The Canopy Piloting competition season concluded in early October in Raeford, North Carolina. The 3rd Annual Sunpath Products Canopy Piloting Open was held at Skydive Paraclete XP.
The Canopy Piloting team, Sgt. 1st Class Greg Windmiller, Sgt. 1st Class Joe Abeln, Sgt. 1st Class Jared Zell, as well as Staff Sgt. Blake Gaynor of Gold Team and Staff Sgt. Jon Lopez of the Tandem Team were there to represent the Golden Knights.
When the competition started, the weather forecast for the weekend did not look great. Director, John Nolan and drop zone manager, Kirk Verner made a decision to complete as many rounds as possible on Friday. The light tail wind made the first event very challenging.
Zone Accuracy would start the meet off but the first two rounds were slightly different than the normal event.
A large, negative scoring zone occupied several of the normal landing zones before the perfect score box. This made competitors decide to opt for the box or layup short.
The tail wind made it difficult for competitors to gage their speed and the scores were lower than expected from most of the jumpers.
After two rounds of zone accuracy, the event switched to a new event — carving distance.
This time, the tail wind was favorable and long distance runs were put down by most of the competitors. Zell flew his round two run 148 meters, just three meters short of the furthest distance of the round.
Windmiller finished in fourth place in distance, while Abeln finished tenth.
Lopez, competing in the advanced class, also finished fourth in distance.
The next three rounds would be the speed event. As the tail wind picked up, the speed event saw some of the fastest times in competition.
Competitors were traveling over 80 mph, just five feet from the ground. After three rounds of speed, Windmiller was standing on top of the leader board with a first place finish.
As sunset approached, the meet director attempted to get the final round of zone accuracy completed but fell short. By the end of the day, 37 competitors finished eight-in-a-half rounds of competition.
The weather wasn’t perfect but it was just enough to get the jumpers out to finish the competition. A 3,500-foot cloud ceiling and light rain limited the jumpers to one per pass.
One by one, the jumpers exited the caravan and ran the zone accuracy course.
The last jumper finished just as the rain began to increase. In the end, Windmiller finished fifth overall, first in speed and fourth in distance. Lopez finished his second competition with a third place overall and a second place in zone accuracy.