Sequential Games KHARKIV Challenge

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100-way Challenge Ukraine

Every summer from 2014, the Sequential Games team runs a 100-ish-way Challenge, an intricate, beautiful but difficult formation as the goal.  It will only complete with a group of high skill level, everyone performing at their best individually and learning to work together as a team in the training jumps.

Excited to check out the formation – Image by Andrey Veselov

Formation

This year their ‘Kharkiv Challenge’ was a giant, 102-way grid made of cats and bipoles, with some missing links and radical outfacing slots just to make it harder. It’s always a thrill when Sequential Games post the formation on their Facebook page, and even more so when you’re assigned your slot – there is nowhere to hide in this formation, every position is a challenge.

Patrick, Dieter and Milko, SG organisers, beginning the event
Image by Andrey Veselov

Team

The 3 organisers of Sequential Games are Patrick Passe, Milko and Dieter Kirsch, an eclectic trio who have been organizing together for more than 20 years. Ilya Balashov was the Director of the event and coordinated everything superbly, including great touches like everyone going out to cheer and welcome the pilots. Sergey Filatov, owner of the drop zone, worked very hard to arrange the aircraft and pilots, we really appreciated his efforts and their results. Sasha (Alexsandr Pelehov) was very good at translating, welcoming and sorting our transport and a huge array of equipment so we had everything we needed. Our super cameraflyers were Andrey Veselov, Gary Wainwright and Egor Vysotsky, who put photos and videos up on Facebook daily. Herman Landsman was an excellent Safety Officer.

Sequential Games team by Gary Wainwright

The skydiving team selected was of the very highest calibre and included skydivers from 21 different countries – Austria, Belgium, Denmark, France, Finland, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Lithuania, Monaco, the Netherlands, Norway, Romania, Russia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, UK, Ukraine and USA. It was especially good to see some American friends take the long trip across the Atlantic for this event.

Skydive Kharkiv DZ at Korotich – Image by Gary Wainwright

Skydive Kharkiv

Skydive Kharkiv at Korotich is a massive drop zone (25 square km!), with ample space for the 100+ skydivers assembled there for this event. Everyone landed on the DZ on every jump that followed the exit plan, testament to the skills of the pilots. There was one skydive where the entire left trail left before the lead plane, due to some over-enthusiastic shouting, confusion and trigger-happy exit fever, so this group landed miles away, but everyone made it back safely. There are virtually no hazards in the surrounding countryside, which is mostly flat farm land.

This is the third year Skydive Kharkiv have run large events so by now their manifesting is efficient and virtually everything ran like clockwork. Safety was brilliant, with no incidents, not even a reserve ride.

Loading the two AN28s and the AN72 – Image by Andrey Veselov

Planes

The dropzone is full of amazing aircraft from museum-style cloth-covered biplanes to state-of-the-art fighter jets – in which you could take a high-speed aerobatic flight. Several participants did so to great delight, while those of us in the ground were honoured to watch this private airshow display. On the other end of the scale, some made a sunset hop’n’pop from the classic AN-2 biplane, a little piece of history.

An72 by Andrey Veselov

Jumpships

Someone asked me what’s the best aircraft I’ve ever jumped for skydiving – well it is unquestionably the lead aircraft, an Antonov-72, which hauls 64 jumpers to 15,000 feet in under 8 minutes. This beast has a massive tailgate so you can run 3 lines of skydivers straight off the edge like lemmings, delivering them in a close setup for a large formation. It’s a marvel of engineering. The entrance ramp slides completely under the plane, making for a more efficient, safer exit without having to run down a ramp. The An-72 is a jet aircraft designed for STOL (short take-off and landing) and can use grass or tarmac runways. The jet engines are at the top of the plane to keep them clear of random matter going into the engine. Hence the tail is at the top too for balance. The combination means you do not get hit by the physical blast of air that you get in Skyvans, Casas, Hercs etc. It can fly pretty slowly at 90 knots, the perfect run-in speed. And at this dropzone it is very affordable, unlike a Hercules or even Skyvans, which are expensive due to the cost of parts.

Inside the An72 by Gary Wainwright

The An-72 was brought in from the military to add to Skydive Kharkiv’s own An-28s, baby sisters of the 72. These smaller Antonovs take 22 jumpers, also have tailgates and a fast exit. The pilots of all the aircraft were seriously fantastic, with very tight and consistent formation flying on all jumps.

We were enthralled to meet Anatoliy Myalitsa, the engineer who designed the AN-72. He spoke very eloquently, educating us abut the Antonov-72, entertaining us with stories of the good ol’ days of baton-passing and wishing us well for our Challenge.



