Day 8 – Mandy's first variable drop

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In association with Performance FreeDiving International

It’s a good day for training today. We leave from West Bay dock at 8 a.m. for a short trip to a west side deep mooring. After hooking up and getting the sled into place, Doc slips into the water and starts his warm-up. Our diving order is defining itself as Doc, Martin and then Mandy. This’ll change slightly as we move on to only one training dive a day. For now it makes it easier for our safety scuba divers and more importantly, the safety freedivers who need to retrieve the sled.

Joining us today for the first time is Peter Satitpunwaycha from Sunnyvale, CA who arrived the evening before. Peter’s been a longtime member of PFI and involved in the USAA. Once Doc finishes his first of three sled dives it’s Martin turn. The bottom is now at 60m / 197ft, with the weight hanging at 63m / 207ft. Martin dives down strong, strokes eight times and enters the sink phase.

On his way back up we’re soon eye to eye at 20m / 66ft, although I’ve been following him from around 35m / 115ft. I usually meet Martin and Mandy deeper, but I’ll only show myself to them at a pre-set depth so they know exactly what stage they’re at in their dives. I’d hate for them to think that they’ll meet me at 20m / 66ft and suddenly I show up at 35m / 115ft. They’d think they were shallower than they really are. Martin is fine. He’s just made his prerequisite for his constant ballast no-fins attempt, which takes the pressure off a bit. Next up is Mandy.

It’s Mandy’s first day on the sled and in variable ballast. She’s been training very hard in Vancouver, but hasn’t seen any in-ocean training since a competition in Vancouver last October. For her first dive she’s going to 60m / 197ft. Her second target goal is 80m / 262ft. Sixty meters is a success and Doc enters the queue. After Doc, Martin’s up again for his first 80m / 262ft and then 90m / 295ft variable drops. Twenty-five minutes and two sled rotations later, Mandy is once again on the sled for her last training drop of the day.

Ready for her second target of 80m / 262ft. Mandy mounts the sled and asks for a five minute countdown to help her relax. The countdown moves along and she’s swaying back and forth as the gentle waves rock the sled. Spencer’s been at 50m / 165ft for the last twenty minutes with emergency lift bags in place. Zero time! Packs start and finish. Her raised index finger signals the release and Danny pulls the cord releasing the snap shackle. Mandy disappears into the blue.

I start my stopwatch as soon as the sled ‘plops’ into the deep. I time Mandy and Martin’s descents to get an idea of when they touch down. This helps determine not only their velocity, but my timing for the safety descent. As I hold the taught line I feel the sled sliding down. Fifty-three seconds after the snap shackle release the line pulls tight and a light ‘thud’ is felt on the line. Touch down!

Thirty seconds later we’re eye to eye. Pull, glide, kick, glide … I try to keep up with her. Smiling, she breaks the surface and is looking strong and nice and pink. Both Mandy and Martin are in a phase of their training where they’re finding the dives very easy. Right now they’re not following proper surfacing procedures: three hook breaths, three cleansing breaths, OK, three cleansing breaths, remove mask, smile. We’ll be programming this in the coming days.

It’s been a successful day. All three PFI Team Members have logged another training day in the beautiful Cayman Islands. For Mandy and Martin the tally runs at approximately twenty training days in all, not including those for record attempts. Tomorrow will see more.

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