After arriving at the Dropzone, they are on the south landing area, so I know i wont be jumping, yet, as theres a 50 jump limit, but, we are told that soon the northern landing area will be opened. Help catch some tandem jumpers, and bring in the gear for an hour, then the few new jumpers and students are called for a wind briefing. Im told that im on the bigger 280 canopy, as students get priority on the club equipment, which is fair. Its explained to us that while its quite windy, its not windy enough to stop jumping, we will be jumping out of the plane further from the dropzone than we usually do, then using the wind to get back to a holding area, before coming in to land. As an added incentive, whoever lands closest to the orange cross, out of us inexperienced jumpers, will get a mystery prize.
The plan for this jump is forward roll exit, practise short sharp leg turns, 90 degrees, 180 degrees etc, open at 3,500′, get to the holding area, then aim for the cross.
Its my turn to exit, I roll out, and straight onto my back, and have a perfect view of the bottom of the plane, I flipped over so quick, I can clearly see Micks head poking out of the door watching me fall 🙂 I flip over onto my front, and HOLY CRAP!!! whats happened to my face?!?! this is cold. When i did my tandem in february, it was -4 on the ground, but I didnt fell any cold at all, this is freezing, my arms are freezing, my chest is freezing. I do a few turns, and I notice a canopy opening far below (not directly below) me, this is the first time ive seen one opening while being in freefall, so i watch for others, while checking alti every few seconds, and see a few opening.
At 3,500 feet, I wave off, reach, grab the toggle, and pull. My hand is so cold, it slides right off the toggle, and im stil in freefall!!!!!!!! Thoughts in my head, ‘is it stuck?’, ‘OH SH!T!!!’, ‘reserve procedure, look, locate, reach, grab, peel, punch, pull’ followed by ‘try again, if its stuck, then im paying for a reserve to be repacked’. Reach back again, pull, throw, 1 thousand, 2 thousand, feel the pull, 3 thousand, look up, see the canopy inflating, watch it fully inflate, then grab the steering toggles and go through canopy checks, my ar$e is still biting both leg straps and refuses to let go, im only just under 3,000 feet, so everything that just happened was only 2 or 3 seconds, between my hand slipping, all those thoughts, and trying again
Now safely under the canopy, I see and head towards the holding area, and get there surprisingly quick with the wind behind me, normally im fighting into the wind on my jumps, this is a nice new feeling, looking straight down you see how fast youre travelling across the ground. Get to the holding area, do some turns to lose the height, then at 1,000 feet, start my landing pattern. In my (inexperienced) mind, im at about 900 feet as i pass the orange cross, so if i go to about 500 feet, then turn, then my final turn at 400 feet, ill end up right by the cross, this is easy. So downwind to 500 feet, turn, corsswind to line up with the cross, turn, turn into wind ready to land right by the cross, and this is where i realised that id not thought about the one main thing during my plan, THE WIND! the 400 foot descent with the wind behind me took me about 500 yards downwind from the cross, now im flying into the wind, on a big 280 canopy, and if anything, im still moving away from the cross instead of towards it :-/ Once again, im heading towards the orange box full of equipment half way down the runway, i try a bit of right to avoid it, but the wind keeps pushing me back towards it, so instead, i let the wind take me to the left of it. As i come in to land, i flare a little bit too late, then have a fight to collapse the canopy, thats dragging me sideways, and i want it collapsed before it gets blown into the brambles, which i manage.
I wasnt the closest to the cross, but, i also wasnt the furthest away either, maybe next time ill win the mystery prize 🙂 but I do know i need to buy some thermals or something if I’ll be jumping through the winter