The British Skydiving National Championships are just around the corner. Whether you have a team ready, or you’re thinking about whether or not to throw one together, this blog post is for you!
Skydive Langar proudly sponsors Chimera, the top ranked open FS team in the UK, and Chimera have put together all their advice for FS jumpers in the run up to Nationals here.
Tips for putting together a ‘scratch’ 4 way team
Perhaps you only recently got your FS1. Maybe you and your friends have briefly considered doing a 4 way team but never got round to it. Luckily for you, there’s still time and it’s perfectly valid to put together what we call a ‘scratch team’ (a team with little to no training) just before Nationals.
This will obviously be easier or more difficult depending on how much experience you have. Take four people who have lots of 4 way experience, just not with each other, and it’ll be a relatively straightforward process to identify the nuances in your team flying styles and adapt to your scratch line up. For newer flyers, it is a little trickier but there are some tips that can help:
- Choose the slot that feels most comfortable
If you’re unsure what ‘slot’ you want to fly, it’s worth considering where you feel most comfortable in the door of the aircraft and also what kind of flying you feel most confident with.
Speaking on a very basic level (bearing in mind there are many more intricacies and nuances to each slot as you develop), you could consider the slots in the following way:
Exits from the inside of the plane, at the front of the door. Expect to feel like you have no room at all in the door but it’ll be fine because the team will get out of your way as they go. Most exits are a dive or a side slide through the door – so this is the slot for you if you find dive exits more comfortable and don’t worry about being a bit squashed at time (this is probably why many Points are smaller in body build, though this isn’t essential).
In terms of the freefall moves, you’ll spend a lot of your time as Point ‘out facing’, which means facing out away from the centre of the formation. The best Points are those who can be comfortable in a position of lessened visibility, though you should always be able to see something, even if in your periphary. In the categories with ‘blocks’ (non static formations) Point has a few where they move independent to the other three people, such as a block 2, 4 or 3.
Point is the ‘piece partner’ (i.e. they do moves holding onto) Outside Centre, and in AAA, Point shares the Outside Centre slot thanks to ‘slot switchers’.
Outside Centre (OC) exits usually from the outside of the plane, at the front of the door. So if you’re comfortable with float exits, this could be the slot for you.
As one of the two ‘centres’, OC shares the job with IC of setting the fall rate and usually occupies the central area of the formation, often with many grips being taken on them. This means OCs benefit from being able to fly very strong in the middle. They are the piece partner to Point and in AAA, they share their slot with Point – so both Point and OC should be able to exhibit the characteristics of benefit to each position.
Inside Centre (IC) usually exits from inside the plane, at the rear of the door (though be sure not to set up too far back!). Their exits are broadly categorised as either a ‘dive’ or a ‘hop’, with the majority of exits being the latter. This means they should be confident in hopping sideways out of the plane, pushing hips first and dropping down – together with Tail, they contribute to ‘weighing’ the formation down in some case (though on the whole, this is more Tail’s job).
In freefall, IC is typically responsible for the ‘keying’, meaning they dictate when the team moves to the next formation. This means they need to have what we call ‘big eyes’ – they’re able to see everything and know with confidence when the team is ready to continue with the dive. They are piece partner to Tail and in AAA, share their slot with Tail thanks to slot switchers.
Tail predominantly exits from the rear of the door, on the outside, and will often be required to either hang low (i.e. holding on with arm outstretched so they’re low in the screen from the camera person’s perspective) or to drive out in a sidebody formation. Speaking very broadly, the Tail’s job on exit is to weight the formation so the bottom end (the Tail end) is lowest in the camera screen with the Point end higher.
In freefall, Tail is usually in-facing, meaning they’re facing into the centre most of the time, and they can have some larger moves particularly if the formation goes from what we call a ’round’ – as in something quite round in shape, like an H – to a ‘long’ formation, like a C or a G. Like Point, they occupy the ‘outside’ of the formation. They are piece partner to Inside Centre and share that slot with them in slot switching dives.
If you don’t have experience in flying 4 way, use the insights above to find the slot that feels most aligned with your flying style and preferences.
2. Make the most of any coaching you can find (from good sources!)
One of the best things about our sport is that everyone is super willing to help each other – so it’s highly likely you’ll be able to find someone who can provide you with coaching and at least some quick tips to improve your jumps.
Here at Langar, we’re very proud to be home to some of the UK’s best FS jumpers and the quality of coaching available here is some of the best in the country. That means you can fairly easily find people around who can look at your jumps or debrief your videos and so on. For more guaranteed support, message a team like Chimera or the Pumas (who you can find on Facebook here and here) and you can make sure there will be someone around.
Even when you’re at the Nationals event itself, it’s possible to find teams willing to help you out (once their own preparations are done) so expect to learn a lot on the day, too – another great reason to put together a team!
