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Vertical World Record Selection Camps: Making the Cut!

1403009_10152836457009367_5796332012246441392_oLawrence De Laubadere of Skydive Perris based Wingsuit and Freefly School LightningFlight.com, our intrepid record setter and man of many disciplines, spent last weekend attending a selection camp for the upcoming Vertical World Record.
He took down notes after each jump, to share with fellow jumpers contemplating the same journey. .

Day 1: FRIDAY November 27 2014. 

Approximately 60 jumpers gathered at Skydive Arizona in Eloy for the first of 2 three-day Vertical World Record Selection Camps/Tryouts. On the first day, jumpers were being split into 3 groups of approximately 20 jumpers each. The objective was to start combining groups on Friday and possibly, depending on skill-level, combine all three into one big group on Saturday. The first jump of Andy Malchiodi’s group saw a consistent turn in the base which led to some difficulties but one of the two pods fully built with stingers whereas the other saw the usual level issues and being too far from slots.

The second jump saw the base rotation cease – for the most part. Most of the formation was able to build. Some points which were emphasized apart from the usual levels were docking sequence, making sure one docks only once what they’re docking on has built but also once whatever they’re docking on has “locked out” (taken its shape and effectively become “part of the base”). A number of people were praised for the discipline and patience waiting on level and in their slot until being able to dock.

The third jump changed the base and the pods essentially switched sides so the floating pod became a diving pod and vice versa. The fourth jump kept these changes. The formation built quite nicely and smooth with only a couple of jumpers out. On our way to jump five, our final jump of the day, we again saw a change in the base and minor changes around pods and stingers.
The goal for the day was re-emphasized: clean smooth approaches and taking a breath before docking. In other words: don’t get noticed!

Day 2: SATURDAY November 28 2014. 

Due to the skill level of the group, the organizers decided to go straight to start building 60-ways from a 3 plane formation. Jumpers got slotted into a lead SkyVan and a right and left trail Twin Otter. The particularity of this jump was the fact that only the base and pods were to dock. Everyone else was asked to stay undocked, allowing them to focus on sight picture, approaches, levels, and slot, and hopefully land from the jump thinking “man, I was there, perfect level and slot, can I dock already?!“. This first jump was overall really good with some minor break-off and timing issues which were immediately addressed. The second jump saw the addition of bridge first stingers docking. Again, great jump with levels and the word of the day by Mike Carpenter and Amy Chemeleky “hashtag calm-the-fuck-down” re-emphasized.  On jump three, bridge closers and first stingers on the pods were also asked to dock.

Jump four was rather succesful and organizer decided to go ahead and allow everyone to dock. Some very minor changes were made. This jump unfortunately saw some significant break-off issues where jumpers did not respecting their lines. Needless to say that can present a high risk for mid-air collisions. Other than this safety issue, one jumper took the wrong dock, which disabled others from building.  After the jump, organizers once again emphasized levels and levels and “calm-the-fuck-down” were re-emphasized. People feel they need to rush to the dock but the truth is that if you rush, it’s bound to be a more erratic build and in the end make things more chaotic. Take an extra second before your dock to check your level and slot and then dock – and as a result, the overall build will be a lot more efficient and smooth. Remember, fast is slow and slow is fast!

Not much to say for jump four due to lack of debrief as the call was a prompt 35-40 mins upon landing. The base is an 8 way base, chuncking out 6 and having 2 jumpers break-in. One of the two to break-in took longer than usual which a couple first stingers didn’t realize and docked out of sequence. No debrief, one minor change, and onto to a sunset 60-way!

Jump five, last jump on Saturday, went nicely.  Smooth dive, close to full build but seeing the usual issues. The organizers praised the group for a great day and called start time 8am asking everyone to arrive nice and calm.

Day 3: SUNDAY November 29 2014

First jump of he day went well overall, with the motto of “fly calm” observed. Emphasis was put on second stingers, really shaping out the pods. The flyers torso should be close to perpendicular to the base while the arm which the pod closer docks on should be parallel to the base person behind which the pod closer is faced off. This enables the pod closer to get in their slot and close easily and efficiently.

Jump 2 of the day was overall good. Some break-off issues were pointed out and the importance of the process was reiterated. Making sure to maintain level and pause during and after the 180 and then, only then, start driving away maintaining the proper line. In addition, jumpers should keep their trajectory when barrel rolling from their back to their belly otherwise it completely compromises the process.

Jump 3 was good overall with pods and lines really starting to get their bearings and shaping up as intended. Debrief was rather short with a call for people to take a mid-day break and an opportunity to get some food. A couple of slot changes were made for jump 4 as well as an increase in the first wave’s break-off from 6,500ft to 7,000ft so as to provide the inner break-off rings more separation.

Jump four was all about “flivers”, i.e. jumpers who are supposed to float but overpower and end up diving back down to the formation which is a big no-no for build efficiency but also for safety reasons. The other point which was mentioned was that of flying shelf. This can be a problem in the event someone steals your air, you have nothing left, nothing else to rely on. Jump five of day three, time to shine!

All in all, yet again another extraordinary event during the Vertical World Record series here at Skydive Arizona. Everyone did an amazing job and deserves many thanks. From the organizers Amy Chmelecki, Sara Curtis, Steve Curtis, Mike Carpenter, and Andy Malchiodi, to the entire Skydive Arizona staff, and last but not least all the jumpers for making it a fun and safe event! I was honored and humbled to be asked to be plane captain of the left trail on Friday and Saturday. Left trail rocked!!:) Last but not least, I’m super excited to have received my invitation to the 2015 Vertical World Record, particularly considering I did my first big-way camp here in Eloy in 2011 doing 10-ways in the small group. This is definitely not the end of the road but rather merely the beginning. I will be attending most of the other camps in the US and possibly some in Europe so stay tuned for more news. Getting an invite is one thing, but now is the time to stay current as much as possible and work hard in order to be ready for the big day! Till next time…

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