Skydiving into the record books

Skydiving into the record books
(Kelly Clarke)SATURDAY

Ernesto Gainza’s leaps from a small-more
propeller plane straight into the record books after gliding down to Earth on the world’s smallest parachute.
At 6.15pm in Dubai on Saturday, history began rewriting itself as daredevil skydiver Ernesto Gainza leapt from a small propeller plane straight into the record books after gliding down to Earth on the world’s smallest parachute — and not even Mother Nature could stop him.

Gainza’s name will now adorn the pages of the Guinness World Records book, despite fierce winds throughout the day jeopardising his attempt. Speaking to Khaleej Times just moments after landing, an adrenalin-pumped Gainza recalled the moments when the plane began its ascent into the wind-swept Dubai skies.

“To be honest I did not think at 3pm today I would be celebrating this. I did not think it would happen at all. I even told the team, guys I will try, but it probably won’t happen.”

And asked if there were any hairy moments up in the air, he admitted it wasn’t the smoothest jump. “I have to say this hasn’t been one of my best jumps. I was super nervous because of the crowd, the wind conditions weren’t ideal, but I am super happy right now. When I pulled my parachute and it opened correctly, I just said thank God!”

The jump

The jump itself was delayed by more than an hour due to high winds. Tension was rife among the Skydive Dubai crowds as many thought the jump would be postponed with winds reaching more than 20 knots — nearly 15 knots higher than what would be deemed good for a normal jump — according to XCF project manager Marius Melusel.

However, after more than a year of planning the risky jump, Gainza was not deterred by the winds, and was adamant to fulfil the moment he had been dreaming up for years.

Breaking his 1.5 second freefall using a parachute barely big enough to cover a single bed, Venuzuela-born Gainza glided down to the Skydive Dubai dropzone at higher than normal speed, but as his feet safely touched the grass beneath him, the cheers echoed out from the crowd and he punched the air in celebration. “The feeling was incredible, I am just so happy it’s done. Next time I might try something else, maybe a smaller canopy,” he said.

David Ludvik and Wuzi Wagner were tasked with the job of assisting Gainza on the jump, and despite doubts on ground, Ludvik said as the plane climbed to its 13,000-foot platform, all on board were confident it would be a success, albeit a slightly nervous atmosphere.

With Ludvik and Wagner’s canopies dwarfing Gainza’s 35sqft parachute at 66sqft and 69sqft, the duo said despite a few twists and spirals immediately after his exit from the plane, all went okay.

Smashing the current world record set by Luigi Cani in 2008 with a 37sqft canopy, Gainza downsized by 2sqft to 35sqft. In order to make the jump safe, he himself downsized to a mere 53kg. So what’s first on the agenda now the jump has proved successful?

“Chocolate, where’s my chocolate?” Gainza asked.

kelly@khaleejtimes.com