Bodyflight Storm, an all female formation skydiving team who qualified last year to represent Great Britain at this years World Skydiving Championships to be held in France in August, face their first test on the world stage next weekend.
The team consisting of Sarah Smith 31 (Whatton, Nottingham), Hannah Betts 29 (originally from Praa Sands, Cornwall, now living in Cardiff), Kate Stephens 32 (originally from Porth Cawl, Wales, now living in Huntingdon), Claire Scott 35 (Marsh Gibbon, Bicester) and cameraman Gary Wainwright Wainwright 35 (Nottingham) have been training hard since their victory at the British National Championships last August, having made around 350 skydives in California during the winter.
Ironically their first competition this year won’t involve leaping from a perfectly good airplane! Instead they will be flying in the Bodyflight indoor wind tunnel at Bedford which works as a skydiving simulator. Teams from all over the world including the US, France, Russia, Norway, Italy, Sweden and South Africa will make the journey to Bedford to compete in the popular Bodyflight World Challenge.
Teams will have just 35 seconds to race through a randomly drawn sequence of different formations where they are awarded a point for each one. The top teams are capable of scoring in excess of 40-45 points in 35 seconds – that’s more than formation per second! There are 10 rounds in the competition which will be completed over 2 days (29th March – 30th March) and it is expected that there will be a fierce battle for 1st place right up to the final round.
Kate Stephens– “Flying in the tunnel is the closed thing you get to skydiving. We use it as a training tool especially in the UK where the weather isn’t always kind to us to allow us to skydive.”
Hannah Betts – “The tunnel contains powerful motors which suck air so as to create a column of air that we can fly on and pretty much simulates exactly what we experience when we skydive.”
Claire Scott – “We are really excited about competing at the Bodyflight World Challenge. Whilst it isn’t our primary focus for this year, it will give us the chance to see how we fair against some of the top contenders for this years World Championship title. It also allows us to watch and learn from many of the top teams in the World.”
Sarah Smith – “The tunnel is fantastic as it gives everyone the opportunity to experience the thrill of flying. It’s great to see kids flying – they have no fear whatsoever!”
Bodyflight Storm are training for the Women’s Category at this years Skydiving World Championships in March, however at the World Challenge there is just one open category meaning they will be competing against both the top men and women’s teams in the world. Despite there being no female category, they will still have a chance to assess their progress so far against the likes of the Norwegian and French Nationals Women’s teams who will also be competing in France later this year.
Just one week after the World Challenge, the team fly back to California for another 3 week training camp where they hope to make in the region of 200 training skydives. Despite being able to practice many of their moves in the wind tunnel, they still have to train the way they exit from the airplane! The clock starts ticking as soon as they exit so the plan is to leave altogether which is easier said than done!
Team training can prove to be very expensive and the team are always actively seeking sponsorship and PR opportunities to increase awareness of the team in order to make this dream happen – as without funding, they can’t train. The team gave up their jobs last May in order to train full time so as to guarantee their place in the British squad as well as to make them competitive at the World Championships. They are considered to be one of the strong favourites for gold later this year, however there is still a lot of hard work to do.
Competing at the Bodyflight World Challenge will give the team a taste of world class competition as well as an indication of the remaining work they need to do prior to competing in France.
Who is Bodyflight Storm? www.stormskydivingteam.co.uk
Bodyflight Storm was formed early in 2007 with the aim of competing at the British National Skydiving Championships which takes place in July / August each year. The team’s aim was to compete in the Open category of 4-way formation skydiving, with the goal of qualifying to represent the UK at the 2008 World Championships. Despite the team only just being formed, they were already considered as a talented high profile team with numerous World and National titles between them.
What is competition skydiving?
4-way formation skydiving is one of the most popular forms of competition disciplines within the skydiving world. It is about speed, accuracy, determination and strength, with the single goal of building as many formations as possible. The discipline is practised in freefall at speeds reaching 120mph, and consists of four people performing a series of several formations repeatedly within 35 seconds. The fifth team member, the camera person, films the jump and the footage is then watched by the judges to score the team's performance. It's not about looking pretty in the air or looking good when you land; in the same way as a football team wins a match by scoring the most goals, a 4-way team will win a competition by correctly completing more formations and thus scoring more points than the other teams.
Bodyflight Storm are unique in the fact that they are a women’s team in a male dominated sport. Yet despite being an all female team (except for the cameraman Gary Wainwright), they still managed to beat a number of all male line ups.
Despite being “girls” you have to commend them for their physical toughness and the phrase “no, pain no gain” often springs to mind. Making 16 jumps a day in heats of 100+ degrees whilst carrying injuries ranging from a dislocated thumb (only realised after 200 jumps!), sprained ankle, chipped ankle bone, concussion, torn shoulder ligaments, torn knee ligaments and broken ribs is not for the faint hearted!
An element of strength is definitely needed to do this sport, both for hanging onto the side of an airplane as well as for moving each other around the sky! The team follow an intensive body conditioning and weight training programme to help equip them for the pressures of 3 week gruelling training camps where they can make 150 – 200 training jumps.
Also to watch the girls fly, they appear to combine their aggression with technical accuracy better than their male counterparts who prefer to just use the force! This coupled with their sheer determination as well as their trust and respect for one another gives them the winning combination and the edge over other teams.
Claire Scott – 07812 060 215 [email protected]