With 2 years since the last official 4way Nationals, it was great to be back at Hibaldstow for some competition… and what a nail-biting competition it was!
In AAA, top teams NFTO, Chimera and Eros were all back to battle it out for the medals. Eros was the only team back with an identical line up (although a couple of slots had been swapped with Travis now Inside Centre and player coach Joey Jones in the Outside Centre slot). Chimera had introduced Will Cooke to the team as Tail and NFTO had Julia Swallow joining in the OC slot. NFTO were competing as defending champions having won every year since their first gold in 2018.
Also in AAA were teams: Alola, Pumas, TBC, Restart and Vantage. There was no realistic prospect of medals here, but all teams had been very close in training and a great battle for 4th place was expected!
A slow start…
The British weather did its predictable thing and gave us a blanket of low grey clouds in lieu of the more favourable earlier forecasts, meaning there wasn’t much opportunity for last minute training and the first day of the competition was spent mostly on the ground.
Luckily though, the weather cleared up in time to get round 1 out the way on Day 1. With the first scores on the board NFTO and Chimera were off to a good start with 20 and 19 respectively. Unfortunately, Eros didn’t have a great first round and were straight away playing catch up with a 4-point deficit on the gold medal position.
In AA, 6 teams were battling it out for a top spot on the leader board, not to mention those highly-sought-after averages that will for many teams form the foundation of a maiden voyage into AAA next season. Round 1 kicked off proceedings with a fairly even distribution of points that gave little clue as to how things might progress throughout the meet. The British Army’s VOLT4GE took an early lead with a score of 7 whilst Skydive Hibaldstow regulars 4Reigners tied with both Silver Linings and Sakasama on 6, with Petit Pois and Jail taking up the rear.
In Single A, Ice Bank Mice Elf (IBME5) and Winged Hussars had line-up changes shortly before Nationals meaning their only training jumps were the days immediately before the competition! Some awoke Friday feeling slightly less than competition ready, having got a little overexcited and spending too long at the bar, and were somewhat relieved by the rubbish weather! After round 1, Gren4de, IBME5 and Winged Hussars were all in joint 1st position! Pantheon sat in 4th place.
Fortunately, the rest of the competition brought better weather and the Hib machine smashed out the rounds at their usual impressive pace.
In AA, rounds 2 and 3 saw a much greater spread, with VOLT4GE scoring a 12 to pull away from 4Reigners, the latter now tied with Sakasama in second place, with Silver Linings sitting just 2 points behind. 4Reigners snuck in a 12 in Round 3, putting them a clean 3 points ahead of Sakasama and 3 behind VOLT4GE.
With VOLT4GE and 4Reigners both scoring 9 in Round 4 and Sakasama and Skydive Langar’s Silver Linings just behind with scores of 8 and 7, the battle for the podium was starting to take form. Sadly, a member of Hib regulars Sakasama suffered an injury on landing and without an alternate, they were out of the race. Her team, along with the rest of the competitors, wish her a speedy recovery and hope to see her back in the sky soon!
As the competition tipped past the halfway point into Round 5, VOLT4GE, Silver Linings and Jail were the highest scoring teams with 10, 8 and 8 respectively, which placed Jail just 1 point behind Petit Pois. Silver Linings now held a comfortable 5-point lead over Petit Pois, whilst the gap between VOLT4GE and 4Reigners in first and second place had soared to a whopping 9 points. The block-free Round 6 consisting of M,A,F,D was the elephant in the room that no one wanted to address, mention or even look at directly without protective eyewear! That was for one reason alone: this was an opportunity to score some serious points, or else get a little over-zealous and throw it all away. Silver Linings met VOLT4GE’s impressive 15 here, whilst 4Reigners worked to close that gap with a fantastic 17 points.
Meanwhile, in AAA the competition was heating up. The top 3 teams all tied in Round 2 and in Round 3 Eros had a great round – winning by 3 points, bringing themselves right back into the competition just 1 point off the lead in joint 2nd! In Round 4, Chimera took the lead for the first time by 1 point with 20 points on “E,G,11,Q”! The top 3 teams continued trading blows with NFTO and Chimera in joint 1st after Round 5 and Round 6!
In the thrilling battle for 4th place (a few points per round lower), Pumas were just ahead but with Alola, TBC and Restart all taking turns of winning rounds! Everyone had their eye on Round 7 – “M, 17, A ,F” – a very fast round, but with a slot switcher to really make you think! Pumas and Alola both scored strongly with 21 and 22 points, pulling away from TBC and Restart.
At the top NFTO pulled out a whopping 32 points, pulling away from Chimera and Eros with 29 and 27 respectively. NFTO now went into the final day with a 3-point lead!
With just two rounds to go in AA, Silver Linings looked to be safe for a 3rd place finish, maintaining a solid 11-point lead over Petit Pois, who themselves were just 2 points ahead of Jail. Of course, anything can happen in Rounds 7 and 8, and tensions were high as teams worked to keep their heads cool and their goals manageable. Round 7, a much slower all-block round of 2,9, saw Petit Pois score higher than Silver Linings for the first time since Round 4, but with only one round remaining, their fate was all but sealed.