3. Launching the first point is fun, but choosing one solid exit is safer…
In 4 way, the aim is to start scoring points as quickly as possible out the door – which means in many situations, it makes sense to launch the formation that appears at the start of the dive, so if the dive was H J M, you’d start with an H exit.
While this can have its benefits, there are also occasions where there is a greater advantage to be had in launching something more consistent than the first point. That’s not true just of lower experienced or Rookie teams either, as you’ll even see AAA teams like Chimera launching alternative formations in place of the first point of the dive if the former is the more guaranteed option.
If you’re putting together a team this late in the season, we’d recommend choosing just one exit and lauching it the whole way through. Or, if you have a bit more experience, choose a few to launch, rather than expecting to launch everything.
The benefit here is that you’ll be getting plenty of practice on that one/few exits, rather than trying to learn something new every time.
H (bow) is a good exit to learn because it fits into the category of what we call a ’round’ formation, which basically means any shape in which all four flyers are close/equidistant (ish) from the centre. So B, D, E, H, J, K, L, M, O could all be classed as ’round’, meaning that launching an H will give you a fairly simple move to any of them.
If you are choosing to only launch one exit, H is a good one. If you wanted to add another, you might choose a ‘long’ formation, where the Point and Tail flyers are further from the centre than the IC and OC. For example, an A or a P can be good choices, as they are long themselves and therefore facilitate simpler moves into other long formations, like C, F, G, N and Q.
Find a coach / team member on the DZ any time and they can help you perfect your chose exit(s) before Nationals.
4. Put in the work on the ground, as well as in the sky
There’s a huge amount that can be learned in 4 way before you even step onto an aeroplane. If you’re just starting out, it’s well worth spending some time reviewing what’s called the ‘dive pool’ and memorising the shapes and corresponding letters (as much as you can).
The reason this is so beneficial is that it gives you and your teammates a common language to discuss your skydives and the moves between points. Remember, in 4 way, it’s all about building the formations (shapes) as efficiently as possible so if all you know is that for your individual move you need to go from here to here, you’re not considering the context and how what you do affects others. Whereas if you know that an H is a bow and that is looks like it does, it’s much easier to describe a move into it from, say, an A (unipod).
Learning the shapes is one thing, and there’s a whole lot more you can do on the ground besides to prepare yourself for Nationals. Visualisation is a really powerful tool, available to everyone and completely free of charge!
Visualisation, simply put, is the process of imagining the dive from your own perspective and in real time (and, for some people, imagining how it looks from the camera perspective, too). To visualise effectively, find yourself a quiet space and try closing your eyes so you can fully imagine the entire scenario of your jump, from the door opening, to moving to the exit point, to actually getting out and doing the skydive. By viewing it from your own perspective, you can think through how it’s going to look – and feel. You can highlight any points of the dive that feel tricky, and think through how the momentum will change your move, too.
Most 4 way jumpers will visualise before each round and also in the plane. But this isn’t the only time to do it. Between now and Nationals, consider choosing a list of dives with your team and all agree to visualise a number of them each day; you can then discuss what you thought of it, talk through any challenges you can envisage and also highlight any different ‘engineering’ choices you might make (for more experienced teams).
You can also spend time on the creepers and mock up at the DZ. If it’s bad weather and we’re around, Chimera is always willing to give advice and watch you work through things. There are loads of great FS flyers around Langar so grab anyone who does 4 way and ask them nicely to help.
5. Don’t take it too seriously!
The joy of a scratch team is that you’re not under any pressure. You know you haven’t really trained, you don’t have any expectation, and you can relax and enjoy completely!
For anyone who hasn’t been to a Nationals before, it’s an awesome experience and you should come with a view to absorbing as much of it as possible. You’ll notice various things which are pretty common to competitions. For example, some teams/individuals will choose to keep themselves quite separate from everyone else, because this is what they need to focus and be ready for their next jump. Other teams/individuals might find more benefit from being around other people and will therefore hang out in the cafe and be available to provide coaching/advice through the day.
Another thing you’ll note is ‘scoreboarding’. This refers to whether or not a team/individual is looking at the scores; for some, seeing the scores is a benefit but for others (ourselves included), they don’t want to see because one of the biggest challenges of a comp is to keep level emotions, so seeing scores that might be higher or lower than they thought can be offputting.
One thing you can do to help other teams out is to avoid talking about scores directly with individuals – while the scores are always up on boards around the DZ, some people will avoid looking at those so if you then walk up to them and say ‘wow you scored XXX!’ then that isn’t super helpful! It’s really nice to support other teams though, even those you’re competing against, because skydiving is a sport where sportsmanship is rife – which is one of the best things about competing!
Finally, remember to register through British Skydiving’s website; you have until Friday 27th August!