The January article had introduced the new Arizona Airspeed lineup and speculated of the team's potential. In February, the NSL News author covered the rest of the 4-way world and the teams who will compete with Airspeed. The situation after the Dubai Championship 2011 was discussed in March, and the newest "Turning Points" provided input after the Valentine's Meet 2011 and before the Shamrock Showdown 2011.
The NSL News contributions for Blue Skies Mag have its own character and reflect more a personal view of the author, while the daily NSL News on-line coverage tries to provide news from the Formation Skydiving competition world in a more neutral way. In fact, those articles usually comment new scores, videos and other event coverage. The April article for Blue Skies Mag took a closer look at the lineups of the top teams.
Dubai 2011 is history for the French 4-way world champions, and the Valentine's Meet 2011 brought the first confrontation with the new Arizona Airspeed lineup. It did not turn out much better for France in Eloy compared to Dubai. There was no Valentine with love or any gifts for the French guests at Skydive Arizona. Airspeed destroyed Aerodyne Aerokart Maubeuge at this outdoor competition on home turf. NMP-PCH Hayabusa and Airspeed both beat the world champions at their first meets this year, and France has some work to do.
Then came two indoor competitions in February, one at Paraclete in Raeford, the other one at Aerokart in Paris. Hayabusa and Airspeed both added impressive scores to their 2011 results and are both 2 - 0 this year, while France Maubeuge stands at 0 - 2 after two outdoor meets.
Does this mean that the reigning 4-way world champions are in trouble? Well, the top teams in the sport are so close to each other these days that everybody is in trouble all the time at each meet. However, France seems to be further behind after Dubai and Valentine's than it might have been expected. One might think that new French national manager Jeremie Rollett and 4-way coach Marin Ferre may not feel so comfortable at the moment.
I believe that this would be far off 4-way reality. In fact, it would be dangerous to underestimate the new French 4-way lineup.
What's the big deal, the Belgians may wonder. They are in the same boat and had to replace one team member at the end of the 2010 season. Hayabusa still defeated France in Dubai. However, there is a significant difference between the French and the Belgian situation. Hayabusa is used to personnel changes. Roy Janssen, Andy and David Grauwels have been married as a 3-way for almost ten years, but young Dennis Praet is the 4th new 4th member of the team. Hayabusa is used to personnel changes and experienced in how to deal with them.
Despite all the 4-way marriage problems, the situation for French coach Marin Ferre is not all that difficult. Especially the competition jumps at the Valentine's Meet exposed the team's biggest weakness quite clearly. France Maubeuge of 2011 had trouble with the exits.
In other words: it was not too difficult to see why France ended up so far behind Airspeed, and the solution will not cause too many headaches in France. It is nice to have a problem that is so obvious and relatively easy to get fixed. The French exits and subterminal moves looked already much different at the training camp leading into the Shamrock Showdown 2011.
And that's the keyword for the meet where the first real statements will be made. The Shamrock Showdown is an outdoor competition, the environment where the French competitors feel more at home than in the windtunnel. It is the first meet where all three top contenders with their new lineups will compete with each other at the same time and at the same place. They will all be trained and well prepared for the meet - no more excuses and explanations, only the numbers on the scoreboard will count.
The Shamrock managament is also on a mission to post accurate scores in a timely manner. Judges Judy Celaya, Cherie Schuch, Eric Heinsheimer are responsible for the scores, CamScore provides the technical logistics, the meet management will try to make sure that the scores are posted before the teams go up for the next round.
By the time this article will be published the Shamrock Showdown 2011 is over, and the same teams will get ready for the next meet, the World Challenge 2011 at Bodyflight Bedford. It will be another busy and very exciting 4-way season.
Before I forget this: the Shamrock Showdown is unique in a very special way this year. The name of the event relates to St. Patrick's Day, which always dates right before the Shamrock. This has been all of the relationship with Ireland so far - until Fast Air signed up for the meet. Yes, the national team from Ireland came to DeLand to honor the Shamrock Showdown and give it a real meaning. And watch out, Fast Air will be in great shape after two weeks of training with Shannon Pilcher.