Yury Kartsev Spreads His Wings in the ATC!

If you’ve been following wingsuit performance competitions in the U.S. this year, the name Yury Kartsev should sound familiar to you. If wingsuit competitions haven’t been on your radar and you haven’t been lucky enough to encounter Yury around the skydiving community yet, allow me to introduce you to someone who you will almost certainly be seeing a lot of in years to come.

Yury Kartsev in his Squirrel ATC at the 2018 USPA National Skydiving Championships – Wingsuit Performance Category – Photo by Chris Wilkins

After months of following Yury’s impressive performance tracks in the Wingsuit World Performance League (https://wingsuit.world/ check it out, if you haven’t already), I was excited to finally meet Yury at the 2018 USPA National Championships. Towering about a foot above me – seriously, Yury is tall – he certainly looked intimidating, and his online performance track record was pretty freakin’ impressive. Once I started talking to him, I found his personality anything but intimidating, though! He is a kind, humble, and calming presence, with an obvious adoration for his supportive wife (who has been consistently by his side at competitions), and he came ready to learn and grow, with no overpowering ego to match his undeniable skill level.

He performed remarkably well (as was expected) at Nationals. Though he couldn’t claim the gold medal as a “guest” at Nationals, he dominated the Advanced class in his ATC, and some of his numbers even surpassed competitors in higher class race suits in the Open category.

Most recently in February, he arrived at ZHills for the Tony Suits Annual Performance Cup having not jumped in months due to winter weather. Though he didn’t have an opportunity to train the last few months, he used all of his skills, talent, and focus, and he won the Advanced class again! This time, he beat 7 other competitors overall, and his numbers in the ATC surpassed several runs from competitors in the Open class jumping larger race suits.

Yury continues to impress everyone who meets him. He is hard working, skilled, open to learning at every opportunity, focused, and built to fly. On top of all that, he’s a generally great guy who brings a solid attitude to the performance competition environment. After observing his stellar performance once again in the ATC, I thought it was only fitting to do a profile on Yury, to highlight his achievements and to show just what the ATC is capable of when it’s in the hands of someone willing to work hard and learn in the sport.

Check out this Q & A with Yury Kartsev to learn more about who exactly this Yury guy is and all of the awesome things he has done and wants to accomplish in this awesome sport (and with the help of the ATC, of course!).

Yury Kartsev flying his ATC – photo by Nick Scalabrino

When did you start skydiving?
If I count my first tandem, it happened in July 2012. Then I got back for another tandem in June 2013, but after my jump someone told me: why are you wasting money for tandems? For the same amount you can make your first AFF jump by yourself! I was thinking about it for 2 years, and in August 2015 did my first AFF jump, obtaining my A license in October at the best dropzone ever – Skydive New England which became my home dropzone since then. So I would say my real first jump was in 2015!

Why did you get into skydiving?
I always loved the sky… Every time I fly commercial airlines, I’m speechless because of those views. So seeing it more often was the main reason!

Did you plan to get into wingsuiting when you started skydiving, or did that happen organically?
I did not think about it in the very beginning since skydiving itself and AFF was very overwhelming for me. But by the time I got my A license, I knew that I love being in the air as much as possible and the most fun I was getting was from tracking. Everything else seemed like a waste of time (and altitude) for me, so I always felt bad when my AFF buddies called me for a belly jump, because I wanted to have fun with them, but doing belly stuff was not fun for me at all 🙂 Later my love to track obviously became a passion for wingsuits.

How long did you wait after you started skydiving to get into wingsuiting? Right at 200 jumps?
I planned to, yes, because it became my dream. Watching other wingsuiters loading the plane was like watching a favorite singer performing live 🙂 At the end of the season 2017, I scheduled my FFC, but unfortunately one day before it, I had an unfortunate hard landing and broke my foot. It was very disappointing. But I learned my lessons, healed my foot and third jump of the next season 2018 (jump #210) I did my FFC!

How long have you been wingsuiting and how many wingsuit jumps do you have at this point, and how many non-wingsuit jumps?
I started wingsuiting last year, i.e. 2018. Currently I have 412 jumps total, from them 192 jumps are wingsuit jumps. So since my FFC only 10 jumps were non-wingsuit jumps. Also, 152 out of my 220 non-wingsuit jumps are tracking jumps!

