CLOVERDALE, Calif. — Streaking through an airborne slalom course above Northern California Oct. 24-25, Andy Farrington of the United States fought off a fierce challenge from an international field of 40 men and women from 18 countries to claim his second consecutive Red Bull Aces championship.
The event saw skydivers wearing wingsuits and racing through a slalom course of gates suspended thousands of feet in the air (see photos below).
American Noah Bahnson had a repeat second place in the championship that takes the concept of ski cross to the skies, while a newcomer to the Red Bull Aces podium, Matt Gerdes, completed the American sweep in third.
With wing suit flying, skydivers exit a plane or helicopter wearing special jumpsuits that shape the human body into an airfoil (or human wing), creating lift and, with it, human flight.
The winguits allow their pilots to zoom forward at a three-to-one ratio, meaning for every foot they fall, they advance forward 3 feet. By manipulating their bodies — streamlining them to speed up, for example — their aerobatic agility is similar to that of other non-motorized aircraft.
The Red Bull Aces is the world’s first-ever wingsuit four-cross competition, with athletes racing four at a time through a one mile-long slalom course made of five 112-foot long gates suspended thousands of feet in the
Athletes jump in heats of four from a civilian Bell Huey helicopter at an altitude of 8,000 feet above sea level, and must weave between five gates positioned at descending levels between 6,500 feet and 3,500 feet. All the gates are equipped with GPS positioning, and the competitors each wear a GPS transmitter to determine whether they pass through the gates properly.
The winner is based not only on how quickly the finish line is crossed, but also on how many gates he/she correctly passes through. The athletes then pull their parachutes and descend under canopy back to the takeoff area.