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1st FAI European Wingsuit Flying Championships
and
3rd FAI World Cup of Wingsuit Flying

Ravenna, Italy - 23-30 August, 2019

Human flight is truly made possible by means of a wingsuit. In recent years, interest and popularity of wingsuiting has grown exponentially. Improvements in wingsuit design have kept pace allowing feats of flying that were thought impossible only a few years ago.

FAI recognition in 2015 of the already mature competition formats for Wingsuit Performance Flying and Wingsuit Acrobatics allow competitors to demonstrate their abilities on the world stage.

WINGSUIT PERFORMANCE FLYING

This format measures the three different performance parameters of a wingsuit pilot (best lift, least drag and best glide ratio) and combines them into a single result. All measurements are carried out using a GPS logging device whilst within the competition window (3000m to 2000m AGL). Practically this is done over a minimum of three separate skydives using identical equipment, with each skydive dedicated to an individual task:

For the time task, the time spent in the evaluation window counts; the longer you stay in the competition window, the better.

For the distance task, the horizontal distance covered over ground while in the evaluation window counts; the further you fly while in the competition window, the better.

For the speed task, the highest average horizontal speed over ground achieved while in the evaluation window counts; the further you fly in the shortest time while in the competition window, the better.

WINGSUIT ACROBATICS

This is a Competition that pitches teams against each other in an aerial display of flying skills, showcasing their best to impress the judges. The competition is centred around 2 way teams with a camera flyer and includes both compulsory moves and free rounds.

The compulsory figures are randomly drawn from a dive-pool with a series of loops, rolls, transitions and docks. The free rounds are where teams are invited to go impress the judges and fellow wingsuit pilots with creativity and flying skills.

Teams not only score points for the number of figures shown, but also get a score for the camera work and flying style. The flying style is a crucial element in these type of wingsuit competitions, as it's what forces teams to fly their best. Style points are given for body position, smoothness of flying, controlled docks and forward flying speed.

Friday 23 August - Opening Ceremony

The 3rd World Cup of Wingsuit Flying, also the 1st European Cup of Wingsuit flying, opened with conviviality, laughter and music in a beautiful beachside location on 23 August 2019, in Ravenna, Italy.

Athletes, officials and staff were bussed from the drop zone to the beach at Punta Marina where the owner of “BBK”, a restaurant on the sand, provided a welcoming and beautiful location.

Led by the officials, the athletes paraded in country order onto the beach where they created one side of a large landing area.  Around 200 spectators and accompanying persons formed on the opposite side with a target in between.  The sea and trees completed this square.

At the appointed hour, with orange smoke as a guide, four flag-jumpers accurately landed on the target carrying the flags of Italy, Ravenna, the FAI and the Italian Aeroclub (the NAC).

The four swoopers who followed them seemed not to heed the orange smoke and chose down-wind landings in very light winds.  It was a huge source of merriment when three of the four spectacularly swooped across the sand and landed in the sea, dunking their equipment and canopies as they struggledbut failed, to not run into the water.  This was a huge crowd-pleaser.

Finally, two CF parachutists flew mini flags onto the beach, and five others flew or dropped streamers with great landings applauded by the spectators.  It was a safe and happy celebration of skydiving, concluded by a flyover from the pilot of the Super Caravan. 

Everyone returned to the restaurant to be welcomed by the Mayor of Ravenna, Roberto Fagnani, wearing his green, white and red official sash, and the IPC Delegate for Italy, Sandro Gargini who both made short speeches of welcome and appreciation. The competition was officially opened by Gail Bradley of the IPC Bureau, while the FAI anthem and flag raising concluded proceedings.

Italian food provided by the Organiser was served in a fabulous buffet with plenty of pizza, rice dishes, finger food, tarts, vegetables and paella for everyone. 

Congratulations to FAI Controller Marylou Laughlin for an extremely well-organised event, Meet Director Marco Pistolesi for MCing, and Organisers/Owners Emanuele Piniand Gosia Bodziona of Skydive Pull Out Ravenna, for a genial, generous and gorgeous ceremony.  Everyone was truly appreciative of the great time, followed by music and dancing. Official training jumps start tomorrow with a great vibe already happening.

