by Laura Ausel, Dan Briggs and Jeff Cornelius
The Peach state camp this past weekend was fairly successful, though smaller than normal and with a couple of hitches. The attendance was limited by the Georgia state freefall record attempt which drew off many of our best people. Some of the traveling regulars also chose not to show up for this practice, since it was billed in advance as being "low key". Fortunately, several visiting UPC regulars took advantage of the potential for more individualized instruction and made the extra effort to attend especially because the base was short of people. In all, fifteen people stood in the circle and counted off for the 6:30 dirt dive on Saturday. With a few people drifting in and out, most of the 8 CReW dives launched during the weekend were 16-ways. The rest were 14 and 15-ways.
The weather Saturday was jumpable all day, though stinking hot. Peach State had just installed a good deal of covered packing area, with 10 inch diameter uprights set into concrete piers. Unfortunately, Nature had other ideas. A nasty storm on Friday night not only completely ripped the tarp off the metal framework, but reduced substantial portions of the upper framework itself to metallic spaghetti. The bad luck continued into Saturday with two of the three airplanes gathered for the record attempt grounded by mechanical problems. After the first jump of the morning the Casa developed some nose wheel problems and rolled off the runway into the dirt on landing, scraping a wingtip in the process. The resident King Air seized an engine on shutdown after the same first jump, so DQ was (successfully) fighting a great many disappointed freefallers for the services of the single remaining Twin Otter. In spite of this, we launched 5 DQ loads on Saturday. The first did not build due to some confusion in the air. (Jeff Cornelius' canopy was hooked up backwards, but he still almost docked!) The next three all built to 16, some fairly high and some very close to breakoff. The last jump saw the only cutaway of the weekend, where we broke new ground for DQ with a wrap in the echelon. The formation was a large box, with confusing echelons. A wing/lockup pair wrapped while setting up for approach behind the formation. Y'all be careful up there, and watch where you're flying! Joe O'Leary was disappointed that he didn't get to see the newbies do hop and pops out of the Casa. In his words, "Let go of your pilot chute at the wrong time and you're a dead man!" Presumably this is fun to watch? Still more new ground was broken when Bill Thomasson swooped Sporto's slot -- and rig -- before even getting in the plane! Sunday started out well, with three more loads launched before the weather shut us down about noon. All built to completion save the last, where one jumper was out due to an underloaded and unfamiliar canopy. All afternoon the weather showed us just enough blue skies to foster hope that we might get up again, but in the end it turned out to be just teasing. (The jumpers from North Carolina who left after the third jump turned out to have timed it exactly right.)
In the end, it was a productive camp. There is clearly plenty of room for improvement in our 16-ways yet, but our jumps were mostly safe ones as we continued to build saddle time and iron out the rough spots. The less experienced jumpers in the camp had the opportunity to learn a lot, and generally made the most of it.