As the scores for Round 8 rolled in, the final positions were set in stone: in the top spot, VOLT4GE, taking gold with a score of 81, in second place was 4Reigners just 4 points behind, and Silver Linings heading home with a bronze. Petit Pois secured themselves an honourable 4th place, with Jail just 4 points behind after a close battle throughout, and finally, having spent the latter half of the competition as spectators, Sakasama, with a respectable average of 7.3 after 4 completed rounds.
In Single A, Gren4ade were dominant throughout – winning or tying 1st on 6 of the 8 rounds. IBME5 put on a great performance and were close throughout but couldn’t quite secure the gold medal but finished with a comfortable silver. Pantheon and Winged Hussars traded blows, taking turns of beating each other throughout the competition but Pantheon came into their own in Round 7 (M, A, F for single A – that all important round again!) with 14 points – enough to win the round and take 3 points from the Winged Hussars. Pantheon finished just 4 ahead of Winged Hussars in the end, to win the bronze medal.
The Rookie category had a strong turnout this year with 6 teams, from a range of DZs. The top three slots were hotly contested with the rankings changing between every round, and gold went to AntiGravity (Netheravon). Silver and Bronze were separated by just one point, with Learning Curve (Headcorn) just edging out Team Tilstock (Tilstock – surprise!) in the last round.
Special mention should also go to the 180 club (Langar), the tallest team in all categories (all over 180cm) who lifted their wooden spoon beer keg to the loftiest of heights. They showed their true potential in round 7, with 8 points in time, but bust down to 4, having earlier struggled without their usual Tail flier who was sadly unable to compete due to injury.
Down to the wire in AAA!
With Rookie, A and AA now wrapped up, all eyes turned to the AAA leaderboard. Chimera had closed the gap on NFTO with strong rounds 8 and 9, and going into Round 10 it was JOINT 1st and all to play for! Eros had won round 9 and secured the bronze medal but were now probably out of striking distance for the gold. In the battle for 4th place, Alola had pulled out an impressive round 8 and now had a clear gap ahead of Pumas.
Round 10 was a triple blocker so very high scores were unlikely. All the teams sat watching the scoreboard, waiting for the update from the judges to find out who had won nationals…
Round 10 was tied too!
After 10 rounds of competition, Chimera and NFTO were tied in the number 1 spot. With much excitement and cheering, the top 2 teams went straight on a 15 minute call for the jump-off to decide who would be the overall British Champions. A big crowd cheered the teams as they got on the bus to go to the plane for the final deciding jump. Nerves of steel required.
With a slot switching triple blocker – “7, 12, 8” – the jump off was certainly technical! The slower nature of the jump off draw meant that most of the round would be spent turning blocks; the likelihood is that 35 seconds would fall during a block and with both teams so close, a tie was likely.
In the end, this is exactly what happened and the teams were still tied after 11 rounds!
The final deciding tiebreaker goes back to the highest scoring round. The all-important Round 7 strikes again! With this tiebreaker rule the “you win it on the randoms” wisdom is truer than ever. Unfortunately for Chimera, this meant that to win overall by jump-off, they’d have had to score 16 points. For those who didn’t see the jump-off videos, you may not have realised that the 16th point was quite so close!
NFTO scoring 32 points – Round 7 video
It was a great performance by all the teams and surely the closest ever British Nationals with the top 3 teams all winning rounds and no points between the top 2 even after a jump off. Congratulations to NFTO for some great flying, especially with 32 points in Round 7, and on defending their National 4way title!
See full results for all FS categories HERE.
Alongside the 4way FS, VFS (Vertical Formation Skydiving) returned to the skies above Hibaldstow with two teams, Omni99 and Gravity Pistols, for a great competition. Gravity Pistols are a new team with only a handful of training jumps together, while Omni99 were flying to retain their title. Gravity Pistols were able to achieve a very respectable score considering the challenging draw, especially given they were seeing many of the formations for the first time. Their best round secured them 5 points despite a challenging mix of head-up and head-down. I hear their training for next year has already begun and we will be looking forward to seeing how far they go!
Omni99, secured their 6th national championship title while chasing their personal best. Despite a couple of slower rounds at the start, they quickly picked the up pace but could not quite break their own record. However, they were still very happy considering the lost year of 2020. With next year being a selection year for the World Cup it would be fantastic to see a full podium and the opportunity to send as many teams as possible to Voss. In addition, there will be more VFS events throughout the year to help new flyers get involved!
Check out the UK Nationals podium gallery
Photos by Rob Lloyd
Congratulations to all participants!
This article was written by Matt Cumming with contributions from Steve Kay (AA info), Claire Briggs (A info), Hayley Jones (rookie info) and Tim Gaines (VFS Info).
8-way Nationals article by Matt Cumming here
Don’t miss other UK skydiving articles:
- 8-way Nationals – by Matt Cumming
- The 1000 jumps NIRVANA – by Lesley Gale
- Mind the GAP! – by Simon Brentford
- Sharing the love – by Rob Jonson
- Dive Dr, I keep corking… – by Ally Milne
- Team Training Tips – by Lesley Gale