Saturday, November 08, 2008
There is only one 6:00 in my day, and “a.m.” isn’t part of it. Until this morning. The organizers had the groups arrive at 6:00 a.m. (coffee and really good muffins provided) to get started with safety briefings from Hammo and Co (Skydive Elsinore staff). PD Team member Jonathan Tagle had some words of wisdom about landings, given the fickle winds of Elsinore’s landing areas.
Lying down in the dewy grass during sunrise of the landing area at Elsinore sounds very romantic in the written form. Physically, it was wet and cold. But it allowed us to see the perfect formation spacing as we laid down and across the 71 Flock University logos painted on the grass of the landing area (remember those, from Day One of the blog?)
Each component of the formation launched today in separate aircraft loads, and it didn’t take much to get each piece working very well on its own. On Monday, the pieces will be put together like puzzle sections in order to form a perfect formation of 71 flyers.
Winds were definitely fickle, blowing from all directions of the compass at times. There were a couple of unfortunate landings, one of which involved a ground-based canopy collision with one jumper being seriously injured and the other merely receiving a very dirty and dusty landing.
The wingsuit groups are briefed prior to each jump, and landing direction determined prior to boarding the aircraft. In the event of a changing wind, the team captain or first person down sets the landing direction. Thus far, all wingsuit group landings have been uneventful and safe, save it be for one hotdog that swooped another wingsuiter, caught his foot in an already-down canopy, pulling the landed wingsuiter onto his back. Oops…bad juju. That won’t happen again.
The final load of the day was reserved for wingsuit team “D”, which is the last aircraft group in the formation. We’ll have the furthest to fly, but tonight, we were treated to a gorgeous Elsinore sunset, gold and deep red. No matter how ugly one might be…an Elsinore sunset brings out the beauty.
For me, the highlight of the day is watching Brian Drake. He’s a hero in this event. Brian broke his leg in a BASE jump a couple months ago, and still sports a cast. He has a unique pegleg that lets him stay fairly mobile, but it has to come off during the jump. Brian gets to the plane by grabbing my rig and doing the hopalong thing. But the real fun comes when in the formation, I get to look across towards Brian. He lets me know we’re in sync in the slot by sticking his tongue out at me. It’s a sight to see him slide in his landings with his cast on. Talk about dedication to the sport and to the event. Brian, you’re my hero of the day.
Justin brought us home every jump, perfectly over the landing area. No one landed out, no one landed in dangerous traffic, and everyone had a smile on their face when they walked up to the packing area. Speaking of packers…Alex trekked all the way out to Elsinore from Massachusetts to jump and pack. He is another hero of the event, making sure that multiple people made 30 minute turnarounds on the wingsuit loads. Awesome job, Alex.
Tony Uragallo has been taking out the Alternates group, and the team will likely need a few of these alternates to make the formation fill out as it becomes more apparent where some wingsuit pilots might not be quite cut out for flocking. While there are some incredible wingsuit flyers here, known as the best in their regions or countries, not all are experienced in large-formation flocking, and find themselves slow, low, floaty, tumbling, or unable to hold position. It happens. Large-formation/bigway flocking isn’t anywhere near as easy as it looks, and maintaining the distances that must be maintained isn’t simple. It’s much harder flying 8 feet away from someone and staying locked in than it is to fly head to foot. Try it some time. It’s not a cakewalk at all.
Tony held court at the end of the day; while Tonysuits don’t represent a huge portion of the wingsuits seen in the formation, he’s obviously an icon and legend in the wingsuit and skydiving world. It’s terrific to see him here, leading flocks.
Well…Avery Badenhop wants everyone to join him at KokoRo’s for sushi tonight, so it’s time to move on. Tomorrow is another day, and after spending the day capturing, debriefing, archiving video from Craig O’brien, Tero, Scotty Burns, Mark Harris, Jeff Donahue, and other videographers involved in the event…I’m bushed. Food sounds good.
See you tomorrow.