RECORD of FREEFLY flying in large formation
It is a privilege to be able to set or set a new National Record and an honor to represent your country to set a European or even world record!
But ultimately, what is the recipe for these records? Well, the answers were in the previous notices. Between those who succeeded and those who failed, I offer you some ingredients necessary to achieve a record.
- the selection
- the preparation
- the strategy
The selection is fundamental to bring together the skydivers who will be the Record team.
Flying a Big Way is a discipline on its own:
- you must be familiar with and master exits and approaches in float mode and in dive mode
- You have to know your strengths and therefore your strongest position in the formation. It is mainly determined according to your body size, your experience and your preferences for those who have some (right or left hand preference)
- you have to master the big way break-offs: the 180 turn in relation to the center of the formation then the progressive horizontalization to create distance, which leads to the half barrel, while maintaining your heading the whole time. The corrections of your separation line in relation with the others around can take some time.
- Under canopy, it is necessary to master vertical separations, safe canopy flights under traffic and landing with many canopies nearby.
Advices before joining Big Way of more than 2 planes, therefore +30 flyers:
- Participate in several Big Way trainings of 9 or 14 flyers (base of 4, + 1 or 2 PODs of 5 people). The experience of flying in the base is important at first, but of course what we will quickly look for in 9 or 14 way formation, is the training in each post: 1st Stinger, 2nd Stinger and Pod Closer. The best way to know your favorite post and to be aware of the work of every flyer, is to have experienced them all. It also allows you to be assigned to another post on the day of the record if necessary.
- This size allows you to train in the best conditions:
- Short approach distances
- Easy to maintain base orientation
- Low grip tension thanks to the absence of other PODS, so no problems of symmetry
Everyone can calmly improve their skills, their level and their position before the grip (I recommend to make a contact for 1 second or 2 with the back of the hand before transforming it to a grip)
- Reminder on the orientation of the torso:
- 90° for the 1st stingers, then presentation of the opposite arm to the grip at 45°.
- 45° for the 2nd stingers, then presentation of the opposite arm to the grip at 45°.
- once the pod closer is in place and docked, a final level correction is observed and the shape of the POD becomes rounded
- This size of 9 or 14 also allows you to fly for a long time at each post. This is decisive for becoming good BIG WAY flyers
The objective is to fly:
- 25 seconds docked for the 4 1st Stingers,
- 20 seconds docked for the 4 2nd Stingers,
- 15 seconds docked for the 2 Pod Closer.
After obtaining this experience and these skills, it is easier to join formations 2 to 3 times larger, i.e. 30 to 50 skydivers (2 or 3 planes). Distances and approach times increase, docked times decrease, separations and traffic under canopy become more complex
- When you are comfortable and efficient in this size, you will be able to move on to even larger formations more easily. This logic of progression is ideal even if few people take the time to follow it.
DON'T BREAK THE 10%.
Now that training at 9 or 14 is complete, training at 30 can take place and selections for larger formations can begin
It is important to select your Record team carefully, whatever the objective/final number.
Bringing 2 or 3 people in reserve in case of health problems or incidents is a good idea but a large reserve is not useful if a good selection has been made.
How to prepare the big way ? Now that the training and the selections have been done, the preparation is simple: The base must be ready!
Indeed, the base must work and be solid before attempt number 1. The day before or 2 days before if necessary, the base must be ready to welcome the rest of the participants.
For large formations, when we mention the base, we speak of the central core which is the round + some additional flyers that must be built and maintain its shape. This is about 25% of the full size and it makes sense that it should be ready before the first attempt. For example:
- the base of 6 for formations of 25
- the base of 6 + the 4 1st Stingers, for formations from 40 to 50
- the base of 8 + the 8 1st Stingers, for formations from 60 to 80
- the base of 8 + the 4 1st complete Pods, for formations from 100 to 120
- the base of 10 + the 5 1st complete Pods, for formations from 140 to 160
- the base of 10 + the 5 1st complete Pods + Bridge, for formations from 180 to 200
$$$. This is the first financial difficulty: Additional costs to plan for the base to be ready and also to take care of most of the flyers who are part of it. Because it is a difficult job often being handled by very experienced flyers.
The strategy: what is the most successful strategy?
It could surprise you but aiming to beat 2 or 3 records is easier than trying to beat only 1...
- Jump 1: base (therefore 25% of the size) + 25% of the closest flyers allowed to dock. That is 50% max of the flyers docked
- Repetition of jump 1 if everyone did not have the grip
- Jump 2: 2 or 3 more people per branch are allowed to dock
- Jump 3: 2 or 3 more people per branch are allowed to dock
- Jump 4 and 5: we let everyone try to dock
DAY 2 or 3
- We go down to the minimum size compared to the previous record, ie between 4 and 10 more people only... This is the famous 10% MAX rule!!!
DON'T BREAK THE 10%.
$$$. This is the second financial difficulty: Additional costs to plan because the planes are no longer as full.
- if the previous Record was at 21, we go to attempts at 25 even if the objective is 30!
- if the previous Record was at 38, we go to attempts at 42 even if the objective is 50!
- if the previous record was 48, we go to attempts at 54 even if the objective is 60!
- if the previous Record was at 164, we go to attempts at 180 even if the objective is 200!
The goal at this time is to make a record with just 1 or 2 jumps for many reasons:
- relieve all the participants who have been doing a good job from the start
- re-balance the energy of the group and recreate cohesion
- re-integrate those who remained on the ground, to make a bigger record.
You have to know how to take this decision early and also know how to add other people gradually: once again, 2 or 3 more people per branch is enough.
A new record often comes quickly, often on the very next jump. This creates an incredible atmosphere of good energy.
From this second record, the event is already a success and this allows you to jump with the maximum number of participants on day 3 or 4 if the weather has been difficult.
When this strategy is not followed, despite numerous attempts, the step is often too great to cross! Why is trying to break a 20% bigger Record so difficult? Mainly because it's a LOT more than 20% more difficult
All the participants of the previous record do not systematically return. There are often between 20 and 50% of new flyers, so "repeating" the previous record/number would probably require 2 or 3 jumps already.
Example of multiple records from 2011 to 2023:
- The 33,38 and 40 French HD
- The American 55 and 72 HU
- The 72 and 80 of project 19
- American 42 and 47 HU
Here is what would seem sensible to me for future records, which involve decisions and provisional budgets to be defined precisely in advance:
Knowing that the last French head down record was 48, the procedure would be as follows:
- 4 or 5 jumps - 60 Way with progressive grips
- (Record at 50 if too many new participants)
- Record at 54 or 56
- Record at 60
The next HU World Record objective 100 Way, knowing that the last one is a 84:
- 4 or 5 jumps - 100 Way with progressive grips
- Record at 90
- Record at 96
- Record at 100, maybe 102!
Reserve of 5 people and the possibility if plane seats allow it, to make a 105
The next HD World Record objective 200 Way (3rd attempt), knowing who the last one is a 164:
- 4 or 5 jumps - 200 Way with progressive grips
- Record at 170
- Record at 185
- Record at 200
Reserve of 10 people and the possibility if plane seats allow it, to make a 210
The failure to beat the largest Freefly formation established since 2015 motivated me to write this article. Indeed in seven years, the strategy of making more than 30 attempts at 200 to beat a 164 has not worked. Many formations at 180 and 190 on these 200 attempts have flown, but are not official records.
Despite of that, I always take great pleasure in participating in Freefly records, I hope to beat many more and especially this magnificent 164!