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<font color='#0000FF'>Hi all, not really a diving report but thought it might interest some of you, i was a member of the diving support team for this event.

We even saw the World Record for constant weight get broken, enjoy.

Laurence

It all started for me back in April, when I was asked by Steve Copeland, if I would be interested in helping out at a special event in Cyprus at the end May. His company Deep Down Diving had been asked to provide the Safety Diving Team.

I was told I would be a member of 20 strong team of divers from the UK, USA, Cyprus and Holland who would be providing safety cover for the Sony Freediving Championships, been held in Cyprus. This was the first time the event had been held there and the first time Cyprus had had any form of International competition staged in there country.

So I was duly booked into the Golden Arches Hotel in Limmasol, which is a beautiful part of the country, Cyprus is a very quite country very much set in there ways, they only have 2 speeds in Cyprus, slow and slower except on the roads, it’s like Brands Hatch.

I arrived on Friday 23rd of May, before most of the other divers, there were of course most of the other Monkeys around, that’s what all the people who were part of the team called, Monkeys. This was from the Riggers, Officials, Safety Divers, so anyone who was not a Competitor.

On that first night I met a great guy called Howard Jones, Howard is a Freediver himself and the Editor of Freediver magazine, one of the largest Freediving mags in the world. He also teaches Freediving and runs his school from Mount Baton in Plymouth. In fact the British team Practise in Plymouth Sound, all year, in wet suits, they must be nuts.

So once the rest of the team arrived, on the Saturday we had a team meeting. Present at this meeting were of course the safety divers and also the contest officials from the body who were running the event, AIDA. There were 4 judges and a hyperbaric Doctor, who was also the doc for the French national team. The judges took us divers through the basic rules and regs of Freediving. For this event the diver will be tethered to the lines by a 1 Metre long lanyard, a lot of people were not happy at first but during the competition, some were very glad they used them. Once the diver starts his/her descent they must not use the rope in any way to aid there descent, they can touch it to use as a guide but they must not pull themselves down or up. On the bottom of the rope is a round 56KG weight, just prior to there descent one of the officials will drop down the line using a snap clip, a numbered tag. A tag would be dropped every 4th minute and a new diver would descend every 5th minute.
This type of Freediving is called Constant Weight; they only use weight belts, no sleds.

The diver is allowed to use the rope to stop his descent, remember this is breath hold diving and these guys are descending very, very fast. He is allowed to only touch the rope once, to stop his descent, he then pulls the tag and then must let go of the rope and start his ascent, one of the rules that AIDA use is that the diver must be on video when he grabs the tag and starts to come up, so this was another job the Safety Divers had to do, use an umbilical video camera, surface supplied and it was fun. If we saw at any time a Diver touch the rope as a means of descent or Ascent, we were to make a note of the number on his back and report him to the judges when we surfaced, there were a few who lost points through grabbing the rope, the judges also had a very large TV which was linked to a video so they could review the footage if they needed to.

One of the other rules is it is simply not enough to have done the dive and surfaced, the diver must surface and be in control of his faculties, so when the Diver comes up he must give clear and precise OK signals to all 4 judges, there are 3 on the barge and one in the water at all times.
If he is unable to give a good signal or looks a bit shaky or his eyes are glazed he could lose points, Yellow card, or be expelled from the competition, Red Card. All the judges give there own cards, but if any judge gives a Red, that’s it there out. And then neither the diver nor his team will get any points

So as you can see simply completing the dive is not enough and there were a fair few who got Red cards and some that didn’t get to the surface conscious, there were a total of 26 resuscitations on the surface during the week, not too bad considering there were 136 competitors from 35 country’s.

So once we had the basics it was time for us to sort out just how we 20 were going to cover an average of 45 Feedivers per day, including some divers who were going to attempt to break the current World Record of 90M, Marcus Lambert one of the deep support divers and a very good technical diver started to go to work on his laptop, the problem is, this is a competition after all, and there are lots of mental games and the like going on.

We didn’t know what the divers were going to try and do until 4pm the day before they were going to do it. And it was a nightmare of logistics to make sure that all the Freedivers had Safety cover regardless of the depth they were going to attempt, but Marcus and Steve did a marvellous job of sorting it all out, they gave us very accurate times of what depth we were going to and what’s more at what time.