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Saturday 24 August - Official Practice Day

Official Practice Day at the 3rd World Cup of Wingsuit Flying, at Skydive Pullout Ravenna, Italy, saw the athletes, judges and officials working together to create an excellent competition ready to start on 25 August.

Competitors were keen to test their equipment and wingsuits to make decisions about which kit to use for the Official Training Jumps.  

The rules allow each Performance Competitor and Acrobatic Team to make two official training jumps, to be submitted to the Judging Panel for scoring.  The morning period was therefore devoted to unofficial jumping as decisions were made and suits selected, while others got their bearings on this drop zone and observed their ground reference points.

Meanwhile, the Judges were tagging and numbering helmets and Position Logging Devices (PLD)s, and entering that data into the scoring system.

The judging panel

After a few fun loads and a little weather hold, competitors began to submit their Official Training Jumps, keeping the Judges busy collecting helmets and entering data for the Performance tasks.

This meant the Judges were occupied with Performance and could not assess the training jumps in Acro until after jumping ceased.  It was a late night for the panel, working until 2200 after a quick pasta meal on the DZ. 

Some of the suits and rigs selected by the skydivers could not accommodate the single point restraints in the aircraft, and a solution was devised by the DZ rigger who worked through the night to ensure all legal requirements were met. 

It was a long and busy day for all participants with everyone working in a good spirit of cooperation to remove, not create, obstacles.

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Sunday 25 August - Competition Day 1

The 3rd World Cup of Wingsuit Flying & 1st European Championships at Skydive PulloutRavenna, Italy, has commenced.

At 0800h a briefing was called where the competitors were introduced to the officials.  The Chief Judge, Bert Ham, supervised the draw and the Performance tasks were selected in this order:

Distance, Speed and Time, (DST).  

There are 50 Performance competitors vying for medals. Each will complete a Distance, Speed and Time task over three separate flights, to comprise a round, then repeat the tasks another two times in the same DST order for a total of nine flights.  Only one round is required for a valid competition.

The draw of the Compulsory moves for Acro was next.  Acro comprises seven flights in the sequence Free-Compulsory-C-F-C-C-F. The Free rounds comprise routines designed and artistically executed totally at the discretion of the teams.  The Judges are assessing style, dive-plan and camerawork.  

The Compulsory rounds each comprise three different, mandatory sequences involving grips between two wingsuit fliers.  These sequences are repeated until the end of working time on each flight.  As there are 13 sequences from which 12 are randomly drawn, with two of them brand new, it will be interesting to see the teams choreographing and performing them for the first time.

Four Acro teams from three NACs are competing for the highest scores, without this event being an official First Category Event due to NAC under-representation.

At 1000h, jumping commenced with the first Distance load.  It takes four loads to complete one round, or about two hours in the Super Caravan.  The Performance competitors completed their first D task by noon, giving the Judges the time to judge Acro, as Performance was placed on a 2.5 hour lunch break. 

Jumping recommenced in the afternoon, with the plan being to complete one S round today, plus more Acro.

From this point forward, the goal is to complete three rounds per day.  If the weather gods are kind, we shall have two more full days of jumping, then one further round to complete on Wednesday, and there’s a reserve day on Thursday just in case. 

The vibe on the DZ is cruisy and relaxed.  “We wanted everybody to feel safe and happy in this competition”, said Gosia Bodziona, the Organiser.  By all accounts, that’s exactly what’s happening.

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Monday 26 August - Competition Day 2

At the 3rd World Cup of Wingsuit Flying, at Skydive Pullout Ravenna, the Judges again worked late last night to complete judging the first two rounds of Performance and Acro.

Interesting performances were observed, and competitors were happy, including Australia’s Luke Rogers in the Performance Event lying in first place with team mate Chris Byrnes in 3rd place, ensuring the Aussies were at the top of the Team Listing in Performance so far.

