The first Shamrock Showdown with the current format was already held in 2002, but it was only the third meet of the regular Florida Skydiving League season in 2002 and 2003. The FSL ran meets in January and February back then, as well. The FSL management decided in 2004 to offer teams and competitors in Florida a longer winter break. The Shamrock Showdown has been the official FSL season opener ever since.
DeLand Majik and FSL management were looking for ways how to make the competition in DeLand even more attractive and came up with the idea of the Skins Game. Prizes, including serious cash amounts, were given to the winning teams round by round, before and after handicap. The skydiving industry and local business owners helped to provide the prizes.
The first three rounds of the meet do not offer any prizes. These rounds will be used to determine the handicap for each team. The first official round of the Skins Game is round four. Teams have never even thought about scoring low in the beginning to receive a higher handicap. This would take them right out of the competition for the overall prizes.
DeLand Fire, with former Majik member Gary Smith, successfully continued the winning streak of the home teams in 2005. Belgium's Spa Hayabusa, Team Fastrax, DeLand Majik's 2005 line-up, Italy's Sinapsi PD and the Golden Knights were the challengers last year. DeLand Fire opened the season with a 20.7 meet average and ended up winning the gold medals at the USPA Nationals 2005.
The most serious challenger at the World Meet 2006 is probably Italy's Sinapsi PD. The Shamrock Showdown this weekend is the first test for both teams on the way to this year's gold medals in Germany. Sinapsi PD might even have the stronger position at this point. The team is highly motivated after removing all obstacles out of the way for the new line-up with Pete Allum. Sinapsi PD has also completed winter and spring training camps and is currently in the final preparations for the competition in DeLand.
DeLand Fire was not able to train much at all with the original line-up since Natasha Montgomery was injured in mid-January this year (see NSL News story on January 22). Thomas Hughes helped out whenever there was a chance to make a few jumps with the other three Fire members. The original line-up with Natasha Montgomery resumes the team training this week. This situation might even put back DeLand Fire into the underdog position.
There is also an international underdog in the AAA/Open Class field for the Shamrock Showdown. The Norwegian national 4-way team Arcteryx has been preparing for the main goal in August 2006 in a very professional way. The team has successfully completed previous winter training camps and has now set camp in DeLand until May 2006. Arcteryx might not be able to challenge the three top contenders at this point in time. However, the Norwegian team will carefully observe DeLand Fire's and Sinapsi PD's performances and compare to the Arcteryx level round by round.