Skydivers leap to title
By Jim Rees
The MIT skydiving club captured first place in the two-way relative work event at the 33rd Annual National Collegiate Skydiving Championships held Dec. 28 to Jan. 2 in Clewiston, FL. In addition, MIT team captain Carl de Marcken '90 was the top civilian novice competitor and the third place overall novice competitor.
Over 100 collegiate skydivers from schools across the country made more than 700 jumps while they competed in the style, accuracy, and freefall relative work events. The style and accuracy events are divided into novice, intermediate, and masters categories for skydivers with under 100, 101-300, and over 300 skydives, respectively. The relative work event is divided into a two-way competition for novices and a four-way competition open to all competitors.
In a two-way relative work competition, each two-person team exits from the aircraft from an altitude of 9500 feet and attempts to complete as many freefall formations, or points, as possible within the 35 seconds allowed. The points must be completed in a specified order, as the skydivers must separate completely be
tween each point. The actual series of formations to be completed in each round is chosen at random the day before the competition begins. Judging is accomplished using ground-to-air video.
De Marcken and Alan Feitelberg G scored four points in the first round, putting them in second place, one point behind a team from West Point. The pressure was on in the second round, but de Marcken and Feitelberg scored eight points, securing first place by a one-point margin. This marked the second consecutive year that MIT has captured this event.
De Marcken was also the top civilian in novice accuracy, with a total distance of 2.18 meters in four rounds of competition. In the accuracy event, each skydiver exits the aircraft from an altitude of 3000 feet and tries to land in the center of a target five meters in radius. The skydiver with the lowest total distance from the center of the target is the winner. Distances are judged with an electronic touch-sensitive pad.
The accuracy event is almost always dominated by students from the military academies, because these jumpers use Parafoil canopies which are designed specifically for accuracy. Most civilian skydivers use smaller, faster and lighter relative work canopies, less suited for the accuracy event.
Nevertheless, After three rounds of accuracy, de Marcken, using a relative work canopy, held a four centimeter lead over the second place civilian, who was using an accuracy canopy. The final round of accuracy was held on the last day of the competition, and tricky wind conditions made the approach to the target difficult. Several military jumpers landed over five meters from the target, but de Marcken landed just 31 centimeters from the center, scoring his best round of the meet, and securing first place in the civilian novice accuracy competition.
(Jim Rees '89 is a member of the MIT Sport Parachute Club.)