Base group training with Patrick – Image by Andrey Veselov

Kharkiv

Kharkiv is a vibrant, happening city with beautiful architecture, delicious cuisine and lots to see and do. Most of the 100+ participants were staying in one of two hotels near each other; the comfortable Aurora and the super-swanky ‘Palace’ (for a very unswanky price). This gave me the feeling we had on World Team trips, where skydivers virtually take over the hotels, and making for a wonderful, special-holiday-adventure atmosphere, where every restaurant and bar is full of your friends. 

Training jump, Milko’s group, point 1 – Image by Gary Wainwright

Training

The first day, Monday 30 July, we trained in three groups: the central base and two outside groups. To give everyone a chance to jump both of these exciting, rare jumpships, the training jumps for each group were out of the opposite aircraft they would use for the 100-ways. Traveling to Ukraine proved to be an adventure, such that we were 11 people short at the start of the day. We simply waited till they mostly joined at midday, then still achieved 3 jumps, which all went extremely well. It’s such a pleasure when you jump with hand-picked people; you can feel the difference in quality form the beginning, it gives a high confidence level and lets you skydive at your best, being surrounded by brilliance!

Training jump, Milko’s group, point 2 – Image by Gary Wainwright

Bigways

Tuesday we went into the 102-ways from 17,000 feet, using oxygen. The formation proved to be even more ambitious than we had thought and almost every jump had a funnel. But the skydives improved through the day and by Wednesday morning we were feeling that we could make this challenge happen, with some more jumps to iron out the issues. People were being moved around the formation like chess pieces.

Exit from 3 planes, Image by Gary Wainwright

Wednesday afternoon saw gusty winds and we sat on the ground for a long time before the last jump, waiting for them to die down. I had a really good feeling about this skydive, we knew the forecast sucked for the last two days so this could well be the last jump. It was our best attempt yet, building beautifully and elegantly out from the centre like a spider’s web.

Building sweetly – Image by Gary Wainwright

But a little too much input on this fragile lattice sent it tumbling down like a game of Jenga. And that was the end of the game.

Funneltastic! – Even the best skydivers can be caught out by not following the basics
Image by Gary ‘Vigil Athlete’ Wainwright

Game Over

Thursday and Friday the weather sucked. Low clouds, rain, wind, you name it. At one point we began going up in smaller groups but the clouds closed in completely, blocking out all sun and jumping possibilities.  Hope was the last thing to die but eventually that too perished on Friday afternoon.

Close but no cigar – Image by Andrey Veselov

We came, we saw, we didn’t conquer. But we were good with that. This is the sixth annual Sequential Games challenge and the first time it did not complete. We lost half of the available jumping time to weather, calamities and airlines so we didn’t feel that we failed, more that the conditions never let us make a decent summit attempt. And, this isn’t a record event, with judges, judging systems, copious admin, and where the result matters. The Kharkiv Challenge is purely for fun. And it was fun. Enjoyable to be with such an entertaining group of eclectic individuals. Beautiful to make some super high quality skydives. Brilliant to attempt something difficult and not quite get it (we don’t want ‘easy’!). Amazing to jump the An-72. Good to get with the bigway family again. Excellent to visit this lovely dropzone, the magnificent city and a new country. We’ll be back!



Good but not good enough – Image by Gary Wainwright

Coming up

Though sad to leave Kharkiv we are happy to look forward to the Sequential Games 121-way Jewel and World Record event at Skydive Perris, 13-18 October. The Jewel has always been a mystical formation. The largest jewel is currently a 100-way set at Arizona Challenges in 1997 & 2014 so it would be über-cool to build a 121-way jewel. 

Following on will be the first Sequential World Record event to feature the new FAI 2019 rules of a TOTAL Break between formations. Clearly this type of record is much more challenging than keeping the centre together and just moving outside elements.  It reminds me of the year we set five sequential World Records in one day (2004), with the same set of organisers – Patrick, Milko & Dieter. On the sixth jump we attempted a total break between formations, and were one grip off a six-point 106-way skydive. That shows we can do it, let’s prove it to the judges in Perris.

Sequential Games Episode 2, Kharkiv, Ukraine 2019, Day 3, 100-way jump 3, video by Andrey Veselov

Sequential Games Episode 2, Kharkiv, Ukraine 2019, Day 3, 100-way jump 3, video by Andrey Veselov

Posted by Sequential Games on Wednesday, 31 July 2019
Last attempt before we lost the weather – video by Andrey Veselov

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Meet: Lesley Gale

Lesley has been in love with skydiving for 35 years. She is a multiple world and national record holder and a coach on 20 successful record events worldwide. She has over 100 competition medals spanning more than 25 years and has been on the British 8-way National team at World events. She started Skydive Mag to spread knowledge, information and passion about our amazing sport.

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I am running some cool skydiving events this year – Skillz Skool in May, featuring seminars as well as jumping, and a Big-way Camp from 3 aircraft, both at Skydive Hibaldstow.

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