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On April 5, the skies above Dubai’s landmark The Palm will be raining man as Ernesto Gainza attempts to break a world record by skydiving with the smallest parachute in the world.
With the current record held by Luigi Cani, who made three consecutive jumps in 2000, 2004 and 2008 with a 37sqft canopy, Gainza will be downsizing by 2sqft in an attempt to smash the current title using a 35sqft parachute.
During a chat with Khaleej Times just days before the big event, Venezuela-born Gainza admits to feeling “a little nervous”, but is hoping his name will be in lights in the Guinness World Records come late afternoon on April 5.
“My parachute hasn’t actually arrived yet which worries me a little bit, but hopefully it’ll be here on time. This will be me fulfilling one of my lifelong dreams, so I am so happy right now.”
And if you take a look back in history, it’s obvious why the butterflies are taking over Gainza’s stomach.
“Some people have tried it before with smaller parachutes and they lost their lives. One man tried with a 27sqft canopy but sadly died,” he tells Khaleej Times.
A risky business
Calling Cani his inspiration, Gainza says despite downsizing by only two feet, the risk of defaults developing mid-flight increase considerably. And, he says he will be exposed to massive amounts of G-force.
“Because it is such a small parachute, it’s like flying a fighter jet. Any small mistake can have big consequences.”
During an earlier practice session using a 39sqft canopy, Gainza says he realised just how vital each movement was, when one slight move nearly threw his whole direction off course.
“With a normal canopy, you have to use the pull strings to move from left to right, but in one practice, I turned my head to the right, and my whole direction changed. Smaller canopies respond to any body movement so it’s important to stay regimented when I’m up there. I have to be like a robot,” he says.
Asked if he has experienced any close calls during practice, Gainza recalls a jump he made earlier this month on his 35th birthday.
“I had a very special gift on my birthday,” he says with a sarcastic tone in his voice.
“My parachute twisted mid-flight and I was hit with 4.5 g of force for two seconds. It was crazy. I had to release the small parachute and use the second back up one. It was not a fun experience.”
The big day
On the day of the jump, Gainza will have a total of three parachutes on board including the 35sqft canopy, a 110sqft reserve parachute, then a back-up canopy. But he is hoping parachutes two and three will stay tucked away in his backpack.
His wife, who he affectionately calls his “better half”, Gainza says, is hoping this will be his last daredevil stunt for a while.
“My wife comes to all my practices and she stands there sweating, grabbing onto other people when I’m up in the air. She is a little bit nervous and keeps telling me ‘this is your last stunt’, but of course, I can’t promise that it will be,” he laughs.
And with his Skydive Dubai colleagues backing him all the way, Gainza has even had some messages of support from avid skydive fan and Dubai Crown Prince Shaikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum.
“I get good updates from Shaikh Hamdan and he constantly sends his well wishes to me.”
So, when his two feet firmly land back on the green grass of the Skydive Dubai landing patch, what’s first on the agenda for the adrenalin junkie stunt diver?
“Sweets. I have fought for over a year to keep my body weight down and it’s been hard because I love my sweets. Everyone keeps telling me they are going to fill me till I burst.”
Gainza will be leaping from the plane’s door in an attempt to make history at 3pm over the Dubai Marina Skydive Dubai base. If you fancy showing your support, head down there on April 5 and experience the rush from the comfort of the ground.
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