In Acro, the Swiss were off to a brilliant start followed by USA1, USA2and Russia.

After the brilliant Opening Ceremony, great weather and two completed rounds, the competitors and officials were excited today at the prospect of a further three jumps. If the Time task got completed this morning, a full round of DST would make this a valid competition in Performance.

Alas, it was not to be.

Despite previous assurances of the airspace, and applications made by the Organiser many months ago, today Italian Air Traffic Control and the military prevented the fourth, and last, load of the Time task from reaching FL120 (Flight Level), forcing it to land with all competitors on board.

With three loads of Time already completed this morning at FL120, it was imperative this load could reach the same height as all previous loads to maintain the same conditions for Round 3.

A meeting was called by the Meet Director with the Team Captains to discuss how they felt about lowering the height for the following rounds to FL110 – allowed in the rules with the consent of the Chief Judge – to allow the competition to continue. Meanwhile, the Organiser sat on the phone to Air Traffic Control begging for their previously committed airspace.

The Team Captains preferred to wait to get the advertised height, although this was not unanimous. While some were happy to start the next task at the permissible lowered height in order to get some flying done, it is totally justifiable for the top competitors to want to get as much height as possible. While the exit height may be lowered, in the rules the Competition Window remains the same at 3000m-2000m (~9,843 – 6562 feet). However, a greater height gives a longer run up before entering this fixed window. The longer the run up, the more energy is built up in the Wingsuiters’ suits, and as greater energy translates into greater “lift”, it is vital to gain as much energy as possible, by being given the longest run up possible.

By around noon, the air space was granted and a load geared up, before the air space restriction was once again imposed.

By 1600, competitors had tired of waiting and all agreed to start the next Distance task, Round 4, at the reduced height of FL110, leaving the single load of Time (balance of Round 3) to be completed when FL120 could once again be granted. By 1630, skydivers were once again in the air.

Together with the heat, mosquitoes, lack of activity and water, it felt like a more sombre day today. However, the Organiser is doing everything in its power to obtain the necessary air space clearances. Let’s hope there is “Time” on our side.

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Tuesday 27 August - Competition Day 3

“The competition is running very smoothly”, observed Chief Judge, Bert Ham, speaking of the 3rd World Cup of Wingsuit Flying, at Skydive Pullout Ravenna, Italy.  “I am pleased with the conditions and so are the Judges”.

This sentiment was echoed by Meet Director, Marco Pistolesi, who confirmed that all jumping today has taken place at Flight Level 110.  “While there was some initial resistance to this lowered exit height”, he explained, “competitors are now finding it challenging, interesting and different.  It’s not something they have trained for,” he said, “and most are now really enjoying it”.

With a positive vibe firmly restored, some excellent battles have been seen.

In Performance Wingsuit, the top of the rankings, after six completed flights is occupied by Dmitry Podoryashy of the Russian Federation, with a total score of 288 after two flights each of Distance, Speed and Time.  This top competitor also may have set a new European record with his Time score of 96.2 seconds, three seconds longer in the competition window than the previous European Region record.  This record remains to be ratified and may yet be beaten today.  

Dmitry Podoryashy

The World Record for Time was set in 2018 by Chris Geiler of the USA at 100.2 seconds.  In Ravenna in 2019, after the first round of Time, Chris threatened Dmitry from second place, but a violation in his second round caused him to drop to a lower ranking.

In the Distance task, Chris Byrnes of Australia lies in Number 1 place, Espen Fadnes of Norway in Number 2 spot and Luke Rogers of Australia just 0.3% of a place behind Espen in third.  In the overall rankings, Dmitry is five points in front of Chris, who in turn is 3.8 points in front of Luke.  

Chris Byrnes

Espen Fadnes

Those Australians really know how to load up their wingsuits with lift, and are currently winning the team challenge as a consequence.

