Everyone knows the Golden Knights 8-Way Team conducts hundreds of training jumps per year to stay proficient as competitors. But why does it take so much training to remain competitive at the top levels of formation skydiving?
A standard competition jump consists of five to six formations repeated as fast as possible for time. The 8-Way formation pool consists of 16 one-point formations and 22 two-point formations. Mix them together in a hat and pull out ten rounds of five to six formations per jump and you have what is called a competition draw. Sounds simple right? Not so fast…
Each formation has multiple ways the jumpers can build it in the air. This effectively doubles the size of the formation dive pool. An 8-Way team is split into teams of two called piece partners. Piece partners generally perform each prescribed maneuver together in concert with the other three sets of piece partners.
Still sound pretty simple? The International Parachuting Commission – the governing body of competition skydiving – thought so as well. To make competition harder they introduced formations called “slot switchers”. Slot switchers are designed to make piece partners change positions with each other mid skydive. This means that a pair of piece partners are not only responsible for knowing their own job, but the job of their partner in every formation as well.
Now take into account that the dive pool has effectively doubled in size to 76 formations because of the different ways they can be built. If you add slot switchers in the mix, the size of the dive pool doubles again as each jumper must know both slots their piece is responsible for in the formation. The size of the dive pool has now grown to 152 possible formations that each jumper must know and master.
But wait, there’s more! Each competition jump is drawn at random. That means that any possible combination of those 152 formations can be seen on any given competition jump. To add just one more degree of difficulty to the competition; teams aren’t given the specific sequence of competition jumps until the night prior to the start of the meet. This gives each team just a few hours to figure out the best possible way to engineer each jump before round one takes off the next morning.
A team will train all year long to see as many possible combinations of formations to ensure the best chance of success at a meet. Hundreds of jumps per year go into preparing for just 500 seconds of total competition.