Freeflyers Face Off with Bellyflyers at First TeXas Speedway Competition
By Scott Latinis
What an improbable occurrence took place June 13. No, dogs didn’t lie down with cats. No, Yankee and Red Sox fans didn’t decide that it didn’t matter who won the game, as long as everyone had fun. No, Star Wars and Star Trek fans didn’t agree that the best CGI was the first Jurassic Park movie. What happened at Skydive Spaceland-Houston in Rosharon, Texas, was even more improbable: Belly teams and freefly teams competed against each other using the same rules and the same draw.
Members of the speed competition winner, Bromosapiens, pose with the Kingpin trophy. Photo by Josh Schirard.
Skydive Spaceland Director of Event Organizing Scott Latinis, looking to fill a hole in the Spaceland Houston event calendar, decided to schedule a competition that was just a bit different. He contacted local freefly friends with an idea for a competition featuring a dive pool and rules that would work for both belly and freeflyers. The freeflyers were intrigued and liked the idea of competing heads up (pun intended) against the bellyflyers. They hammered out a dive pool, tweaked the rules to (hopefully) not give either discipline an unfair advantage and put the word out. The idea caught on, and when June 13 arrived, nine teams registered—six belly and three freefly.
Many competitors arrived at the DZ Friday, June 12, to practice. Needless to say, the trash talk was epic. And as the competition neared, the trash talk got thicker than the South Texas humidity.
Saturday brought beautiful blue skies. DZ management, staff, manifest, the pilots of two Twin Otters and packers were well prepared for the arrival of the 99 competitors. After a briefing and the draw, the meet was on! Judges Daniel Angulo, Nicole Black and Josh Schirard were anxious to see what the teams had to show.
The draw consisted of three sequences, each starting with a star. Competitors were scored on both speed (time to build a 10-way star) and sequential (following the star, the jumpers performed two- or three-point randoms or blocks). In the tradition of the TeXXas 20-way competition, teams received a point for each correct grip and flew each draw for two rounds (six total competition jumps). Every round was scored, although some teams treated the first jump of the set a bit more conservatively (as a practice round), while others went all in on every round.
For all rounds, the largest chunk that a team could launch was six. And just to make an already interesting competition a bit more interesting, Latinis announced that each set of two jumps would have different exit rules. For rounds 1 and 2, each team was allowed only two floaters. Grips by and on the floaters were not allowed until after they separated from the plane. For rounds 3 and 4, teams could have a maximum of four floaters; however, at least one of the floaters had to stay on the plane until the last diver was exiting. The exit rule for rounds 5 and 6 was “whatever you think you can handle.”
In the speed event, the freefly teams seemed to have the advantage building the initial star, with the freefly team Bromosapiens (captained by Cody Prentice) winning the gold over freefly team Baddies and Buddies (captained by Courtney Moore) by a total of just 1.14 seconds after six rounds. Belly team COVID’S 11 (captained by Scott Latinis) took home the bronze.
Hakuna Ma Tatas turns points on the way to taking gold in the sequential competition. Photo by Daniel Angulo.
In the sequential event, the belly teams’ experience with formation skydiving helped, as an all-female belly team, Hakuna Ma Tatas (captained by Helaine Rumaner) captured the gold (winning four of the six rounds); freefly team BromoSapiens showed off their sequential-flying skills and took the silver; while COVID’S 11 grabbed another bronze.
The winning teams’ names will be displayed on the perpetual TeXas Speedway 10-way Kingpin trophy. (Yes, it’s an authentic, honest-to-goodness bowling pin painted in Spaceland red and blue.) The participants all agreed that this event should be a yearly event, with the location rotating between Spaceland’s Texas locations (Dallas, Houston, and San Marcos).
“This was a fantastic event for a couple of reasons,” said Spaceland owner Steve Boyd. “One, this was by far the busiest we’ve been all year; it was great to see people coming out of their COVID quarantine, following protective guidelines and having fun again. Two, it’s really great to have an event that includes both freeflyers and bellyflyers. I look forward to more of these.”
On Sunday, June 14, many of the competitors came out to make fun jumps with each other. Highlights of the day were a formation load featuring two passes—the first for a freeflyer 20-way and the second for multiple groups of bellyflyers. Then, at sunset, Konstantin Petrijcuk organized an amazing pyro head-down skydive.
Scott Latinis | D-10514