In the Speed task, the Aussies hold first and second placesthis time with Luke, a professional wingsuit coach on top, followed by Chris.  Third spot is occupied by Aleksei Shatilovof the Russian Federation.  

Luke Rogers

There is one female competitor, Larisa Sverdlenko of Russia, appearing at 48th out of the 50 competitors, and gaining heaps of experience.

In Acro, the Swiss team has catapulted, flip flopped and belly rolled to the top of the table after excellent Compulsory rounds including a sequence of 18 grips.  The Acro competitors will complete their seven flight event today, with clear leads established by the Swiss, the USA1 team, and a potential battle for third place between USA2 and Russia.

After a two hour lunch break, the plan is to finish Distance and Speed tasks today, leaving a nail-biting final round of Time tomorrow to determine the final placings.  The competition is blessed with great weather and is no longer grumbling about NATO refuelling taking place directly over our heads.  

The food is excellent with masses of Italian pasta and salad for dinner each night in the mobile restaurant, followed by a second course of meat and vegetables.  In the café, light meals and drinks are available throughout the day.  Plenty of carb-loading is available, and it’s a great drop zone to add weight quickly.

Now – if only they could do something about the mosquitos!

Post Script to Day 3:

By the end of the day with solid performances from Dmitry Podoryashy and Chris Byrnes, these champions are lookingvery solid in the top two placings.  Luke Rogers slipped from third place to fifth after a slower than usual Speed round, and now only 1.2 points separate three candidates vying for Bronze.

Jumping starts at 0900 tomorrow.  It promises to be a fantastic finish.

Wednesday 28 August - Competition Day 4

The races have been run and the competition is won at the 1st European Championships & 3rd FAI World Cup of Wingsuit Flying, at Skydive Pullout Ravenna, Italy.  

With only one round of Time left to jump this morning, any outcome could have resulted in Performance.

It turned out that the top two places remained the same, with a switch in third.  The final tallies were:  Dmitry Podoryashy (RUS) with 291.4 overall, Chris Byrnes (AUS) with 286.8 and Chris Geiler (USA) with 280.5, narrowly moving in front of Espen Fadnes of Norway on 279.8.  Luke Rogers of Australia eventually came fifth with 278.7. 

Dmitry Podoryashy’s Time European record of previous dayalso could now be claimed.

Tension was added when, after the final load, one performer’s official recording device was found to be faulty.  The Chief Judge, Bert Ham, consulted with the Jury, and confirmed there was no way in the rules to avoid this situation by using the competitor’s personal equipment instead; a rejump was granted.  With Air Traffic Control again threatening to shut our air space, this time down to FL5, the rejump had to quickly be made.

In Acro, the Swiss set a blinding example of high quality team work, judged overnight.  The team of Jenna Gygi, Jarno Cordia and Rene Terstegen (video) set a new World Record of 26 points in time in Round 6.  This was also claimed as a new European Record.  

 

Lying in second place overall, the USA1 team of Scott Callantine, Jeffrey Harrigan and Nicholas Maieritsch set a new Northern American continental record of 17, also in Round 6.  The final tallies in Acro were Swiss - 2100, USA1 - 1642, Russia - 1054 and USA2 - 1006. 

The team placings in Performance were a lot of fun.  Two strong and one weaker member of a three person team can change the whole dynamic, with the result usually dependent on the weakest link.  Teasing between teams became a fun pastime, and it was great to see the good vibe, huge sportsmanship and care for one’s fellows in this event.  No one seemed to take it too seriously, while encouraging each other along.

In teams: USA, Russia and Australia headed the FAI World Cup rankings and Russia, Norway and Denmark for the European Championships. 

Jumping ended after noon, and scores became official two hours later when the time for lodging a protest had lapsed.  No protests were lodged for this competition at all, despite some challenges because the senior official team worked so well together to remove obstacles according to the rules. 

Tomorrow is a day off, and the closing ceremony is Friday night when we reconvene to receive medals, finalise protocol, farewell our friends until the next competition.   And I am sure there will be a party.  

Ciao from Ravenna! 

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