Training & Progression
Many new skydivers try out the different disciplines and find which they enjoy most. To help, British Skydiving runs skills coaching roadshows for non-seniors – often coached by former British National or World Champions. These help to develop competition skills. There is a vibrant competitions scene both in the UK and internationally, just waiting for you to take part!
A Formation Skydiving competition team contains 4 (4-way FS) or 8 (8-way FS) jumpers who make the formations, together with a freefall videographer to record the formations in-air. The videographer is a member of the team, so 4-way FS teams have 5 members and 8-way teams have 9 members (sometimes plus an alternate, too). During a set free-fall (4-35 seconds; 8-50 seconds) the team performs a series of predetermined formations as many times as possible.
FS attracts the most competitors of any skydiving discipline. The British Open Nationals in Formation Skydiving, which take place every summer, are the second largest in the world – only the USPA’s FS Nationals are bigger. UK Skydiving League (UKSL) competitions are held at Drop Zones around the UK during the season to bring the opportunity to compete to as many British Skydiving Members as possible.
This team event involves 2, 4 or 8 team members linking their parachutes together to form predetermined formations as many times as possible within a set time. CF, which used also sometimes to be referred to by its old name of ‘canopy relative work’, had its genesis with the advent of square parachutes in the 1970s. Since then, British teams have consistently won medals at World Championships.
Canopy Formation is about ‘precision collisions’ between team members’ main parachutes. Teams leave the aircraft, open their parachutes and then link them together. It is possible to build many different canopy formations in sequence. There are three main types of Canopy Formation events: rotations, sequential, and speed. Teams demonstrate the ability to combine precision control, consistency, a delicate touch and mental engineering of the entire dive with brute force and speed. The idea is simple, but it’s a challenging skill to master.
In freeflying, skydivers express and display their individuality in freefall. Freefly jumpers perform solo aerial gymnastics, not easy in wind speeds of 120mph!
Freeflyers jump as a team of two plus a camera flyer and show a choreographed sequence usually involving head-down flying, stand-ups (crucifix position) and sit flying, as if in a chair.
Canopy piloting competitions typically comprise a number of different courses – such as speed, distance and accuracy – that challenge various performance characteristics of canopy flight and pilot skill. Still a relatively new discipline, canopy piloting is one of the most technical and spectator-friendly types of skydiving.
Wingsuits, when flown correctly, greatly reduce your vertical speed in exchange for horizontal speed. To get started, you need a C licence, 500 jumps or at least 200 jumps within the last 18 months.
Once you can demonstrate you’ve mastered basic belly to earth techniques – those covered in FS1 – you can be introduced to wingsuiting by a coach.
The WS1 qualification covers the skills needed to safely exit, fly and deploy in a wingsuit, as well as understanding the extra flight planning that is needed due to the horizontal distance that will be covered.
After WS1 you can learn the skills needed to jump with other wingsuiters, including diving down to a target, increasing and decreasing forward speed, sideways movement and recovery from instability. WS2 is the proof that you have accomplished these skills to a level where you may safely plan wingsuit jumps with others.
Jumping from around 3,000 feet, competitors attempt to land on a 2cm disc situated on an electronic recording surface. Distance from the disc is measured in centimetres up to 16cm. The aggregate distance over a number of rounds denotes placement with the lowest total distance placed first.
This is the oldest of the competitive disciplines, where parachute development has enabled competitors to achieve greater accuracy. In the early 1990s the disc was 10cm in diameter. The diameter of the disc has decreased considerably since then – today’s top competitors train and compete with a 2cm disc.
Although tracking is a basic freefall skill designed to provide safe horizontal separation from other jumpers at break off. It is also a recognised discipline in its own right.
The tracking position is different to the traditional face-to-earth & arched position, straightening the legs, bringing the arms to the sides and de-arching creates lift to change the glide ratio.
Good trackers with a glide ration approaching 1:1 can cover nearly as much ground as the distance they fall. In recent years tracking suits have advanced in technology and can help the skydiver achieve much longer distances and lower freefall speeds increasing their time in the sky before deployment.
TR1 is the first step in training, you need a minimum of a B Licence to begin but can then progression to further levels.