We meet one of the top competitiors in high-flying event
Now in its third instalment, the Dubai International Parachuting Championship and Gulf Cup is creating a bigger buzz than ever, with some 800 participants signed up to launch themselves out of planes over the Arabian Gulf as part of the competition, which runs from November 29 to December 9, with the first contests scheduled to take place on December 1.
Hosted by the Emirates Aviation Association and Skydive Dubai under the patronage of HH Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai, the championship is viewed as one of ‘the’ parachuting events on the skydiving calendar. There are few places on Earth where professional divers can compete over such an impressive, instantly recognisable landscape, and the photographs – some from the last two competitions can be seen on these pages – really speak for themselves. Participants will be flying in from 43 countries around the world to compete for cash prizes, top spots in the championship and the Gulf Cup, though as the name suggests, the latter contest is only open to competitors from the Gulf region. Competitors will battle it out in canopy piloting, four-way formation skydiving (with women’s, men’s and mixed teams), four-way canopy formation and accuracy contests (individual and team).
Skydive Dubai staff member Marat Leras, 39, from Brazil, will be competing again this year, having won the speed category of the canopy piloting contest in the second championship (in January this year) after travelling at an exhilarating average of speed of 105kmph.
After being inspired by Patrick Swayze’s skydiving in 1991 action film Point Break, Leras was determined to take up the thrilling sport, and did his first jump in Brazil soon after; by 1992 he was a certified diver. So, will he be looking to break his record this time around? ‘Insha’Allah! I’ve been practising a lot to break it, and using a new parachute for better performance,’ the daredevil explains. With 21 years of professional skydiving experience behind him, Leras is determined to be the overall canopy piloting champion this time, and says he wants to ‘represent Skydive Dubai as best as I can’.
Based on Leras’s testimony, it sounds as though Skydive Dubai’s founder, Sheikh Hamdan, is fast becoming a star of the skydiving world. ‘The most exciting thing, in my whole career, is to watch Sheikh Hamdan flying his parachute. He is on a level I have never seen before. After 21 years as a professional, jumping all over the world, I’ve never seen anybody piloting like him, and I’m not just saying that because he’s my boss. Ask anyone else, and they will tell you the same thing. He’s very talented.’
His advice to visiting participants, however, is less related to technique, and more to attire. ‘The skydiving community is pretty liberal, and you have a lot of Western divers visiting the dropzone – last time we had to ask a few of our friends to put some clothes on because they were walking around in Speedos! So guys, don’t forget where you are – it’s the UAE, man, put some clothes on,’ he laughs.
‘The best thing is watching the faces of all these people arriving from other countries, whether it’s after they land, or just after they get here,’ he continues. They’re like: “You guys have the most beautiful place in the world!” Everybody goes “wow” when they get here.’
The competition is open to spectators and promises several days of eye-popping action – to keep your stomach lurching, there will be daily air shows as well as on-site activities, all open to the public. There will be food and beverages supplied on site to keep enthusiasts and spectators refreshed, and great views of the competition from the centre’s restaurant. Entry is free all day for the full two weeks of the event. Free. 9am-sunset, November 29-December 9. Skydive Dubai, near Habtoor Grand Beach Resort & Spa, www.skydivedubai.ae (050 153 3222).
Throughout the event, there will be a photography competition open to all, so whether you’re a seasoned pap or just a sporting enthusiast, take your camera down to the sidelines for a chance to win. The competition is all about capturing the real essence of skydiving as an extreme sport, as well as the overall atmosphere of the event. Photos should be submitted to the competition committee on-site during the event. See www.skydivedubai.ae for info.