I had the wonderful opportunity to serve as event judge for the Test Freefly Event at the 2002 US National Collegiate Parachuting Championships as well as serve as a principle judge for Formation Skydiving. I believe that this is the second year that freeflying has been a test event at the U.S. I share some info on the competition here.
On December 29, 2002, four freefly teams competed under reliable wonderful sunny skies of Skydive Arizona. Even though there was a wind hold in the afternoon, the teams completed all five rounds in one day. As the day was coming to an end, the teams cooperated to accept jumping in higher winds for round four and accepted a 35 minute ground time (instead of the normal 1 hour time) to make their final round five jump before sunset.
Brent Finley was the video controller. The 2-way freefly teams had air-to-air video. The 2002 Collegiates Test Freefly Event featured top of the world freeflyers for the pool of videographers. Teams even had the opportunity to receive some excellent freeflying tips.
During freefly speed round competition, the formation must be clearly shown to the judges. This means that videographers must position them at an ideal angle so that the formation and grips can be seen for it to count. Also, the performers must not be too little on the screen (which can happen if the videographer is too far away or using a wide angle lens and a little bit too far). In Formation Skydiving, this requires the videographer to be filming from above at a fairly steep angle and to stay there during the entire dive. Freeflying is more complicated in that each formation has a different optimum angle of view to best show it. Since freefly speed jumps are new to freeflying competition in 2002, all freefly videographers are still getting the hang of how to best show each formation. At the 2002 Collegiates, videographers still required a second briefing with competition in progress to ensure that they worked with the team so that each formation was clearly presented. For example, the videographer needs to show both feet touching simultaneously during the toe-to-toe dock. This means that the videographer needs to be slightly higher than the team members so all four feet are in plain view on the video screen.
The Meet Director, Bryan Burke, worked in a very friendly manner with the competitors, introducing them to possibly their very first skydiving competition with helpful tips and addressing any concerns they had. During the freefly competitors' briefing, he explained some basic history of freeflying in the sport and how things came to be the way they are today.
Bryan reminded competitors that if they had a question to read the rules first and then feel free to ask questions. At the 2nd freefly competitors' briefing, the night of the draw, freefly competitors expressed concern about whether or not they would be able to make their jumps due to the number of jumpers and long wait time at the Christmas boogie. (Skydive Arizona's Christmas boogie was happening concurrently with the 2002 US National Collegiate Parachuting Championships.) Competitors learned that, during competition, they will have an airplane and service devoted to them! Bryan continues to explain basics. For example, there is a lot of noise so its good idea to have a team representative near the PA so that you will not miss calls for your load. You'll hear a competition load number called and listen carefully for your team number.
With event judge, Tamara Koyn, three principle judges, Linda Hardesty, Madolyn Murdock, and June Urschel judged the competition. All of the judges had a National rating in Formation Skydiving and were able to use their Formation Skydiving judging skills to judge the Test Freefly Event. This event is unique from the other Artistic Events in that every round was like speed freeflying round five as described in the Artistic Events competition rules. The freefly speed round is judged very similar to Formation Skydiving. This allowed using the same Omniskore! electronic scoring system that is commonly used in judging Formation Skydiving.
Omniskore! was easily configured according to the Test Freefly Event rules, except for a small detail for which there was an easy work-around. In the Freefly Event, a failure to show separation between formations results in a 1 point deduction whereas a NJ or a busted formation results in a 0. (Unlike the freefly speed round, a formation bust and an inter bust in Formation Skydiving are treated the same and Omniskore! is programmed accordingly.) An omitted formation results in a 1 point deduction. The judges gave a score differentiating between inter bust (I), formation bust (O), not judgeable (J), and scoring formation (/ or -). If there was an inter bust that collated as such, there was the option to change that to an omitted formation symbol, which causes the Omniskore! system to properly calculate the jump score. Omniskore! allows entering a comment for an omitted formation, therefore it was possible to label it as a busted inter where appropriate. The Omniskore! system functioned flawlessly during the judging process.
At the completion of all five rounds of the Freefly Event, there was a tie between Team 502 and Team 503 for second place, both teams scoring 3 points each. The Artistic Events rules (Section 6 from the 2002 USPA SCM) were referenced. Section 6-1.16.C.1., referencing the highest scoring free round, does not apply. Section 6-1.16.C.2. states that, "If this technique does not break all ties, the Chief Judge may assert additional qualifications to decide the top three places." It was decided that the highest score on any individual round will break the tie. Team 503 was awarded second place and Team 502 was awarded third place.
Detailed competition results can be seen or download from here. Note that this text document is NOT official.
In general, competitors seemed to have enjoyed the competition, but they also had some comments to share.
Apparantly, an earlier version of the Test Freefly Event rules were written with a three round competition. When it was later changed to a five round competition, there were unexpected costs that surprised both the hosting drop zone and the competitors alike. Other events at the 2002 US National Collegiate Parachuting Championships were either three or four rounds.
In order to deal with the variety of skill among teams, at least one competitor suggested that there should be some "curve" applied to the scoring so that everyone has an equal chance. It is natural for students to consider the idea of the "curve" since some professors apply it to their class grading systems.
Competitors expressed that they wished that there was a head-down random formation in the pool.
Competitors feel that 30 seconds working time is too short. However, deciding on the working time is a safety factor. The IPC is considering reducing the working time for the speed freefly round from 45 to 35 seconds even with the required exit altitude of 13,000 feet AGL. For a Cessna DZ that may be holding the US National Collegiate Parachuting Championships in the future, the working time of 30 seconds may be too long to be safe.