Are you interested in other skydiving disciplines right now, or just very focused on wingsuiting?
No, I’m very glad that I can finally fly those suits and for me personally – nothing is as fun as this.

What was your wingsuit progression like? How many jumps did you put on a beginner suit (Swift2 or Swift3 or something else?)? What were you confident and competent doing in a wingsuit before you started flying the ATC?
I did my FFC in a rental T-Bird, then I did 53 more jumps in it, including flocking with people, some performance runs and intentional instability like flips, intentional flat spins, etc. My goal was to not be afraid of the suit and anything bad that can happen to it before I switch to a bigger suit. My aim was the ATC, and I already had it in my closet at about half way (about WS jump #30), so it was very tempting to try it. But I knew that it’s a big step, so I tried to get maximum out of that T-Bird, because I heard from experienced people that anything wrong in a smaller suit becomes even worse in a bigger one. So WS jump #55 was my first ATC jump! [friendly reminder from the Arcus Flight team that Squirrel’s recommended WS jump experience for the ATC is 75 WS jumps, so that’s our Arcus rental requirement, too…but glad to hear it worked out so well for you, Yury! 🙂] And I never forget this feeling – it was like switching from a regular commuter car to a Ferrari: faster, harder (at first) and lot of potential! Right after landing I told to myself: it’s very very good that I stayed with T-Bird for a while! It turned to be extremely important! I must say that I started with the ATC depressurized (internal zippers fully open), then half-open, then fully closed and my conclusion was that I should have started fully closed since it was the most comfortable/easiest setup for me.

Yury Kartsev in his ATC – photo by Nick Scalabrino

How many jumps do you have on your ATC now? Any plans to sell it if/when you move up to a bigger suit, or do you think it’s a good suit to keep for fun jumping etc.?
If to do the math, I think it’s 138 jumps so far! Absolutely no plans to sell it, that was my goal initially – to buy a suit I can always fly and the ATC in my opinion is the best choice for that.

How do you use the ATC? Are you focused mainly on performance or do you also use it for xrw, flocking, formation records, coaching…? What do you enjoy doing in your ATC?
I mainly fly performance because I enjoy being on the edge in it – it feels amazing! But I fly with other people from time to time, for example if there are clouds and if we all really FLY, not just fall as sometimes flocking becomes. So far I enjoy flying fast and flaring after that in my ATC 🙂

What are your favorite things about the ATC ?
First of all I love that it’s great for getting into performance flying – it’s a good stepping stone on the performance progression. And also it’s very versatile – you can do acro, backfly, flock with small & big suits, pretty much everything. So having such a range of things in my pocket is a very nice feeling. And of course I love that Squirrel offers super-duper custom design of their suits. To be honest, initially it was a deciding factor when I was choosing a manufacturer, but then I simply felt in love with other features, Squirrel support, quality and performance of course.

You did coaching with Alexey Galda right? How did it help your performance?
You’re quite informed! 🙂 Yes, I did an hour of remote coaching with Alexey. There is not much information in the internet about wingsuit performance flying, so self-education in this domain is a very hard process. I did what I could, of course, but at some point I felt that I needed to fill some blank spaces. And of course Alexey helped me to better understand some aspects of performance flying, fill some gaps and answer some questions. For example, next jump after that I showed my personal best in a distance run! 🙂 Alexey is a very competitive athlete, one of the best, and it was an honor to get some advice from him!

Alexey Galda at the 2nd FAI World Cup of Wingsuiting

What do you get out of training jumps and using the flysight?
I get muscle memory, I get strength and I get information! Obviously, all of that is experience. Analyzing FlySight tracks really helps to understand what did I do wrong and what do I need to change in my next jump. Progress without FlySight would be much much longer… I have used FlySight since jump #37, i.e. about 10 jumps after I got my A License. I was amazed by the amount of information you can get out of it! I’m sure everyone can benefit from it – for improving canopy flying skills, checking how winds affect falling trajectory, even for simply tracking a cutaway canopy!

