Folks back home in North Carolina endured some heavy weather this past week and the Team Room was brimming with talk of icy roads and wintery conditions. The poor jumping conditions spanned up and down the coast as low ceilings and gusty winds shortened training opportunities on Wednesday and Thursday here at Homestead. Try as hard as we might, Team Six climbed high into the air every day this week in effort to get as close to Sky Six as possible to hear our cries to chase away the clouds and rebuke the winds, but nay, not a word from the heavens above and more blustery weather in the forecast. Perhaps next week will deliver more accommodating conditions for us to continue to capitalize on the tremendous training momentum built over these past six weeks. “
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.
was a bit slow to get started, but since they got going, they haven’t looked
Training at Avon Park, FL is ideal, due to the weather, the relative
isolation to training distractions, and the proximity to their coach, Solly
Williams, who has been instrumental in bringing the technical aspect of 4-way
up to par.
The team had to deal with some bad weather so far, both rain and
high winds, but they were still able to get in some great training by making
use of the Orlando wind tunnel. The tunnel is smaller than the team’s home
tunnel, Paraclete XP, and this smaller size forces them to leave out many of
the formations, but it still allows for good training.
The team was also able to pick up a few extra jumps by training on Saturday morning to make up
for the jumps missed due to the weather. So far this week, the weather has
been great and the Team is on schedule, doing up to 14 jumps per day, and
making leaps and bounds in their progress.
The first outdoor competition is looming less than a month away and the Team feels confident that their
performance will exhibit the training that they’ve completed, and set a great tone for the rest of the year.