by Laural Ausel
About 60 jumpers from the US, Finland, and Canada came to Raeford, NC over the Labor day weekend to attempt to break the current world CRW record of 46, set last October in Davis, CA. Once again representatives from Flight Concepts International were on hand providing not only demo canopies, but top-notch dive engineering as well. Organizers worked from a core group of jumpers with proven experience and pulled in some others from the bench as dives sizes got progressively larger. Dives progressed rapidly on Friday and Saturday from an incomplete 21 way on the first dive to a state record breaking 36-way by the third dive. The state-record dive also did the first-ever 36-way starburst breakoff. Adrenaline and enthusiasm ran high after the 36 way as jumpers debriefed and prepared for the next dives.
Sunday three attempts at 40+ ways were made, but none completed due to equipment problems and problems with the way the formations built. The last record-attempt dive however, a 49-way diamond, tied the current record of 46 before having to break off because of altitude. Those not jumping with the core group experienced similar problems. The day ended with a double cutaway when a smaller group experienced problems in breakdown. No one was hurt, but the crowd on the ground had its collective heart in its throat as it watched Schantz Basir, the second jumper, tow her partially cut-away main below 500' while she repeatedly attempted to clear lines from her body so she could deploy her reserve. She ended up having an 11 second reserve ride. Her husband later calculated she had 20 seconds of freefall from the time she cut away until her reserve deployed.
By Monday people on the drop zone, as well as the nearby neighbors, had their fingers crossed hoping to see a new world record. One dive was made, but failed to complete for various reasons.
In the closing debrief, Diamond Quest officials noted that almost half of the participants were CRW enthusiasts who had begun wrestling nylon only a few years ago. Organizers also noted the rapidity with which these dives had grown in size in the 3-day time frame of the weekend, as compared to the week of practice and record dives in Davis, California last year. Judges Dave Waight, Dick Barber and John Mitchell were thanked for their cheerful participation on extremely short notice, and jumpers made a point of thanking Gene Paul Thacker for his continued support of theDiamond Quest effort.