The run times had to be precise, we were diving everyday, sometimes 3 times a day, for 3 days solid, we could not afford to have loads of divers going into deco, so if your bottom time was 20mins, that was it, your replacement should be there when your 20mins is up, and all the shallow support diver 40M and up were on air, we could not use Nitrox, if he isn’t you must ascend, otherwise it throws the timings out for the rest of the day and possibly the week, also under AIDA rules all Freedivers diving below 20m must have a Safety Diver using Scuba, under 20M the Freedivers become safety divers for the competitors. So this could mean if a diver wasn’t where he was supposed to be, when he was supposed to be, the Freediver he was covering would be mighty annoyed as his dive would not have counted

So it’s a testament to the work, professionalism and good Dive Marshalling that during 3 hectic days of competition, there was not so much as a minute’s delay, or dive voided because of the safety divers been late.

On the Sunday it was practise time, so off we went on the boat loaned to us by Dive In, which is owned by Clive, if you ever go to Cyprus then I highly recommend Dive In, he has 5 shops all over the island, 9 boats, 30 staff and his own walk in Recompression chamber, he is well kited out for the Technical and Rebreather diver. The boat was a huge thing with twin jet engines, no props and very comfy. He also had a great crew on board, some of which joined us as support divers. All in all a great bloke and a top crew.

Our base of operations was a WW2 US tank transporter, this thing is huge, its just a flat deck with a large bridge at the back and a moon pool by the bridge, shame it was a little too small for the divers to use. This was then anchored with 4 anchors and did not move, on one day it was blowing a force 6 and the waves just went right past, it was solid, and because of its size our boat was moored off one corner, so the current was pushing us away from the barge, but we were protected from the wind by the barge. On the barge were a total of 12 practise lines all at different depths, but all the lines used a pulley so they could be adjusted.

During the practise dives we saw the World Record broken twice, but they didn’t count, yet.

So on the Tuesday the competition started in earnest, with all of us knowing our part of the script and once it started it was like a well oiled machine, there you are sat on the boat, waiting for your time, your time might be 10 am, you must be at your assigned depth at 10 am, so ok how long will it take you to get there, 2-3 mins, so ok the Marshal wants to see your head disappear at 9.57 at the latest, that’s how tight the timings were, and not only did we have to support the Freedivers, we also had to support the Deep Support Divers who were supporting the Freedivers, sounds easy doesn’t it. So some of us were assigned to the Freediver, some of us were assigned to the Deep Divers, and again we had to be in the right place at the right time.

We had a superb deco station that was setup prior to our arrival, deco bars at 6, 9 & 12 all with spare air bail out cylinders; also we had a 100% oxygen bar set up directly from a J cylinder on the barge, which fed 4 regs, for the deep support divers.

We then had a bail out cylinder of air at 10M intervals all the way down to 50m, from then on it was Trimix bail out for the deep support.

They were the real stars of the show, they were Steve & Jeannette Copeland, Marcus Lambert and Axel Schoeller, Steve and Marcus used a KISS Rebreather, while Jeannette used an Inspiration and last but not  least is Axel Schoeller, with his twin 20’s and 2 7lt side slung OC setup,  some of you may have heard of him, he is one half of the team that is going to attempt a 350M OC dive next year, and yes I did say 350 Metres not feet.

Some of these were in the water for well over 2 hours, more so for Alex as he was on OC, Jeannette got the best job, on the last day of the competition, Thursday, 2 people were going for the World Record, which stood at 90M. They were Martin Stepanek and Herbert Nitsch at the start of the day. It’s something special to watch these divers go through the motions before a dive. There sport is very much based on been relaxed and calm and slowing there heart beat, some of them can slow there heart down to less than 40 beats a min, now that’s impressive.

They will start there routine about 15-20 mins before they dive, they lie on the surface and breath slowly and deeply, when it is time for them to go to the competition line, it is one of the support freedivers who takes them there, they don’t use any energy at all in moving, the Safety diver pulls them all the way to the end of the barge, not far from our boat, so we got the best of the seats in the house.

When they reach the line some will stay face up, others will breath through a snorkel, some will hold onto the line, they are then given an official time and then have 1 min  before there descent, they are then given a 30 second time and they must start there descent within that 30 seconds or lose points, it is during this time that I saw something amazing, the diver would, so we thought, Hyperventilate, which goes against all that we as divers were taught, but there not, what there doing it breathing in, stopping, then breathing in again, its called packing.

