Falling at speeds of up to 140kph, daredevils will take to the skys of Dubai today for the World Parachuting Championships Mondial 2012.
Dubai hosts world skydiving champions
DUBAI // Jay Moledzki will open his parachute at 762 metres above the Palm Jumeirah, plummet to the entry gate below, and hope to earn a medal at the World Parachuting Championships Mondial 2012 that begin today.
As he falls he will spin to reach speeds of up to 140kph, and once he passes through the gate below he will drag his feet along a water pond to create an enormous wake.
"My eye is always on the gate," said Moledzki, 39, a Canadian with a purple mohawk.
In canopy piloting, of which Moledzki is the current world champion, the goal is to shoot through the gate and drag the furthest distance.
"More than anything, it's keeping your parachute going where you're looking," he said.
A professional base jumper and test pilot, Moledzki said sinking was not an option. "That water is as hard as concrete at that speed," he said.
"The water will absorb your energy when you crash but when you touch it, the surface of the water is hard and there is a lot of pressure."
But it is not unusual for a participant to get it wrong, and mistakes can be fatal.
"It's a highly technical discipline requiring highly skilled canopy pilots," said Gillian Rayner, first vice president of the International Parachute Commission. "Their judgment has to be extremely precise."
There have been fatalities at other events, and Ms Rayner confirmed an accident at practice on Monday.
The rest of the action will take place in the air and fans at Skydive Dubai can watch the drama unfold on one of three giant screens.
The accuracy category will be the most exciting for the public to watch, Ms Rayner said.
"It's really exciting because the public can watch the people land as close as possible to a two-centimetre spot," she said.
"It's a challenge. They are all sports but this is something the public can easily relate to."
The championships have attracted a lot of jumpers who are new to international competition, and several countries are participating at the event for the first time.
The largest parachute event ever held, competition begins today and continues until December 9.
Ms Rayner says 1,440 daredevils representing 57 countries will take to Dubai's sky to compete in 13 competitions.
They include formation skydiving, accuracy landing, canopy formations, free-fall style, freestyle and canopy piloting.
Para-skiing, a combination of accuracy landing and snow skiing, will be held in Ski Dubai as a demonstration sport.
There are four landing zones for the event: Meydan, for canopy formation, accuracy and freestyle competitions; formation and artistic skydivers will land next to the Kempinski Hotel on the Palm Jumeirah; accuracy landing and canopy piloting will be at Skydive Dubai, where the judges will be based.
Fans can watch from the grandstands at Skydive Dubai or from the fourth landing zone on the public beach at Al Sofouh Road.
Jesse Stahler of the US team the Golden Knights, will be competing in the eight-man formation skydiving.
A cameraman jumps with them and fans can watch it live.
Judges tell the skydivers on the day which formations they want and the participants have two hours to practise on the ground before they go up in the air.
"There's a lot of people and a lot of movement," Stahler said.
"It's not as fast-paced but it relies heavily on engineering to make the moves fast."
Formation skydivers practise on the ground on creepers, which are similar to skateboards but modified for lying down.
"It's the best visual aspect as it is in the sky," Stahler said.
Each team member must know his moves to attract points from the judges, who award them based on video after the jump.
Stahler said getting everyone on the same page is like yelling at your teammates with your head out the window as you are driving down the highway.
"There's not even hand signals. At this level, everything is a head nod or a look."
For more information on skydiving disclipines , go to www.fai.org/parachuting or wpcuae.ae