aborted at 14 grand when one plane ran out of oxygen, and the third (133-way) was also unsuccessful.
The Aussies had tried hard to share record success with a few more mates but it wasn’t to be. The only thing left was to crack open the beers and have a drink or three to seriously celebrate a successful event.
Photos and video at SkydivingPhotography.com