From Hero To Zero
The competition at Kjerag was the first wingsuit competition of the ProBASE World Cup Tour this year. But, not only that, it had a new format. Instead of racing in a straight line we had a U-Turn race.
Competitors would leap from the 3,000 feet high mountain through a set of start gates with an electronic timing system. They would fly at high speed next to an almost sheer wall until they approached the beach, where a marker was located. They would make a sharp turn of around 100 degrees and fly to another marker which was the finish line. The fastest time wins.
Most competitors were taking the helicopter up but a few of us chose to do the 1 hour 30 minute hike – it was glorious scenery and we got to save a bunch of money. I hiked most of the time.
I was flying a Phoenix Fly Vampire 3 wingsuit. This is a great suit but the number ‘3’ represents the current model (starts at 1 and then 2, etc.). The latest on the market from this manufacturer is a V5 – so I’m 2 steps behind the latest technology that Phoenix Fly has to offer.
But flying an older suit can also have it’s advantages:
- Currency. While I’m not super current this season, I’ve had the V3 for a while and feel current on it. Most people flying a V5 haven’t had them long.
- Underdog. I felt the underdog in an older suit. But that inspired me. I couldn’t sit in my comfort zone. I had to give it my all. I had to fly fast right from the start. I had to go for it. Commit. Make it happen.
So I focussed on the advantages and not the disadvantages.
My turn came. I stood on the edge and got poised. The start beep came and I knew I had a 10 second window in which I could exit.
I leapt hard, holding with the wings on my arms wide. As they inflated I put the leg wing to work. I had my line set and dived the suit, working it, flying parallel with the dark wall on my left. As I approached the beach I got ready. Then I turned. Hard. I had a lot of speed so I really went for it, almost putting myself right over on my side (see the photo above). I picked up the finish line and used my remaining altitude to keep diving for it. I crossed it. It felt good but not perfect.
But it hadn’t been perfect. I’d turned around the marker. Well, I thought I had. I’d even planned some margin for error in that but, somehow, it had all gone wrong.
The rules said that missing the marker for the turn resulted in an instant disqualification. I was out of the competition. In fact, almost 1/3 of competitors suffered the same fate. I’d gone from being the champion to being out of the competition after the first round.
The rules are the rules but I’d made the mistake. From hero to zero in 1 jump.
The rest of the trip had some more excitement including water landings and boat rescues but I’ll save that for another time.
In all, there was some outstanding flying from some strong competitors. The pilots have really upped their game this year and it’s going to be a challenge to keep up with them – I’m looking forward to the challenge.