Completing a skydive had always been on my to-do list, but I'd never done anything about it until January when I learnt about Skydive UK Ltd's World Record Attempt, which was to complete more than 251 tandem skydives in 24 hours! To me that sounded like the perfect opportunity to complete one of my life's ambitions whilst raising money for Rowcroft.
Initially I was a little scared at the idea of fundraising - I had to commit to raising at least £395 (£250 of this covers the cost of the jump) - but I was amazed at how receptive people were once I told them I was skydiving for Rowcroft. Before the jump date came around I had easily surpassed my minimum target!
On Saturday 21 June, I arrived at Dunkeswell airfield at 11am and was quickly checked in. Later on, we were taken to the training area where an instructor explained how the jump would work and what our duties were as skydive 'students'. This training was informative and a little bit of humour helped to put us all at ease.
Shortly afterwards I was called to the preparation area to meet my instructor and to get kitted out with all the equipment; Mal, my instructor had completed over 3000 skydives so I knew I was in very safe hands. Even though it was a warm day I opted to wear one of their boiler suits as Mal told me the air temperature at 15,000 feet would be around 20 degrees colder than ground temperature. He then tightly strapped me into my tandem harness and I was ready to board the plane.
The plane, although small, felt very secure and we escalated to our jump height within nine minutes. My nerves only started to kick in when Mal showed me that we were at 10,000 feet on his altimeter watch, 'only 5000 feet more to go', I thought, whilst looking out of the window! The amazing views went on for miles as we ascended; the weather was perfect with only a few small clouds in the sky. Soon before the plane door opened, Mal secured our harnesses together and ran over the jumping process again to ensure I was feeling up to the challenge.
As I was first to board the plane, I sat and watched the others exit the plane and then before I knew it, it was my turn! We shuffled forward towards the door of the plane and I felt the rush of cold air in my face. I then worked to get into the optimum tandem position by kneeling at the door and interlocking my hands under my chest harness strap; I had a sneak look at the sky below before resting my head back on the instructor's shoulder to complete the position. I closed my eyes as Mal leant forward and we dropped out of the plane. My heart sank but soon my dread was replaced with the feeling of flying when Mal tapped me on the shoulder three times, instructing me that I could open out my arms.
My senses were flooded with the sound and the feel of the air rushing past; I was now in the minute long freefall. I felt my mouth billowing in the wind, which did make me smile (something not overly easy to do at 15,000 feet!). Before long it was time to open the parachute so just as we fell through the only cloud on our descent Mal pulled the cord and we shot back up through the cloud. Going through the cloud was a feeling I will never forget, it felt almost calming as the cool water vapor seeped through my boiler suit.
When the parachute was open, Mal and I were able to communicate easily and although I was practically speechless I did manage to shout a few 'wows' and 'amazing'. He then asked whether I wanted to steer the parachute canopy and gave me the cords for me to control, we glided through the air and even spun the canopy in a circle (which made me dizzier than the freefall).
As we approached the ground I waved to my parents who were filming me from the landing field's edge and practiced lifting my legs for the landing to ensure they hadn't turned to jelly! We then swooped in for landing and I was back to reality with a little bump, I had my photo taken with my jumper number once we'd landed, to ensure my jump counted towards the World Record attempt.
I was on an ultimate high as I was greeted by my boyfriend and parents, knowing I had raised over £500 for Rowcroft and ticked one thing off of my life's to-do list! The day was an overall success as Skydive UK Ltd jumped 279 people (13 of which were raising funds for Rowcroft) in less than 24 hours, smashing the previous World Record by 28 people!
Rowcroft has its Superhero Skydive date on Saturday 28 September so if my words have given you the little needed push to sign up then please do! You won't regret it: www.rowcrofthospice.org.uk/Skydive
Skydive Student 133