Project Horizon IV Builds Never-Before-Seen Formations
What started as an idea at the World Freefall Convention in 2000 has now proven itself to be one of the world's premiere freeflying events. March 26th-29th marked the fourth Project Horizon event and the largest turnout to date. This success tells me it has officially reached maturity. As one of the original creators of the event, I'd like to share my own personal perspective on the event.
While load organizing at the 2000 WFFC (the last year it was in Quincy, Illinois), myself, Storm Dunker, and Heath Richardson started talking about making an event where the top freeflyers from DZ's around the world could join forces and create never-before-seen vertical formations. As organizers at the Convention, we were given a handful of tickets to jump with each other after organizing all day. The few jumps we did throw together went off superbly each time and just encouraged us to create better dives the next day. We knew that we could do just about anything given the right flyers and enough jumps. We brainstormed a way to get everyone together in one place once a year to explore freeflying's horizon.
Though Heath's ever blossoming swooping career made creating such an event unfeasible for him, Storm and I ran with the idea, nabbing Dave Donnelly soon after to form the core organizers for the event. Dave came up with the name "Project Horizon" and the forming of the event began.
The three of us worked out the details on how to get the right people interested in hosting and attending the first PH. Donnelly suggested bringing Dave Brown on board because of his East Coast influence and reputation as a freefly coach and L.O. The result was a humble group of 24 participants who headed to Skydive Elsinore for 4 days of experimental dives. Many of the dives proved too ambitious and we learned that we needed to give each different dive at least two attempts in order to figure them out. Being the first time any of us had organized such an event, we learned a lot and put what we learned into the second PH.
Project Horizon II was held in Crosskeys, NJ the next year. The dives were more successful and more three-dimensional. The increased dive success made for some happy participants which helped with a growing attendance the next year at PH III. Skydive Chicago hosted a superb event in 2004 with 39 attendees and even more successful and more challenging skydives. This overall improvement of the event each year was what helped its reputation for this year's PH IV.
Skydive Arizona was the host this year, supplying Otters and Skyvans and at 14,000 feet on each dive. Manifesting was done with awesome cooperation and flexibility of the dropzone staff. Forty nine participants altogether made over 1200 jumps. The event was a package of 25 organized dives ranging from 8-ways to 30+-ways over 4 days. The package included video on each jump and two meals a day.
As captains, we did the pre-event planning by negotiating with the DZ our needs, sending out the invites, designing the dives, and selecting the groups. As the number of skilled freeflyers grows each year, it becomes harder and harder to know who to invite. Not being able to jump with everyone who seeks an invite makes it hard to evaluate the readiness of eager participants. We relied on the recommendations of other respected flyers and sometimes had to defer potential invitees till after we had a chance to evaluate their flying ourselves. Since everyone in attendance was expecting a certain skill level from the other participants, we erred on the side of caution when it came to who received invitations.
Each night we discussed how the dives were going and shared feedback from the participants to better plan the next days format. We adjusted our dive sizes and types of dives to accommodate the wishes of the group. Considering the experience level of the people in attendance, from the start we knew that we didn't have all the answers as captains. People were encouraged to share their concerns and experience at the dirt dives and debriefs.
All in all, in comparison with past PH events, this year had fewer completed dives, largely due to the complexity and size of the formations but the ones that did complete were some of the coolest freefly jumps ever done in the air.
Highlights included several mixed upright and headdown formations including a 16-way round with some out-facing headdown slots. A 24-way built its first try on the last day and grew in size to an almost completed 39-way. For not being a big-way camp, this was quite impressive, especially since the current world record freefly formation at the time was 42! There was also a sweet 20-way with an 8-way headdown, In-Out base with 3-way pods built on each out-facing slot. Other In-Out formations also flew well with 2nd points having the out-facers flip down to upright positions. Some out-facing sit chunks also had some success.
A large part of the integrity of Project Horizon is that everyone is paying to be there, at least in one way or another. The organizers and cameramen offer their services for free and there are no hired "ringers" or special deals for anyone. Photos by the photographers in attendance (Bobby Page, Chris Fiala, Craig Amrine, Jason Peters, the Punisher, and Peter Galli) can be viewed through the PH website at http://www.projecthorizon.com. A compilation video of the jumps will be edited and available for purchase as well.
Being a captain for such an event takes a lot of time and money but is very rewarding. We created the event solely because we wanted to get the best freeflyers together to make the coolest skydives we could come up with. We will keep putting in the effort as long as people will keep showing up and enjoying it. If you feel you have the freefly skills to be a part of future Project Horizon events, make yourself and your flying known to one of the organizers or to a past PH participant at least. Keep informed through the PH website and hope to see you in the air soon.
Earlier Article: Project Horizon Stage IV - Fresh for 05
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