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Canopy Formation Skills Camp : 22 - 23 August 2009, Robertson
By André d’Argent, C1577

I remember my first ‘experience’ of CReW being watching Kevin Burét and Coenie Thomas do a 2-stack at sunset over Citrusdal back in the late ‘90s. This was when I was on progression and 10 000 ft cost R70. “Wow that looks so peaceful and serene. One day when I am big I am going to do that”. These were my thoughts and as in most cases where my thoughts are involved I was both right and wrong, but more of that later. After that fateful day deliberate canopy collisions showed up in my skydiving life very rarely in the form of the odd formation at nationals or a photograph. The only regular reminder that the discipline actually still existed was the desperate measures taken by myself, and others, to avoid it. This usually took the form of trying not to get wrapped by ‘That Guy’. You all know ‘That Guy’, he/she usually shows up on the first load of any boogie.

When the e-mail went out that the SSA was considering hosting a Canopy Formation Skills camp at Robertson and would anybody be interested I remembered Kevin, Coenie and my thoughts and mailed back “Hell Yes” and with those two simple words I set myself up for a reality concept readjustment of note.

The Robertson CReW volunteers met with André le Roux and Gerrit Lambert on Saturday morning for a comprehensive basic instruction and safety briefing. We all listened attentively as there was a lot to learn, even for the basic instructional things that we were to attempt. That said the briefing could be broken down into two basic components. Clever, safe, fun stuff is ‘Cool’. Stupid, selfish, dangerous stuff is ‘Not Cool’.

Jumping started with Erik Vliegenthart and Al Mc Queen doing two-way rotations and downplanes. “Wow that looks so peaceful and serene” I thought, I mark that moment as the last time I ever viewed CReW in that way. Pamela Russell and I were up next. I got André and Pam got Gerrit. I stressed and sweated all the way to altitude and, for you turbine puppies, that is a loooooong time in a 206. The exit went well, the canopy slammed open like I was told it would and I was busy scouting around looking for André when it happened. I got hit in the middle of my back by a red and white canopy that hugged me from behind with all the unwelcome attention of an ex-girlfriend that you left town to avoid. To add to the nasty realism I also heard the bellowed words “TAKE ME”. I am not shy to say that for a moment there my hamster stumbled on its wheel and years of avoiding ‘That Guy’ elicited a knee jerk reaction……Take You? What? Are you Insane? Sod off!!! Needless to say, I missed the grip. André persisted, my hamster got back on the wheel and I got the next one and the next and next then I docked on him a few times. This was serious fun, it was great, it was quite insane. What it was not, was peaceful and serene. For those of you who have played rugby it is like an aerial loose maul. For those of you who have not played rugby, go do some canopy formation…it’s like that. I could never have imagined the level of workload and the steepness of the learning curve having only watched it from the ground. How CReW looks compared to how it feels is as bipolar as signing up for a first jump course to show your mates how hard-core you are, only to find the instructor looks older than your dad, and less cool.


Pam’s first jump went slightly differently from mine. She had a total mal, rode it down to around 5000ft and then took a reserve ride scaring the hell out of Gerrit in the process. Pam claims the jump was highly informative as she is now knows she can fall stable, on heading for 6000ft with both hands on a pullout puff. She tells me the only times she stopped trying to pull with both hands was during alti checks. Pam then geared up and was on the next load to try again.

The weekend progressed very well and the weather was excellent other than late afternoon wind. Brian Baxter managed to break lines on the first jump of the Sunday leaving André and myself chasing toys in the sub-zero air at 06h00 in the morning. Two-stacks became three-stacks and finally a four-stack. My thanks to Steve Norris for standing down so I could have a shot at it.

Thank you to the SSA for allowing us the opportunity to take part in a skydiving discipline that, for various reasons, is not anywhere near as prevalent as it once was.

André and Gerrit, on behalf of Skydive Robertson, well done for your patience and persistence it was well appreciated by all. Your decision to have a chilli dinner, on the other hand, was not.

For all the rest who helped out and made the weekend happen, thank you.

Andre ‘Dodgy’ d’Argent