Women’s Record in the offing – Project 19

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Some of the Project 19 world record team training at the world’s largest wind tunnel, C;lymb, in Abu Dhabi. Photo by Mike Brewer

In a matter of days, the project familiar to most in our sport by now, Project 19, will finally begin. 100+ women from around the world will make their way to Skydive Arizona to attempt to build the largest all female head down formation.

With such a large number of women coming from all corners of the Earth, I asked a few questions from some of the ladies from different countries to see how their training has been going and any processes they might have for such a glorious and large undertaking. 

Having met a lot of the women involved in Project 19 when we were in Abu Dhabi last month, it’s obvious that our skydiving community is built up of many spectacular, driven, skilled and kind women. While I wish I could interview all 100 plus women, I think this glimpse into a few will highlight some of the great ladies we can expect at the record. 

AUSTRALIA: JILL GRANTHAM

Jill Grantham, photo by Harrison Edwards


Home DZ: Skydive Nagambie

How are you feeling about the record? 
Hopeful anticipation.

What has your training been like leading up to this record? 

Lots and lots of mental preparation. In the Covid lockdowns we had in Melbourne for almost 2 years I have spent the time visualising the jump from all the different slots and working on mental hurdles that have previously tripped me up. 

What made you decide to join Project 19? 

It’s so, so important that as women we exercise the right to vote that we fought so hard to get. Additionally, it’s critical that we don’t rest on our laurels and continue to push ourselves to make more opportunities and possibilities available to future generations to conquer, their starting point begins at the highest achievement we leave them.

How do you plan to stay focused under the pressure of the record jumps? 

I used to think I needed to be calm and relaxed to perform at my best but I have worked out that a bit of excitement and pressure actually helps focus and motivate me. So, I’m going to keep in mind that we are working together to achieve a goal that represents more than the achievement of the individuals on the jump and let that drive me.

Anything you’d like to say to the women of Project 19 before we start the event?

Records are a marathon not a sprint. We will only achieve if everyone works together as a high performing team. Be conscious that there is such an entanglement of ego, expectations and emotions which will be experienced through the process but always keep your eye on the bigger picture.


FINLAND: HEINI ELO 

Heini Elo

Home DZ: Skydive Finland and Skydive Turku

How are you feeling about the record? 

Very professional team, comprehensive preparation

What has your training been like leading up to this record? 

It has had ups and downs. I was ready and current and then the pandemic hit. Then I missed a skydiving season due to injury. But I’m back! Ready to rock, current and excited. Been flying a lot of big way training in 2022 in sky and indoor also. The P19 huge tunnel camp at Abu Dhabi was — wow! Not only the flying but the boost it gave to teamwork.

What made you decide to join Project 19? 

The awesome experiences from previous women’s vertical world records. I felt honoured to be asked to be part of that part again

Are there any things you have planned for your time at the record that will help you stay focused under the pressure of the jumps? 

I visualize my slot a lot, the exit, approach, level-slot-dock-keep flying-help the person docking on you. Break off, deployment, landing… I visualize a perfect performance. Still keep a humble attitude. Full focus on this project – leave work behind for this week. 

Anything you’d like to say to the women of Project 19 before we start the event?

You only need to take max 2 grips. Easy as pie! 🙂 Those grips still connect all 102 of us. Chill, you’re flying with friends. Enjoy. Be prepared,  this is something you have not experienced before. Be prepared – you are going to have extreme feelings. Focus, give your best. Doing all this is more than enough – we all know we can do this. And we will succeed.


THE NETHERLANDS: KIM VAN DER HORST

Kim van der Horst, photo byby Sophie Saddington


Home DZ: Schaffen, Belgium 

How are you feeling about the record? 

I’m insanely stoked. The Women’s Records have always been super-special. I love how it creates this place where women can operate on their own terms and conditions. It allows us to define how we operate in high-pressure situations and what female leadership looks like without interference. I think it will help a lot of women to take up more room in the community offering our skills but also our way of doing things. I’m positive that it is a great tool for creating more equality in the sport. 

