Skydive Sebastian is known for the beautiful aerial views afforded by its close proximity to the intercostal and the beaches. Both the dropzone and the local town have great atmosphere and a great tropical party feel. The most beautiful view the canopy pilots of the FLCPA were concerned about at the beginning of the 2016 season was the brand new shiny pond the dropzone built over the winter. Pilots showed up from all over the US and even a handful of international competitors came to check out the new pond. There were 50 competitors total among the Pro and Amateur classes. Among the competitors were 3 Alter Ego teammates, 3 PD Factory Team members, Albert Berchtold, Justin Price, Marcos Darman, Matt Schull, and a slew of other heavy hitting Pros. The competition was going to be fierce to start the season. The new pond was built very well, natural feeling with no liner, grass growing down the banks that are very smooth on the exit. Competitors started showing up as early as the Monday before the comp. The weather did not want to cooperate very much during the week, which had been the case in Florida for the past month and a half. Heavy storms over the weekend left a little bit of flooding to the landing area surrounding the pond. Competitors trained as best as they could and utilized the exciting new facility. Curt Bartholomew was the league coach the Friday before the comp. He was out at the pond all day giving everyone tips and coaching as they landed.
Saturday saw the comp start early with a 7 am wheels up. The competitors were in luck as the weather was somewhat behaving. The winds dropped off considerably, and there was only a light headwind the day of the comp. The previous day was similar conditions but much stiffer winds. The first jump was the mandatory practice round for all competitors and the Ams were first up. A low cloud base meant a fairly low exit altitude of just under four thousand feet. The passes were divided up even further and two to three competitors exited per pass. Everyone felt out the conditions and were eager to get started. Unfortunately, on the very first round, Jeannie Bartholomew had a cutaway on her new 64 Peregrine. The low exit altitude didn’t give her much time to fix the malfunction and she had to give up on it. The winds blew it across the river and the dz staff went on the search. It was difficult to find, so she had to land and grab her other rig with a different canopy she uses for freestyle. This meant she had done zero training on for these types of events on that wing, not an easy thing for a competitor to handle. The first round went a little better for some other competitors, with Jay Sanders getting a good score, Tommy Dellibac threw down a 91 on the Zone Accuracy course. Curt came through and popped up high, stalling his canopy into the box. It was judged as a 96, and even Curt thought he had stepped back a bit into another zone. The judges double checked and caught a small misunderstanding of the newer judges with the new Zone Acc scoring rules, Curt was given the perfect 100 that his video also comfirms. It wasn’t a bad way to start the season. The first meet of the year means any rule changes are implemented, which can be confusing for judges, organizers, and competitors alike. Luckily, the FLCPA boasts some of the best judges worldwide. Just after everyone landed from the first round, a bird flew into the transformer at the dz and the power went down for the whole facility. This meant no fuel for the Otter. A few people thought they saw Jeannie over there throwing her shoes at the transformer hoping to get her beloved 64 back in time, but a poor crispy bird was actually to blame.
After about a forty five minute break, the action resumed and Jeannie got on with her re-jumps. She struggled in the first round as it was her first attempt at Zone Acc with that wing. She turned it around and landed in a great zone on the second jump, just slipping and goin past the box to lose a few points. Jay landed another consistent run in the same zone, putting up at the sharp end of the field. Curt came in and stomped out a much smoother perfect 100 this time. The other Pros put up some impressive scores as well. The field moved onto Distance from there with Curt leading and taking 1st Place in the Zone Accuracy event with a sizable gap, followed by Tommy Dellibac and Jay Sanders.
The Distance event was also in a headwind, so the runs weren’t super far but the top pros pushed as hard as they could. Jeannie got her head in the game and put up two very impressive distance runs on a very big canopy at a very light loading, both of those factors working very much against her. She pushed very hard and kept up with the wing loadings well over half a point heavier than herself. Jay Sanders had the farthest run of round one followed by Curt only a meter or so shy. Marcos Darman, an Alter Ego Project instructor was also putting up strong scores in both events and had great Distance runs to push himself up towards the front of the field. The clouds dropped even lower during the Distance event, some loads exiting from only 3,500 ft. Competitors exited one per pass for spotting and separation safety. They kept the comp moving smoothly and made it happen. The second round of Distance saw some heavy hitters get some zeros, dropping both Tommy Dellibac and Jay Sanders down the field. Curt put up the best run of the second round, sealing a 1st place finish is Distance as well as extending the gap to second place up to 50 points.
There was an hour and a half lunch break following so that the course could be changed to the Speed event. During the break, the amazing staff had found Jeannie’s Peregrine after Curt had spotted it earlier from the plane. They had spent hours out in the brush trying to locate her missing baby. Jeannie, along with the whole team, would like to extend a huge heartfelt thank you to them for their hard work! Jeannie was quick to inspect her canopy, get it hooked up and packed in time for Speed. The first round of that event saw some great runs throughout the field. Jeannie felt a lot more comfortable on her canopy and went to work. Pablo from the factory team, along with teammate Tommy Dellibac put up some very strong scores. Marcos and Curt also finished the meet strong, Curt making it a perfect day by ending Speed in 1st place as well.
There were smiles all around as the comp finished and the competitors started having a few hard earned beers. The judges and meet organizers did a great job making the best of the weather, utilizing the lighter winds when we had the chance. The start of the season was a great success at a beautiful new location. Congrats to Rory Agundez in the Am class for his first ever (BEER!) victory. Johnny Gunn ended the meet in 2nd Place after a late zero dropped him out of the lead. Danny Feltner got his first podium finish in 3rd Place as well. Curt was on the top of the box in the Pro Class, starting the season with a perfect Gold sweep of the meet and the 1st Overall finish, Pablo Hernandez took home the Silver and the 2nd place finish, and Justin Price rounded out the bronze in 3rd Place. Jeannie fought her way to 14th out of around 30 Pro’s even without her competition wing. Everyone had a great time partying during the awards, the weekend being an overall success. The season is just beginning and the next meet is right around the corner, the competitors have a lot of work to do as the level of piloting rises each year, with some of the best in the world regularly attending the FLCPA.