Big-way Bites 4 – RED ZONE and DOCKING

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How must you behave when you are on camera, in those final feet and in the formation?

If you are in the video frame, you are in the Red Zone
Sequential Games in Perris, 2019, photo by Gary Wainwright

The Red Zone

The red zone is the area around a large formation where most problems occur. It is the approach area in the stadium and is easily seen by video. Red zone violations consist of either lateral movement or a too steep stadium approach – either which can result in freefall collisions. Virtually all large formations are hampered by red zone violations and this is the area to place greatest effort.

1. Lateral Violations

No lateral, or sideways movement is acceptable in the red zone. Once jumpers enter the stadium any lateral movement causes problems. If you find yourself in a position where this is necessary, be super aware of the people in your general area and, if possible, make eye contact with them (perhaps even with calm hand gestures) before making the move.

2. Altitude Violations

It is common to see jumpers who are uncomfortable with larger formations pad their approach altitudes by being too high in their stadium set-up. It is important that all jumpers in the red zone be on the same stadium approach. A simple altitude difference of one metre can be catastrophic when two bodies attempt to share the same place in freefall. If jumpers are on the same level it’s just easily absorbed incidental contact. If you are uncomfortable maintaining the altitude approach that is set by the stadium then make the appropriate equipment change on the ground.

A simple altitude difference of one metre can be catastrophic when two bodies attempt to share the same place in freefall”

3. Responsibility

You are responsible for knowing the placement of all the people between you and the base. If you have an excellent dive and/or they have a poor exit, it is still your responsibility to make sure they have an approach available to their quadrant and slot. Know the people around you and know where they dock.

A poor docking, this jumper is pulling another out of the formation


1. Acceptable Docks

Only perfect docks are acceptable. The way to make every dock perfect is to arrive at your slot, assess and match the fall rate, come to a complete stop and only then pick up your grips. Make the taking of the grips secondary to the actual placement of your torso in the correct position.

2. In the Formation

Make sure you match the fall rate of the formation prior to docking. Be prepared to change the fall rate afterwards if needed, this may mean altering your body position. Be aware of this and if you are in the middle of your fall rate range then a slight increase or decrease should not be an issue

3. Fly Light on Grips

This is not permission to float, or put forward pressure into the centre, but at the same time do not drag your line down and away from the centre placing tension on the formation. As you fly your slot in the formation try and be in a body position that would allow you to release grips and stay exactly where you are.

4. Improve the Situation

Make every dock with the idea that your dock can and will improve the formation. If you are not sure of that, then take your time and wait until you can make the perfect dock.

Take your time and wait until you can make the perfect dock”

5. Stick your Legs Out

Many big-way slots are part of a line of some fashion. The biomechanics of docking with two arm grips by definition sits you slightly chest high, which puts you automatically in a very slight backsliding position. If you are floating at all this position is magnified as you will float up if you do stick out your legs. It is imperative that you have the ability to be docked in the middle of your fall rate range so you do have the ability to push your line forward by sticking your legs out. This fact is probably the least understood yet simplest mechanic of large formation skydiving.

Eyes to the center
Photo from Australian Record, Skydive Perris, by Luciano Bacqué

Eyes to the center

Your eye contact is always to the centre no matter what direction your body is placed. Do not fall into the trap of missing a key or other important information because you were not giving 100% attention to the base.

Fight to Hold Position

Be aware of the correct relation of your piece to the base and do everything needed to keep it in the right place after you dock.

Keep Skydiving

Do not give up on the skydive if you notice a person low. Give them the same courtesy of keeping the fall rate going and the formation strong that you would want, if you were in the same position. These people can make it back into the formation if the fall rate is consistent and all people continue to concentrate on the centre.

Big-way Bites Series

Previous article – Big-way Bites 3 – Fall Rate

Next article – Big-way Bites 5 – coming soon!

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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).

Kate is sponsored by Skydive Perris, Aerodyne, Kiss, L&B altimeters and Vigil.

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