Mon, Sep 26, 2011
SSG Joe Abeln Takes Overall Top Honors
The 2011 USPS Nationals of Canopy Piloting has officially come
to an end. The competition was held at Skydive Spaceland in
Rosharon, TX. This year two members of the Golden Knights competed
against 48 other skydivers from across the US. SFC Greg Windmiller,
a seasoned canopy piloting competitor, faced off against 33 jumpers
in the Open class. SSG Joe Abeln, competing in his first Nationals
of Canopy Piloting, competed against 17 in the Advanced class.
SSG Joe Abeln
The Golden Knight Canopy Piloting Team
arrived a week early to take advantage of several training jumps on
the largest “Swoop Pond” in the country. During the
training jumps SFC Windmiller offered coaching and video debriefs
to SSG Abeln and several other jumpers competing in their first
On Tuesday a northern California jumper miscalculated his first
turn at Skydive Spaceland and struck the water with a high rate of
speed. The Golden Knights Canopy Piloting Team assisted the
jumper out of the water and assessed his condition. The Golden
Knights recommended that he should seek medical attention but the
jumper refused. After a short time elapsed the GK Canopy Piloting
Team and another competitor Brandon Coates who is a MD reassessed
the jumper and insisted on taking him to the hospital. He
reluctantly agreed and the Golden Knights drove him to the
hospital. Once there he was treated for life threatening injuries.
With the help of the Golden Knights and Brandon Coates the jumper
is making a full recovery.
Thursday was the first day of the competition and started out early
with a 0730 take off. All of the jumpers were eager to get
started knowing that by the afternoon the winds would be above
limitations. The Speed event was ran first. The jumpers fly as fast
as they can below five feet high course markers with a 75 degree
carve. The jumper sets off an electronic sensor entering and
leaving the course marking the time it takes to fly from the entry
gate to the exit gate. Each jumper performs three jumps in each
event. SFC Windmiller had the fastest time of the meet with a
blistering 2.472 second run. After the Speed event was finished the
jumpers had a short break will the Zone Accuracy course was set
SFC Greg Windmiller
During the Zone Accuarcy event the
canopy pilots drag their toe across four water gates then try to
land standing up in one of the scoring zones. Unfortunately after
the first round the winds had picked up and put the competition on
hold until the next day.
On Friday morning the jumpers again started out with a 7:30 wheels
up call. The day started out with the distance event where the
jumpers simply fly below a five feet high gate then try to fly as
far as they can. The winds throughout the day increased to right at
the wind limits of the meet, 7 meters per second. This made it very
difficult for the pilots to set up and maneuver through the gates.
The weather once again kept all the jumpers on the ground. Several
of the competitors were awarded rejumps due to the winds exceeding
the limits within 30 seconds of their runs. The rejumps would have
to wait until Saturday when the meet would resume.
On Saturday only two rounds of Zone Accuracy and the rejumps were
left. Mother nature once again let her presence known bringing some
much needed rain to the area, although briefly pausing the final
day of the competition. By early Saturday afternoon all of the
jumps were complete and an award ceremony and banquet were left to
close out the 2011 Nationals of Canopy Piloting.
At the award ceremony, medals were given for each event and
overall. SSG Joe Abeln was very excited to take home the Bronze
medal in the Distance event, the Gold Medal in the Zone
Accuracy event, and the Overall Gold Medal for the competition. An
impressive showing for his first US Nationals.
SFC Greg Windmiller finished 8th out of 33 of the best canopy
pilots in the country. His top 10 finish earned him a spot on the
US Dubai Cup team that will head over seas in November.
(Photos courtesy Golden Knights)
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