What has your training been like leading up to this record? 

Ha! Yeah, wow. We were so on track in 2019. In the BeNeLux, I and Michele Cnops, who passed away this May (still heartbroken), organized several training camps with the Joyriders in Belgium and the Netherlands. We had such an amazing time. The energy was great. I had twelve girls on my list who were pretty much ready to go and another five or six, who might get there with training. Then Covid hit and basically everything screeched to a halt. 

It’s only been since September 2021 that record training camps were organized again in Europe. I did all of those. But training (even jumping) locally was harder because the DZs in the Netherlands and Belgium had plane troubles (several crashes) so most of them were not hosting events and regular jumping days were extremely slow. The combination threw a wrench in the training program we had before. 

The list of girls I had diminished to two Dutch girls. One of whom is me. It’s brutal. We now have four girls coming from the Netherlands but one is British and one is South African. 

What made you decide to join Project 19? 

I have been attending Women’s Records since 2013 and I just love them. So, when I got the email to join the regional captain team I jumped at the opportunity. Being so inexperienced myself when I did my first record, I felt it was a great opportunity to teach other girls and prepare them better for their first record. 

How do you plan to stay focused under the pressure of the record jumps? 

Good question. I plan hydration and peeing and I make sure I eat and sleep well.  It’s only been the last ten years that I realized I really thrive in these high-pressure situations. I love records and competitions, of which I don’t do nearly enough. 2013 was my first record and to be honest I was not ready at all. I had three 21-ways as preparation for the 65-way and I had not ever done a first stinging slot. I was extremely nervous. In the plane I just repeated the “mantra”, If they think I can do it, I probably can’. Which was not exactly the strongest self-talk! I also imagined the skills and super-powers of all these experienced women spreading through the formation to me. I was grasping at straws. Everything I know about big-way skydiving I learned at the record. Eventually I cut myself before the last jump. But I still use the visualization and self-talk, although it’s now a bit more technically infused through experience, training and tools like the Project 19 app

Anything you’d like to say to the women of Project 19 before we start the event?

I feel exceptionally grateful to be on this journey with all of you. Let’s smash this record and use the skills and experience we gain from it to take up more space in the world, influence it in a positive sense. 


DUBAI: MISHKA

Mishka


Home DZ: Skydive Dubai

How are you feeling about the record? 

Excited! Looking forward to seeing many friends that I haven’t seen in a long time. But, heartbroken about leaving my 2-year-old at home and not being able to hold him for a whole 10 days.

What has your training been like leading up to this record?  

I’ve been training ever since the last Women Vertical Record. I really wanted to improve my floating. Since then I’ve done the tryouts for the Head Down Word Record and a few jumps in the first 200 way record attempts in 2019. This year I trained for and took part in the new UAE record for the largest head-down formation, 34 way. On top of that I skydive 5 days a week and train VFS and dynamic flying in the tunnel. I think it all helps a bit. Fingers crossed!

What made you decide to join Project 19?  

The organisers did an amazing job at building a team spirit! I believe in their philosophy that we need to help each other in order for the record to be achieved.

How do you plan to stay focused under the pressure of the record jumps? 

Not especially. Warm under-layers, rest, good food, hydration, positive thinking and some visualisation. Maybe 1 glass of wine at the end of the day. 😊

Anything you’d like to say to the women of Project 19 before we start the event?

Looking forward to seeing you all!


USA: MICHELLE HART



Michelle Hart by Lucas Zelasko

Home DZ: Skydive Arizona

How are you feeling about the record? 

I’m feeling really positive about the record! Last weekend we set a 29-way California women’s record. It was really encouraging to see how the team came together, worked through all the kinks and made it happen. I’m excited to do the same thing with even more women! 

