Congratulations to all participants on the World Record 53 person open canopy formation!
By Scott Fiore
The weekend started off with typical European weather. Friday, Saturday and Sunday (8/30-9/1) were cold, windy and rainy most of the time. The poor weather proved a good time to get situated with gear. Many participants needed to change canopy size from what they were used to and some needed to get Demo Lightnings from Performance Designs. 58 members from Argentina, England, Italy, Australia, Malaysia, France, Holland, Germany, Switzerland, Finland and the United States gathered together to form an International Team to attempt a new World Record. A few warm-up jumps were made on Sunday (9/1) consisting of 9-ways from various groups. Groups were formed mostly from Geographic area to start. Exit altitude was 2500 meters (around 7500 feet) and all groups were doing successful 9-ways with most groups completing various sequential points.
The next day, the 9-way groups were paired with one another to do some 16-18 ways. Exit altitude remained at 2500 meters standard, and all groups were doing successful 16-ways. Some groups were completing (or transitioning) to a second point. All groups were performing well. It was obvious to everyone that the proficiency of the participants was high in every group. That night, the Group Chiefs (translated often to Group "Chefs") and the organizers put together a proposed 16-way and 25-way base using canopy size as the major deciding factor. It was taken for granted that all participants could fly their slots based on their proficiency. All larger canopies were on top, and nothing smaller than a 160 Lightning was included in the top 25-way.
The 16-way and then 25-way additions were practiced the following day (9/3). This was the first time we had done any formation loads. Although the 25-way base went together very quickly (and was flown around for what seemed like forever), a later attempt at a 36-way proved to be slightly frustrating based on plane / pilot issues. Weather and darkness ended our attempts earlier than expected, and the organizers met again to put together a potential "big-way".
The intention for Wednesday (9/4) was to practice the 36-way base at least once before the record attempts. The extended weather forecasts for the rest of the week looked poor at best, so a decision was made to go straight for a 50-way. Oxygen was not a factor since the exit altitude was 4500 meters (approximately 14,500 ft.) and the break-off altitude was comfortable at 2000 meters (approx. 6500 ft.). The first attempt was a success. A new world record was set on 9/4 on the very first attempt. The 49-way diamond (and the 50-way for that matter) flew like a dream. The formation was flying so fast that almost all approaches were made in rear risers. The formation speed made it possible for all wings to fly neutral (with regards to trim) after lock-up. Even the row 7 wings were able to fly with nothing more than a little inside brake. After a long break, the organizers designed a 56-way. One attempt at the new formation later in the afternoon proved unsuccessful because one Porter dropped behind the formation. Overall, a very successful day.
Thursday (9/5) started with 56-way attempts. After the previous days successes, people found themselves a little overzealous. Another 50-way was built, but the organizers stressed the need to slow down (some wing docks were made without the discreet diamonds being complete, etc.). Weather again proved to slow down the attempts, but at a small break in the clouds, the team built and flew the worlds first 56-way. Unfortunately, the formation was flown through a large break in the clouds that was accompanied by a lot of turbulence, folding in the row 7 win and the corner of the lower jewel. The formation was held only 2.3 seconds which is short of an official world record. Never, NEVER, fly a 56-way through a turbulent cloud layer...even if you arent flying directly through a cloud. Two minor whirlies (2-ways) resulted in the weeks first wraps and cutaways.
Friday (9/6) started with a 53-way attempt (back to the drawing board) and the first row 8 wings were docked and locked (congratulations to Mike Lewis and Kevin Ingley). This record was official at 53. Weather closed-in yet again and ended the day and week early, but with great success. Congratulations and thanks to all participants, guests, the Kassel-Calden drop zone, the group chiefs (chefs) and most of all the organizers. A very low-key, low-stress FUN week was had by all.
Photographers at the record attempts included Bryan Scott, Gus Wing, Norman Kent, Peter Schafer, Hans ??? and Hagar ???
Click here for the list of skydivers who participated in the World Record attempts in Kassel, Germany