What there doing is filling there lungs, chest, throat and even mouth with as much air as they can hold, the average man has a lung volume of about 6-8lt, these guys and gals can double there lung volume, some of them have a lung volume of 14lt, that’s an amazing amount of air. Then they would suddenly duck dive and off they go, they use 2 types of fins, extra long fins just like the type Scuba divers use and Mono fins, which are triangle shaped with holes for both feet, there is no independent movement of the feet, they move there body like a mermaid, or the Man From Atlantis, and boy do they move. Some of these people were doing 80+ metres and were down and back in under 3mins, now that’s fast.

Onto the World Record attempt, first to go was Herbert Nitsch, Jeannette was his safety diver,  the 30 second time is given he takes a last breath flips his feet in the air and he’s gone,  the divers on the deco stage saw him go past, the 40M diver watched him go past as did the middle support divers at about 60m, Jeannette saw him coming from about 40M, and he was coming down fast, 40M, 50M 70M then BANG, he violently shook his head from side to side, he started to go off away from the guide line, lucky he was tethered to it,  he turned around and bolted for the surface, something was going very badly wrong.

Now perhaps your thinking how we would get a diver in distress up from 60+M of water, what you as well, well we just cannot bring him up, the diver above you would have to grab him and take him to the next diver in the line, very slow.

So we used some good old Buddy delayed SMB’s with a 1LT inflation bottle, the idea been to attach the SMB to the divers lanyard, crack the bottle and send him hurtling towards the surface, he wont have a problem with the bends,

We tested our Freediver safety device on our victim, I mean volunteer, and boy did he come out, almost up to his knees, and that was only from 40M.

Sorry I digress,  2 Freedivers appeared at 30M and helped him to the surface, where we watched as the divers on the surface resuscitated him, they pulled his neck right up as far out the water as possible, opens up the airway, and gave sharp deep breaths, 2, 3,  breaths, he is still not breathing and you could hear a pin drop, then on the 4th breath he opens his eyes and gives an OK signal. And I thought those guys could slow there heart beats down, mine had bloody stopped, along with most of those on the boat and barge, he’s recovered from the water and the doctor attends to him, he’s fine but a little hard of hearing, he had burst his ear drum at 80M.

It may sound callous, but the competition continued, with Martin going next at his allotted time.

Next up was Martin Stepanek, each diver during the competition went down in 5min intervals, Jeannette was waiting for him, and off he goes, he got to 93M his attempted depth,  when he got to the surface and gave his Ok signals we all were waiting with bated breath to see those white card, any yellow’s and it could cost him the record any Red and forget it, one after another the white cards appeared 4 of them, we and the barge let rip, here was the new World Record Constant Weight Freediving holder with a depth of 93M what an impressive achievement.

Not many people get to see a World Record been broken; it was an honour and a privilege to have seen it.

In terms of media, it was a huge event, with media from 20 countries attending, including The Discovery Channel and National Geographic Channel, there was also a team of people who were making a DVD of the event, which will be available world wide, but us Monkey’s get a copy for free, stardom eh.

So there you have it, the first Sony Freediving competition in Cyprus, please go to www.Freediver.co.uk , www.underwaterpics.co.uk and  www.freedivingimages.com  loads of pics of the event, you may even be unlucky enough to see my ugly mug.

I was very lucky to meet some great people on this trip, I got to meet Loic Leferme, the worlds deepest Freediver, when in October of last year set a new World Record in the No Limits division, that’s using a weighted sled to go down and a lift bag back up, of 165 Metres.

Tanya Streeter holds the women’s record with a depth of 160M.
She also holds the women’s World Record in Constant Weight of 70M, but is attempting to do 90M later this year and also holds the Freeimersion women’s record, that’s no fins; they pull themselves down and back up using a rope, with 70M, some lady.


Our time on the event was broken up into very early starts, 5 am, early finishes, then some of the team went off to refill cylinders for the next day.
I would like to thank all the divers in the team, from the deep Support divers, Steve, Jeannette, Marcus and Axel to the midwater support team of Trevor, Graham and Louis, who are stationed with the Armed Forces in Cyprus and Jerone from Holland.

The shallow support divers of Sam, Chris and Neil, also with the Forces, Lars and Martin, to the deco station divers of Andy, Laura, who’s hubby Mark is a member of the British Freediving team and Katja, they had to-do 3 45 min dives per day to man the deco bar, and the water was not that warm, the boat crew of Clive and Neil, Leanne, who helped with the Marshalling and last but not least to Scott, Jay and Nigel who all work for Dive In who were part of the shallow support team and lent a very big hand to the success of the competition.

I hope you have enjoyed this report, there is so much more to tell but not enough room. Cyprus again next year, WOW.

Laurence
 
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