Big-way Bites 3 – FALL RATE

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How to identify fall rates to your advantage

Assess the free fall rate. Are people waiting in big or small body positions?
Photo by Gary Wainwright

1. Going Low

Going low is the phrase used when a person cannot match the fall rate of the formation prior to docking. The place to go low is 10 metres (or more) above the formation. On a large formation do a fall rate check midway through your approach. You don’t need to come out of your dive – simply look at the building formation and note the body positions of those who are waiting ahead of you. Are they in tight, fast-falling body positions or are they stretched out? If the former, you know you can continue on an aggressive line; the latter tells you to come out of your approach earlier. Don’t be afraid to extend your body into a slow fall position above the formation, it looks much less silly than the same body position 10 metres below the formation. Make the appropriate equipment change for the next skydive.

Photo courtesy of P3 Skydiving

2. Assess the Formation

Different formations will fall at varying speeds due to design. Recognise this at the dirtdive and make your equipment decisions accordingly. Larger bases (6/8-way) will fall faster than smaller 4-way bases, which fall faster than intricate set-ups such as donuts or compressed accordions.

Photo courtesy of P3 Skydiving

3. Dress for Success

Choose the equipment to place you in the middle of your fall rate comfort zone. This may mean wearing extra weights, taping up your booties, choosing a larger suit or even wearing a T-shirt or sweatshirt over your jumpsuit. Noone looks silly in a completed formation!

Choose the equipment to place you in the middle of your fall rate comfort zone”

A whole sector floating, Fly It Forward event, 2014
Photo by Henny Wiggers

4. Floating

This is a worse problem in big-ways than going low, as the latter is easier to recognise and address. As above, choose your equipment so that you are in the middle of your fall rate. You may have the luxury of being in a slot that matches your optimal fall rate. For smaller, lighter people this often means wearing lead and sometimes taping up the booties to reduce drag. There is no danger in this – you can still track safely. If an organiser recommends that you do this there is a reason. If you cannot stick your legs out and engage your booties to push towards the formation without lifting up on it then you are floating. 

Remember that adding a significant amount of weight alters the wing loading of your canopy so it is advisable to have experience with this prior to being in the formation.


Big-way Bites Series

Previous article – Big-way Bites 2 – Getting to your slot

Next article – Big-way Bites 4 – Red zone and docking


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Meet: Kate Cooper-Jensen

Kate Cooper-Jensen started skydiving in 1978 and quickly became a prominent figure in the sport. Kate founded P3 Skydiving, together with Tony Domenico, the first big-way skydiving school, and has helped countless people achieve their big-way and record dreams.
Kate has been a participant and many times an organiser in over 30 World and National Records.

Organizer of numerous women's world records including 118-way (1999), 132-way (2002), 151-way (2005), 181-way (2009). Sequential women's world and open world record 117-way (2014), Sequential women's European and World Records 2-and 3-point 46-way, (2016); 2- and 3-point 56-way, 2016 and 3 x 60-way (2018).

Raised 1.9 million for breast cancer charities. Recipient of the USPA gold medal for meritorious achievement (2015). Inducted into Skydiving Hall of Fame (2019).

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