By Pat Works
Canopy Formation (USPA)
Skydivers in a canopy formation are under open canopies, not in freefall as with other kinds of skydiving such as formation or skysurfing. Once out the door, they open their parachutes and then proceed to build different formations by linking together, there can be anywhere from two to a few dozen jumpers in one formation. They connect by putting their feet on another parachute, on the parachute lines, or on another jumper's body. Competition categories include 2-Way Team Sequential, 4-Way Team Rotation, 4-Way Team Sequential, and 8-Way Team Speed. (USPA)
Skydivers fly their parachutes through a prescribed course over water and land and are judged on their speed, distance and accuracy.
"Swooping" is one form of canopy piloting and is a growing activity in the skydiving world. Many think the reason for this is that it is one of the few skydiving related events that are, for the most part, spectator friendly.
Swooping entails the canopy pilot deploying their canopy at 5000 ft, piloting their canopy to an "initiation" point over the swoop course, then turning into a rotating dive dramatically increasing the canopy's speed. The canopy pilot stops the canopy's rotation on the proper course heading, while at the correct altitude allowing their canopy to recover from the dive and level out with maximum speed before entering the course, Maximum speeds regularly reaching in excess of 90 mph.< wikipedia >
The Current world records are (2010)
G-1-f1 : Canopy Piloting, Distance : 181 m (593.8ft)
Date of : 01/06/2010
Parachutist(s): Nick Batsch (USA)
Canopy type: Daedalus JVX (sail)
Course/place: South Africa
G-1-f2 : Canopy Piloting, Speed : 2.093 sec
Date of : 01/07/2010
Parachutist(s): Greg Windmiller (USA)
Canopy type: PD Velocity
Course/place: South Africa
Pro Swooping Tour Professional competition courses mark the entry gates with 5 ft tall wind blades, whereas some part of the pilots body must break the imaginary line across the top of the entry gate pair, often only 30 ft apart. These types of landings are inherently more dangerous than normal landings. For competitor safety this is usually done over a "swoop pond", a shallow artificial pond around 3ft deep that can be narrow and long, but for safety a trend towards building larger square or rectangular ponds is becoming more prevalent.
The goal of the canopy piloting competition is to negotiate a number of different courses which challenge different performance characteristics of canopy flight and pilot skill. Speed, Distance and Accuracy are just three of the basic courses used at most competitions. Quickly evolving out of these courses is the Freestyle discipline. Freestyle typically uses a large body of water for competitors to drag through, or touch with different body parts and positions while maintaining nearly constant contact with the water. Gaining popularity both with competitors and spectators alike, freestyle puts the canopy pilot in contact with the water at high speeds, increasing the risk of a violent impact, or a spectacular display of skill over the pond, ultimately landing on solid ground on the other side.
To become a high performance canopy pilot, an interested and competent skydiver will typically have at least 1000 jumps to their credit, and start a 1-2 year training process to become skilled and experienced enough to compete at the 'standard' level. Professional levels take 2-4 years of dedicated training, where some competitors have 10,000+ jumps.
Ground launching and Speed-flying are another form of canopy piloting. These disciplines differ from swooping in that the canopy pilot flies his canopy in close proximity to the ground, either descending a mountainside or other gradient or, in certain conditions, hovering meters above the ground much like a paraglider pilot. These types of flight are appealing to those pilots wanting long canopy flights at relatively low cost or for those wanting to use their skydiving gear in a new and challenging way.