My attempt to get into the Guinness Book of World Records
"When the fountains of idealism run dry one weighs the odds with emotion and accepts reality." Leon Uris
A friend wrote the above quotation on the back of the picture at the top right which was taken minutes before I started the record attempt.
May, 2001 marks the 30th anniversary of my attempt to break the world record for the number of parachute jumps in 24 hours. At the time, the record was 200. It was my plan to make 240 jumps. One jump every 6 minutes. 10 jumps per hour. For twenty-four hours.
I made 89 jumps in eleven and a half hours with most of them at night. We started at 6:00 PM so that I would be most awake and alert during the night jumps. Unfortunately I never made it through the full 24 hours.
I got sick.
Again and again and again. Actually, I got sick on the second jump and most jumps after that. I stayed sick during the entire jump period of almost twelve hours. Fortunately, for me, Dr. Walter Cavagnaro, of Woodbine, had the good sense to keep me from jumping after eleven and a half hours of getting sick.
I often like to joke about holding a world record that no one has attempted to break in over thirty years: "The world record for parachuting night pukes."
I got the idea for 'bragging' about such a nonsensical record from this sketch made for me by astronaut Marsha Ivins who was the very first jump pilot I had when I opened my parachute school in Woodbine, NJ. Marsha flew for me while she was in graduate school. Because she was attending school in Colorado, she wasn't able to fly for the record attempt. Marsha operated the robotic arm on NASA's STS-98 Atlantis mission on February 7-20, 2001. Unfortunately, over the years we have lost contact. [Marsha, send me email!]
Why would anyone want to jump out of a perfectly good airplane even once...let alone 240 times in one day?
I wanted to jump out of an airplane 240 times for a number of reasons.
I had three goals. I accomplished two of them. Unfortunately, I failed in regard to the main event but I accomplished what was really the most important. I gained enormous publicity for the sport of parachuting in general and my schools specifically. Attendance at the schools more than tripled because of the record attempt. People were jumping at the chance to parachute.
Woodbine is located in Southern New Jersey. It is inland from the ocean and the Delaware Bay. It is south of Atlantic City and north of Cape May. On the East side of town there is an old WWII military airport with three long concrete runways. The Woodbine airport is situated about three miles from a heavily traveled sea shore route, Route 47, and about five miles from the very heavily traveled Garden State Parkway.
Television, radio and newspaper coverage prior to the record attempt was amazing. Numerous TV and radio people interviewed me. Three television crews and a number of reporters attended the actual jump. I had lots of coverage.
Although I may want to forget getting sick hanging in a parachute over the flat, desolate landscape around Woodbine, I always want to remember the night jumps after midnight. After the 11:00 PM TV news had told people in the Delaware Valley that some guy was jumping out of an airplane a whole bunch of times out in the sticks of South Jersey.
The reason my jumps after midnight are so memorable is because of the cars. Hundreds, maybe even thousands, of cars filled with people from all over who drove to Woodbine to see me. As I hung in the harness 1500 feet above the airport I could see two lines of bumper to bumper car lights.
The cars stretched as far as I could see. There was one enormous line of headlights coming from the Parkway and another huge line of headlights coming from route 47. Miles and miles of lights. An amazing site. A traffic jam of people who were coming to see me.
Unfortunately, they didn't get to see me break the world record for the number of parachute jumps in a 24 hour period.
Early in morning, just as the sun was coming up, Dr. Walter Cavagnaro, a small town doctor with a very big heart, had the good sense to tell me to stop. Dr. Cavagnaro was there, not because I asked him to be, but because he had heard about my attempt from local town people. He stayed as my personal doctor.
Fortunately, for me, he had the good sense to talk me into stopping...and continuing to live. He realized I was delirious from the effects of eleven hours of dehydration which was caused by my continual and repeated regurgitation. Nothing I drank or ate would stay in my stomach. The only thing that finally stayed down was a foul tasting potassium substance which he gave me to increase my chemistry and re-hydrate me.
Thank you, Dr. Cavagnaro, where ever you are! And many thanks to the fine men and women of the Woodbine Rescue Squad.
I hope that my daughters, Renee and Rebecca, and my grandchildren, Erin and Neal, can appreciate what I did and what I subjected myself to that night. I hope they realize that they can grow from attempting to do what seems impossible...even if they fail.
If you would like to take a look at a few pictures and articles from the record attempt click on the links associated with each.
Newspaper Articles and Pictures
If anyone reading this article knows how I could reach some of the many people who helped me in the record attempt please send email to me here: Sayers@AICommand.com
I'd particularly like to contact...just to say hello after 30 years!...the following folks:
Sadly, Robert C. Cresse, who helped with the record attempt that night, went to the big DZ in the sky a few years ago. Bob Cresse was a man of extraordinary talent both as a pilot and a jump instructor and he could ride a motorcycle like no other man I've known.
If you are a jumper, pilot, reporter or friend who happened to find this web page drop me a line and let me know what is happening in your life: Sayers@AICommand.com
Blue Sky for us all
Airborne! All the way.