400 skydivers drop in on Dubai

About 400 jumpers from 45 countries take the plunge on the first day of the Dubai International Parachute Championship at the Dubai Marina.

A UAE national team skydiver descends at Dubai Marina during the first day of the Dubai International Parachute Championship.
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DUBAI // About 400 jumpers from 45 countries took the plunge on the first day of the Dubai International Parachute Championship yesterday at the Dubai Marina. The event was notable on at least two fronts: it is believed to be the first parachute championship held in the UAE; and it is the first in which "formation jumps are combined with canopy piloting under one umbrella", said Yousif Hassan al Hammadi, chairman of the event.

Jumpers from four Gulf countries, the UAE, Bahrain, Qatar and Saudi Arabia, are among the competitors. "We have all the top jumpers in the world competing in this championship," said Dr Rainer Hoenle, 68, a German who is the chief judge at the competition and a skydiving veteran of 34 years and around 5,500 jumps. The competition is organised into three disciplines: formation accuracy, formation skydiving and canopy piloting, which is considered the most challenging event.

Dr Hoenle said canopy-piloting chutes are "smaller, sleeker and faster than the regular chutes." Canopy-piloting is contested in three categories: distance, speed and zone accuracy. In the distance competition, a jumper opens the canopy immediately and spirals down to gain speed, Dr Hoenle said. The jumper then has to pass any part of his body through a gate that is 10 metres wide and 1.5 long. In the speed challenge, jumpers make a 70-degree turn and land on their feet after reaching velocities of up to 140 kph, Dr Hoenle said.

The third challenge involves canopy pilots going through seven zones laid out in a grid at different heights. The UAE formation skydiving team was third after events yesterday. Two of the home team parachutists jumped off the Burj Khalifa during its grand opening. Competitors will be awarded points throughout the 11-day competition. A Dh1 million (US$272,000) purse will be disbursed at the end of the event.

Competition continues throughout the week at the Dubai Marina, next to the Habtoor Grand Resort and Spa. Public entry is free. amustafa@thenational.ae