What has your training been like leading up to this record? 

I started in 2019 by going to a few of the small “Phase 1” camps run by the regional captains. If it wasn’t for those small camps, I never would have thought of doing big-ways. I’m so grateful for the way Project 19 was run where women were brought up into doing large formations. Once I realized being on the record was something attainable, I put everything into it. In the last 3 years I have done over 300 “big way” jumps varying from one plane stuff to the 200 way world record attempts. I’ve come a long way from being scared to do a 12-way at that first regional camp!

What made you decide to join Project 19? 

I heard about the idea of Project 19 and loved the concept. I loved that it was about more than skydiving. Celebrating the 100th anniversary of the 19th amendment and inspiring women to live bold brave lives sounded really cool! Ultimately though, what made me continue on the journey was the environment at every P19 training camp. Each organizer and all the participants were always so positive and encouraging. The community of women I’ve met through these camps is incredible and I feel so lucky to call them my friends. 

How do you plan to stay focused under the pressure of the record jumps? 

My main plan is to eat right and get enough sleep. That’s generally the most important thing for me. I will also visualize on every plane ride to keep me focused and prepared. 

Anything you’d like to say to the women of Project 19 before we start the event?

Let’s do this thing! Every one of us is capable. We got an invite for a reason. Let’s all fly our best, help each other out, and lift each other up. If there’s something I could be doing better to help you, please tell me. If we all do our best to help each other, I think we will be successful!


CHINA: MIN WU

Min Wu

Home DZ: Skydive Dubai

How are you feeling about the record? 

It’s such a well-organized event. I’m proud to be part of it. The vibe is so good. All the girls support and help each other. This record is not just a record, it’s also a good chance to show the world that women are capable of everything. 

What has your training been like leading up to this record?

Actually, the idea to join the world record came to me last year. So I spent this whole year attending as many tryouts and big way training camps as I can. Also I did a lot of VFS training in the tunnel.

What made you decide to join Project 19?

I met Domi at my first head-down big way training camp. She told me she had never seen a Chinese female skydiver in a world record. Then Domi and Anna encouraged me to work harder and finally I got the ticket. I feel grateful that I was inspired by a lot of good flyers during this journey. 

How do you plan to stay focused under the pressure of the record jumps? 

I prepared a bunch of heating pads to keep me warm. So that I can focus more on the jumps instead of shaking all the time when sitting in the airplane. 

Anything you’d like to say to the women of Project 19 before we start the event?

Let’s do it girls! Show the world our power.


Support Project 19

Project19, the women’s world head-down record attempt, will take place at Skydive Arizona, 21-26 November 2022. The lead-up to this event has involved scores of regional captains, like many quoted above, running training events all round the world, to refresh skills of experienced flyers and train up new jumpers. You can follow the record progress and send messages of support at the Project 19 Facebook page.


Project 19 – what does it mean?

Short video of the build-up to the record event, and what it means to the organizers, captains and those taking part.

The record means continuing to drive the sport forward for women. It’s about pushing women to realize that they can do whatever they want 😎

Amy ChmElecki
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California State Record: Female Headdown Large Formation 29-way⁣⁣⁣⁣⁣, set recently in the build-up to Project 19’s world record event. Photo over Skydive Perris by Bobo Skiwattentatten
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Meet: Alethia Austin

Alethia is a passionate full time international angle and freefly coach. As the creator of LSD Bigway Camps and LSD Angle Camps, she's been running skills camps in skydiving for over 8 years around the world. Some of her coaching and LSD camps have taken her to Botswana, Egypt, Central America, North America, Europe and more. Alethia brings her years of yoga teaching, love of good health and healthy living into the way she coaches angle flying and vertical flying. Alethia was a regional captain for the Women's Vertical World Record and has two world records. Her sponsors include UPT, Tonfly, PD, Cypres and LB Altimeters.

You can find her on Instagram at Instagram.com/alethiaja

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