One on One
by Jan Meyer
Practice, practice, practice. It's the only way to get better and better. What you do on each dive is as important as how often you practice. The new "ONE ON ONE" column presents interesting 2-way dives. Each dive has components to demonstrate levelidity, proximity and synchronicity. Some dives are designed for an RW coach and newbie. Others are for two experienced jumpers. Conceptually, many of the dives are easy. Physically, the dives may challenge your patience and discipline, as well as your flying ability.
The first practice dive is primarily for an RW coach and a newbie, but may also be used by more advanced jumpers. The dive starts out as a real blast and tension reliever. Everyone performs better when they are relaxed than uptight. The dive begins with both jumpers doing a backloop next to each other from a floater position. Both jumpers climb out onto the strut or into the door and sit-down after letting go of the plane. Backloop a few times and then spread out to neutral and look for the other jumper.
The unstable exit is designed to teach a jumper that a funneled exit is not the end of the world. A jumper may ruin his own performance and the overall success of a dive because of a funneled exit. He may either start hating the jumper who, he thinks, caused the funnel or he bullies himself with vicious self-talk. Funneled exits are no fun, especially in competition, but they do happen. The best way the handle funneled exits is to let go, get stable, get to the set-up as fast as possible. Make the best of a bad situation. Don't make the situation worse by trying to tell someone right after the funnel that he's dogmeat.
In relation to the 2-way dive, the backloops simulate the funnel. (Well, not really because the backloops are a lot of fun.) The spread out to a neutral position is setting your own level. The looking around for the other jumper is finding the set-up. It defines whether or not you have levelidity and proximity. Generally, you won't. Both jumpers should meet at a middle level plane and fly to a no-contact facing 2-way. Sometimes, an RW coach will let the newbie make up most of the distance. This is fine as long as the RW coach ensures he is lower than the newbie and is not backsliding.
The next phase of the dive defines level planes. The faster the fall rate the better, right? Well, yes and no. It depends on what type of jump you are doing. Air to air photographers shouldn't have the fastest fall rate. Freefall maneuvers are easier and cleaner at faster fall rates. The fastest fall rate is not the best for RW. A style tuck or a mega-arch with your arms and legs pinned behind you will give you a hefty fall rate. Neither of these positions is good for taking grips on other jumpers. An optimal fall rate is one that allows everyone to maintain a comfortable body position without pinning their arms and legs behind them or de-arching their entire bodies. The fall rate, subject to these constraints, should be made as fast as possible to facilitate turns.
Jumpers jump with different groups of people. On a given dive the fall rate may be slightly faster or slower than some other dive. Every jumper should have a range of fall rates that are compatible with the group of people he jumps with. Practice the entire range of fall rates on the 2-way dive. Start by going faster. Move arms and legs backward and arch more. Make movements gradually and smoothly, else you won't notice the subtle body positions that can dramatically change your fall rate. One jumper should be the leader. That is he sets the fall rate, then slowly changes to faster fall rates and then to slower fall rates. The other jumper follows or matches the fall rate as best he can, while maintaining proximity. Newer jumpers have a tendency to watch. They should concentrate on matching the fall rate, not just watching the RW coach change body positions.
The next phase of the dive practices levelidity with proximity as each jumper turns. The leader turns 90º as the follower matches the mirror image turn. As usual, levelidity, proximity and synchronicity are to be maintained. The leader stops and then turns 180º in the opposite direction and then back to the facing no-contact 2-way.
There are several variations of the dive from this point on. The sequence can be repeated, as is the norm for really new jumpers. Slides can be practiced next. Alternatively, turns with a change in fall rate can be done by the leader, as the follower performs the mirror image turn and maintains levelidity, proximity and synchronicity. Turn rates can be varied as well.
Slides with a change in fall rate can be done as well as the sliding turn with a change in fall rate. There are three components, fall rate, turns and slides. They can be practiced and matched separately or in combination. They can be defined ahead of time or done as the leader chooses.
The idea is to simulate what happens on real dives. Jumpers do dock on moving targets. Sometimes the formation slides or turns just as the perfect backin is performed. The formation may move towards you and force you to dock. The "turns with a change in fall rate" model those base guys who floated or dropped out of the sky when they made the donut. They made the mistake, but should you let their mistake make you look bad. The slides and "slides with a change in fall rate" represent the heading changes of those guys in the base who floated when they built the donut.
Originally published in Sport Parachutist's Safety Journal V2, #4 Jul. 1990.
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