September 18th, 2010
After the unbelievable roller coaster of Tuesday, Wednesday was slated to be another epic ride at Skydive Elsinore. Our pizza party and hot tub debrief last night was good for morale. The mood all day was excitement and team unity. We huddled in the plane to debrief on the way up if we didn’t have time to do it on the ground, and then put all our hands in to breathe together before every exit. I felt a real sense of pride about how far we had come, and saw a similar kind of pride shining in the smiles of my teammates – even when we didn’t get exactly what we wanted.
We did six jumps, starting out with more coordinated surf-style docks (three canopy pilots with three wingsuiters). The challenges ranged from working with different Otter pilots trying to get the right timing on our run-ins, to the setup of the canopy flyers relative to one another. Since Jessica was always set up lowest and furthest to the right of the three canopies, I rarely got a visual sense of what was happening above and behind me. Getting the dock required so much focus and concentration that once we had it, I just tried to take deep breaths and keep flying the suit, preserving strength to keep an upward push so she wouldn’t take too much strain on her legs as they stretched with her toes under my rig.
At one point Jessica and I docked but I still had some momentum as she took hold of me, causing us to turn toward Tagle, who was himself trying to take a dock on wingsuit pilot Will Kitto. The spacing of the canopies relative to each other needed work so everyone would always have an out – and, secondarily, so we would have the best chance of all getting proximate once we were in our docked pairs. Nebelkopf and Bobo set up above and behind, and would immediately start descending once they were docked because of their combined weight. Jess and I were the lightest pair.
And then, there was the Heroic Jump. The PD Factory Team members exited the aircraft, and the pilot’s turn was so tight and fast that the wingsuiters ended up getting out right over the tops of their canopies instead of above and behind them. Jeff and I, not realizing until too late that they hadn’t had time to get set up and get on their front risers yet, led a hot approach that blew right past them. So there we were, in a whole new configuration – wingsuiters setting base for canopy pilots. We picked a line and maxed out our wings, trying to see behind us without compromising flight performance.
Cue Indiana Jones theme song: Daaaa-da-da-DA-da, daaaaa-da-da-DAA-da, daaaaa-da-da-DAAAAAA-daaaa, da-da-da-DAAAAAA….
As my muscles burned, the canopies came into my peripheral vision, and I looked for the one furthest on the right – but my head was turned to the left. I flew up just close enough to see that I was looking at Tagle instead of Edgeington, and as we hung out there together for a moment, he pointed back behind me. I looked over and saw Edgeington coming down on my right.
At this point things started to feel surreal, like the scene in Point Break where the freefall portion of the skydive goes on for something like four minutes while everyone has casual conversation – except this was my life, and it was real. Did I really just get directions in freefall from Jonathan Tagle hanging in his harness, to Jessica Edgeington smiling and waving at me under her Velocity?
I maxed out the wings yet again and rose up to meet Jessica as she came down, sliding in underneath her for the dock. The sight of her legs above me, hooked in to my rig, was sweet and hard-earned. Although the set up took so long and the canopies were more spread out than intended, we all linked up in our pairs and flew together across the sky, with the lake shimmering below us and the Ortegas crouched in the midday heat.
It’s amazing how quickly some things go from being beyond imagination to some kind of normal. We switched gears in the afternoon to do a few unlinked, mixed canopy-wingsuit flocks. That was our idea of a nice, relaxing way to end the day. Everyone flew smoke. The canopy pilots set up in a wedge, and Jeff and I flew through the “gates” of the two canopies at the back, pulling in directly behind Jessica, who was leading the formation. I looked left and saw Jeff in his X Bird, in freefall. Then I looked ahead at a canopy in full flight and Jess waving us in closer as she grinned over her shoulder. Behind us, two more canopies and two more wingsuit pilots blazed a smoking trail.
At breakoff, Jeff and I pulled forward and ahead of Jessica, enjoying our range before she took off the riser trims and we all broke off – some of us to pull, and others not to.
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