Developing a WINNING suit

Andy Farrington wins the Red Bull Air Race — by Red Bull
Andy Farrington wins the Red Bull Air Race — by Red Bull

We started the Colugo2 project a long time ago. During development we tried a lot of different directions, as some people wanted something that was smaller than the original and further apart from the Aura in terms of surface area. And some people wanted something that was really fast in the skydive environment. Others wanted a more intermediate level suit for BASE.

In February, we had a good working suit. Vincent Descols had been testing it in the Alps all winter, and we were jumping it in the American Southwest at the same time. We were pretty happy, but kept working on it, and then in April we heard about the Red Bull Aces event, and started working on a suit for that. We decided that the best platform to base this new race suit off of would be the Colugo 2 protos that we had been working on.

Because it was born from this racing research, the C2 is very different from any other suit we have designed

Andy Farrington

At that time, I was in the Pacific NW and jumping a lot at Kapowsin with Andy Farrington. Andy is, in my opinion, something like the Michael Jordan of skydiving. The main difference being that he is so humble and so low-key that he doesn’t really care about social media, unlike so many people in the sport; and therefore he remains less talked about. Andy is an incredible pilot and, it turns out, a pretty smart guy as well. He had some very good ideas about how to make our design faster and more efficient. We ended up incorporating almost all of them into the suit for the race.

During April and May, we learned so much from this testing with Andy that it seemed impossible to release the Colugo 2 yet. Every prototype had information. Some of the protos sucked, others were good, but every time we learned something important. We put a lot of energy into it, and the C2 was therefore delayed until after the race.

Colugo 2 leading edge
Colugo 2 leading edge

Squirrel City

There were almost 20 Squirrel pilots at the race. I managed to deliver about 15 suits to them, literally three days before the event. So they had no time to really train. But everyone loved the suit, and Squirrel pilots were winning heats with them every day of the race. Our team is mostly BASE jumpers and amateur skydivers, but we had several pilots eliminate some of the biggest names in the sport on their 5th and 6th jump in this suit. This was due mainly to the fact that the pilots were great, and I’m not saying the suit is magic or anything – but it is undeniably fast and relatively intuitive to fly. In the end, Andy was the clear winner, and we had a lot of Squirrels in the top 10 and top 20.

Colugo 2 front
Colugo 2 front

Comparative Testing

We tend to do a lot of comparative side-by-side testing. Instruments aren’t nearly as useful for determining performance because there are too many variables on a skydive  – vertical and horizontal movement in the atmosphere can create huge differences in numbers from jump to jump. But when you are flying next to a guy you have done 100 jumps with, and you feel more or less of an advantage in the suit, you can tell whether or not it is working better. We also backed that up with GPS data, and the flysight is an excellent tool that we all use.

We flew with a lot of different suits - we have flown every current suit on the market – and we learned very early on that only one other wingsuit on the market was competitive with the Colugo 2. In fact, there was a surprising gap in performance between this one suit and pretty much everything else out there. So during the last month of testing we focused hard on beating this one design, since we knew that almost all of the 'pros' would be flying it and every other suit was significantly slower. We examined its weaknesses and tried our best to create a suit that would have an edge on it, specifically. In the end I think we did okay. All of the Squirrel pilots who flew it were wearing big grins during the entire event.

Laurant Fret, Julian Boulle, Andy Farrington, Rob Heron — by Jörg Mitter/Red Bull
Laurant Fret, Julian Boulle, Andy Farrington, Rob Heron — by Jörg Mitter/Red Bull

Summary

Because it was born from this racing research, the C2 is very different from any other suit we have designed. The production version is slightly more comfortable and has some features that make it more appropriate for BASE and recreational skydiving, but it has all of the features that made it fast in the Red Bull Aces event. Mini-ribs at the leading edge, a different leading edge shape with new materials, a profile that we have not used on any other suit, and a leg wing inlet system and profile. I for one am very proud of the fact that its performance was proven in clear terms.

For more information see Colugo 2 on Squirrel

Big Suit Performance, Little Suit Handling…
The Colugo 2 has the highest ratio of comfort to performance that we have ever felt in a wingsuit. No other suit delivers so much speed and power with such ease of use – every pilot who has experienced this suit so far has said the same thing to us: It feels and flies like a little suit, but the speed and performance is equal to the most advanced suits out there

Hatch front
Hatch front
Hatch back (!)
Hatch back (!)

The HATCH

The Hatch, as its name suggests, is for brand new winged flyers, and ridiculously easy to fly. Where did it come from?…

When we started testing designs in preparation to release the Swift, we focused on a design that pilots would not get tired of flying after a few months. We wanted to make something with range and power and quick starts in the BASE environment. What this meant, in the end, was that the Swift design had more surface area and a more powerful profile than most other beginner wingsuits. So when it came to first flights, it worked best for talented beginners with plenty of experience.

Our instructors asked us for something simpler, easier, and smaller. Eventually, we caved in, and the Hatch is the result. In addition to being smaller than the Swift, it also has a pretty cool change to the wing root design that adds stability without reducing range and speed. It’s very fun and easy to backfly, for more experienced pilots, and has enough glide to flock with any intermediate suit on the market. Of course, no cutaways are needed and it’s a simple movement to reach your brakes after deployment. The pull is also very clean.

The Hatch is basically the easiest wingsuit out there, perfect for beginners. But it’s also fun, agile, and versatile. More experienced wingsuit pilots searching for a low-surface area suit for beginner backflying and acrobatics and basic flocking applications will love the range and comfort of the Hatch. We’re excited about it and so far it has been very well received by some of the most experienced wingsuit instructors in the sport.

For more information see Hatch 2 on Squirrel

Latest Squirrel release: The Snatch toroidal pilot chute

This article was originally published on skydivemag

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