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Did You Know...

... that the SSL Valentine's Meet kicks off the 2005 season this weekend?

Weather situation in Arizona on Friday
posted Feb 11th, 2005 - Time has come, the first meet of the Southwest Skydiving League will launch the 2005 season in 4-way Formation Skydiving competition tomorrow. The tradition of the Valentine's Money Meet at Skydive Arizona in Eloy goes back much farther than the history of the Southwest Skydiving League. However, league and event joined forces in 2003 and have become the season opener ever since. The competition draw will be posted on the front page of the NSL website, as it has become part of the procedure in the past years. The download and printout options will also be offered once again.

The NSL News was interested in an update directly from Arizona. Airspeed captain Craig Girard had enough time to speak with the NSL News this morning. Airspeed had scheduled the Friday morning off and light training for the afternoon. However, Girard mentioned that he did not expect much jumping on Friday at all: "It has been raining cats and dogs since Thursday, it will not get much better today."

SSL Valentine's Meet 2005
The forecast for Arizona is not very promising for Saturday, as well. The SSL Valentine's Meet might have to wait until Sunday for the first round. Sunday's weather will most likely be back to normal. Teams and competitors will still be ready to go Saturday morning. The possible extra time could be used to study the competition draw and discuss the new rules.

Both Airspeed line-ups are ready to go and defend the home turf. The Golden Knights will visit for the competition. Girard said that the Army team trained for one week in Eloy and from Skydive Arizona's Twinotter during the current winter camp in Arizona. The Knights averaged ten training jumps per day for their training routine.

Arizona Airspeed 2005 line-up
Girard added that two other local teams have prepared for the competition, as well. Former Airspeed member and Arizona Blade's player coach of 2004, Mark Kirkby, has trained with his new team in Eloy (Dave Burton, Chris Farina, Samer Haija). Another former Airspeed member, Gary Beyer, continues his player coach position, as well, and has trained with his team in Eloy.

Arizona Airspeed seems to be well prepared. Craig Girard was very happy with the training, the vibes and the progression of the 8-way team and both 4-way line-ups. The team added 200 training jumps to the log book since the last update at the beginning of January: "Both line-ups are so evenly matched, and the combination of 4-way and 8-way is so much fun."

4-way world champion Craig Girard with Airspeed Vertical 2001 in Spain
image by: Omniskore
Airspeed trains both events on each training day. A normal training day has six 4-way jumps and six 8-way jumps on the agenda. Girard added that the team rotates the piece partner around in 8-way. The piece partners in 4-way are not the same as in 8-way: "This system really keeps the vibes and motivation up and bonds the group close together. The energy is great."

The NSL News asked CRaig Girard for feedback as of the recent rule changes. Girard has no doubt that judging will become much easier: "It used to be complicated to explain the rules to people, and judging was hard work and took a lot of time and energy. Meets will be judged and completed faster from here on."

Airspeed line-up at the SSL Valentine's Meet in 2004
He does not see any serious problems to come: "No tricks are really possible. Moving on will be even more dominant as it has already been in 4-way. Airspeed will only have to re-consider the whole key system in 8-way, which might become more similar to the 4-way system."

Girard believes that the easier judging procedure will probably also produce fairer results: "There was not enough consistency and too many split decisions in the past. This is a good change. Changes should be done when they are necessary, not only to bring something new. The new rules might even attract new judges to the sport. The current rules still handle everybody the same way, which is very important. The changes do not favor anybody, we are all doing the same things. No matter what - 2005 is a test year for these rules. Ee will know more at the end of the season."

Airspeed's Block 5 technique
The Airspeed captain also commented the new Block 12 (Bundy - Bundy) and the changed Block 5 (Opal - Opal). Both Airspeed teams did not spend much time with experiments and decided soon how to execute these blocks. Girard said that Block 5 now offers an option, which is even easier than before. Airspeed rotates both pieces 45 degrees forward while sheering and passing vertically. The previous rules required both pieces to rotate backward. "Rotation is always quicker than only sheering," added Girard, "and rotating forward is easier than backward."

Airspeed also rotates the pieces of the new Block 12 forward. Airspeed's rear piece is the Side Body and shifts forward while rotating. The rear piece ends up with a 270 degree turn. The front piece is the Compressed Accordeon and rotates forward, as well. Both pieces pass each other vertically.

Player coach Gary Beyer with Arizona Directe in 2004
Girard admitted that Airspeed was facing serious difficulties with the new Random Formation M (Star). "We really do not know how to work the Star into our continuity plan. And the exit setup for the Star is very challenging, as well." The NSL News did not really buy this statement, and Girard could not avoid a laugh when he explained the difficulties with the Star. "However, I am glad that the Star is still in the dive pool. It might be the only remainder of the very first dive pool", he finally added.

Girard approves and likes all changes in 8-way: "The 8-way changes are good all across. The lost Venus - Venus was too much another 'boogie block', not really very challenging. We have already enough fun blocks in 8-way."

Current top players in DeLand
The new DeLand Majik line-up did not surprise Girard too much. He thinks that Majik tries to set its own dynasty in place: "This can only be good for the sport. It is great - the more competition the better. I am glad that they continue. The more consistent team dynasties we have, the better the competition will be in the long term. The teams in DeLand will be great teams. There is so much talent in Deland. You could put all the team members in a glass and mix them up. Each line-up would be good. It will be so much fun with all these teams on a similar level this year."

The NSL News will follow the action in Eloy this weekend and follow up with scores, stories and NSL-TV as soon as possible. The last round of the NSL Championship 2004 will be posted this weekend before the newest footage from Arizona will be available.

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