After an uncharacteristic poor weather month in Dubai, the inaugural (and informal) fun wingsuit competition got underway at the Desert Campus this weekend, three weeks later than scheduled.
The competition was a fun-filled event designed to enhance acrobatic wingsuit skills, and they started like they meant to continue, in high-spirits.
Organiser and Skydive Dubai wingsuit instructor Darren Burke, along with the cosmopolitan contingent of Amir Al Oraibi, Ibrahim El Tawil, and John Kinsella (from Bahrain, Canada and the US respectively) decided during the briefing that extra points would be awarded if Zeeshan Mirza from Pakistan, could land on his feet on the drop zone! This good-natured tease would continue throughout the day.
After exiting the plane, competitors had 5 seconds to orient themselves before the clock began. They were then given 60 seconds working time to complete as many maneuvers as they could within that minute, and were awarded a point for each successful completion of a move.
Each competitor accumulated these points as an individual score, which they then took forward to the next round where the teams were repaired, and the process began again. Competitors also received bonus points for a safe pattern and a linked exit.
The camera-flyers, Nick McDonald and Steve Shipman, had their own set of rules and were scored accordingly. Points were deducted if competitors fell out of view, or if docks couldn’t be clearly seen, and awarded for in-frame exits of both competitors, creative flying including back-flying and carving, and the steadiness of the camera.
The point of the competition itself, according to organizer Darren Burke, was to develop an enhanced control of the wing, which can be difficult since wearing different suits means constant adjustment, and like any discipline, when flying together for the first time it can be difficult to judge speeds and fall rates.
“It’s a great learning environment.” Ibrahim El Tawil commented, “We’ve practiced flocking and flying in proximity before, but the added aspect of docking really helps to improve the minute details. You need to fly your entire body to put your hand in that position.”
Burke agreed, “The docks have to be precise, reaching down for a grip creates a pocket of air that will separate the two further.”
This added element proved difficult at times, as some struggled to complete moves or gain the extra few inches needed to take docks, but as the competition progressed, a marked difference became apparent between the first and subsequent attempts.
In fact, everyone was having so much fun and learning so much that a second unanimous decision was made to add two extra rounds!
So after six rounds of the planned four-round competition, Zeeshan Mirza (who managed to stand-up his last three landings!) was awarded fourth place. John Kinsella took third. One point ahead, Amir Al Oraibi secured and second place, while Ibrahim El Tawil, again just one point ahead of Amir, and two ahead of John, and the number one spot in the first informal wingsuit competition to be held at the Desert Campus.
Steve and Nick ended the day on a tied-score, but in the spirit of competition there had to be an eventual winner. To decide (and with no Dirhams to hand!) Siri was asked to flip a coin, resulting in a dubious victory for Nick.
But they still weren’t ready to call it a day just yet. They zipped up their wingsuits once again and decided to finish the day with a couple of flocking jumps to put some of those newly found skills into practice. Amir even donned a tracking suit for the first time!
They already have plans to regroup in the coming weeks to keep the momentum going, and after yesterday’s success, next season is sure to see the event take off as a regular Flight School fixture.