Team Tetris free-fall to success

After 6 months of hard work fund raising, training and mental preparation, the first ever competitive 4-way Formation Skydiving team made up of members of Skydive Warwick won Bronze at the UK Skydiving Nationals competition between Friday 13th and Monday 16th August. This competition brought together the top skydivers in the UK, some with tens of thousands of skydives and many years in the sport. Some teams are known to spend up to £100,000 each year on training, and despite a considerably smaller budget ‘Team Tetris’, as the Skydive Warwick team is known, were able to triumph and bring home medals. They were also placed third in the UK Skydiving League, for which points are earned at various competitions throughout the year, and this was despite having to miss the first competition and have little preparation time for the second competition because of exams!

It is understood that this may be the first ever team made up entirely of current University students to win a medal at the UK Skydiving Nationals and so is a fantastic achievement. Team members Sam Lee, Tim Gaines, Greg Lucas, Marc Fletcher and Phil Tzourou are now invited to the prestigious British Parachute Association AGM Awards Ceremony, which will conveniently be held at the Coventry Hilton in January.

4-way Formation Skydiving is one of the most popular forms of competition within the skydiving world: it is about speed, accuracy, determination and strength, with the single goal of building as many pre-set formations as possible. The discipline is practiced in freefall at speeds reaching 120 mph, and consists of four people performing a series of several formations repeatedly within 35 seconds. The fifth team member, the camera person, films the jump and the footage is then reviewed by the judges to score the team’s performance. It’s not about looking pretty in the air or looking good when you land; in the same way as a football team wins a match by scoring the most goals, a 4 way team will win a competition if they correctly build more formations and thus score more points than the other teams.

Training involved learning 16 stationary formations known as Randoms, and 8 more complex moving formations called ‘blocks’. These are then practised in a specialist ‘Vertical Wind Tunnel’ for a number of hours before putting the practice into the sky with over 20 team training jumps. We had intended to complete many more training jumps but were held back due to poor weather. The team was supported by funding from Skydive Warwick, Warwick Sport, Warwick Opportunities Fund and Choose a Challenge.

Sam and Tim started skydiving just 2 years ago, completing the AFF Skydiving Course on the British Collegiate Parachute Association (BCPA) Easter Tour, which takes hundreds of students abroad each year including a large number from Skydive Warwick. Greg started even more recently completing the cheaper but more slightly more difficult RAPS Skydiving Course in March of 2009. Marc and Phil have both been in the sport much longer and have over 1500 jumps between them.

This success is a clear indication of how accessible the sport is to new people, with the option of competing on a National level in just a few years. This is not to say that it doesn’t require serious dedication and lots of hard work, but it is possible. Skydiving is also affordable for smaller budgets, with Taster Sessions (in a vertical wind tunnel) costing just £30 and RAPS Skydiving Courses costing approximately £190 (2010-2011 price not yet confirmed) including 2 jumps and each jump thereafter costing just £30 including equipment hire! AFF Courses are more intense and involve freefall from the first jump, but are somewhat more expensive at approximately £320 for the first jump. Once qualified, which can be achieved in a minimum of 18 jumps, members are able to make use of the very high quality and well maintained skydiving equipment owned by the club, significantly reducing rental costs. Members also attend regular BCPA events all over the country and the Easter Tour in 2010 was to one of the largest skydiving centres in the world; Skydive Perris in California, USA. Anticipation is already growing around the location of the 2011 Easter Tour!

Skydive Warwick also organises a charity skydiving event on an annual basis known as The Great Warwick jump, which has raised over £100,000 for charity over the last three years. This event allows participants to undertake Tandem Skydives where they are strapped to a very experienced and fully qualified skydiving instructor for the entire freefall and canopy ride, and can cost just £5 if a minimum fund raising level is met by the participant.

Further details of Taster Sessions, RAPS courses, AFF courses and The Great Warwick Jump for 2010-2011 will be released shortly, however please do visit www.skydivewarwick.co.uk for more information and join the friendly and informative forum.

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