How did you get into performance wingsuiting?
As soon as I started tracking, I got myself a FlySight, so after every jump I knew exactly where did I fly, how fast and with what quality. My goal was to stay in the air for as long as possible while really flying a pattern, so I was concentrating on my glide ratio and navigation. At first it was just for fun, then I found Skyderby.ru resource and all those results, so I obviously started comparing. Then at the same resource I found that wingsuiters compete in a performance flying format and realized that that’s what I wanted to try whenever I start wingsuiting!

What do you enjoy most about competing?
The feeling that on every jump I’m trying to do my best, so if I succeed – it’s a great feeling! Besides that, every competition is a huge amount of experience and a lot of fun in a friendly atmosphere!

Do you get nervous at competitions? How do you stay focused and perform your best in the competition environment? (any tips for other people who compete/are interested in getting into competing?)
I get nervous before almost every jump 🙂 So yes, it does include competitions. I think to a different degree it’s natural for everyone, because we’re people, not robots. I’m trying not to develop that initial nervous feeling into something bigger by simply ignoring it and concentrating on the jump routine. Plus, a thought that that’s the thing I love to do the most always helps as well, so my tip to the people who’re interested would be: try to enjoy and not forget about fun part of it!

What do you think about the ATC in the three performance categories?Where do you feel it has the most potential – speed, distance, or time?
In my own opinion, maybe even for my own suit, I would say that the speed is the hardest. But it’s very subjective, because it may totally be me who simply does not know all the secrets of speed flying yet (that’s for sure), so I would not take my conclusions very seriously! Ask me again in a year or two from now! 🙂

Do you do anything special to train for performance outside of flying (i.e., any particular type of workout you’d recommend? Spend a lot of time analyzing data? what works for you?)
Obviously, staying fit helps a lot. Attending gym for overall strength with little bit more attention to the arms, shoulders and chest area feels helpful. I also try to find any new information in the internet, for example videos of other people flying, articles with some tips, etc. A great example would be an amazing book written by Matt Gerdes called “The Great Book of BASE”. Despite its name, it is very useful to any skydiver and wingsuiter in general because it has a lot of useful information about gear, procedures, training, tips, etc.

What is your most memorable skydive, and if it’s not wingsuiting, what is your most memorable wingsuit jump and why?
I think the most memorable so far is my first and for now the only night jump. It was surreal, almost like a dream! It’s indescribable, I would say you must try it to understand! If to talk about daylight jumps, then it’s probably my 100th, where I flew a pattern in a flock with a wingsuiter (Alexander Lemaire). I was wearing my TonySuit RW Pit Special suit with booties – we flew from 14k to 4k for 81 seconds. It was pretty cool for me, I even felt as a wingsuiter for a moment! 😉 For a wingsuit jump I would say it’s my #320 where I flew around a high cloud for the first time and at the same time our amazing pilot Matt Becker flew at a distance above me and ahead, waving his wings as a greeting.

Yury flying his ATC – photo by Travis Mickle

If you could wingsuit anywhere and with anyone (or alone), what is your dream wingsuit jump?
I would love to do a HALO flight and fly from as high as possible and as far as possible. Doing such a flight with a couple of friends in a place like Hawaii would have been awesome!

What are your goals in the sport and outside of it?
If you mean Wingsuit Performance Flying, then my goal is to learn, train, progress and hopefully show good results in competitions. My goal in wingsuiting in general – is to simply get better in it to a point of flying my suit like I do walking. I really admire people who fly 100% by their reflexes. You know, after reading what I wrote, I asked myself: “What? People who fly?” – YES, people DO fly these days! And that’s the beauty of our sport! I’m trying to tell everyone who ever asks me about skydiving: “You should try it at least once! We’re so lucky to be born during this time when it’s now possible!”. Goals outside of the sport? I think it’s better understanding this life and myself: why I came here, who I really am, etc. People are just born and kinda forced to live on, but majority do it because everyone else does, because that’s the “common way”. Sometimes it’s useful just to stop, look around and try to better understand it all… Maybe all of this is a dream or a
simulation? 🙂

Hope you all enjoyed learning more about Yury as much as I did! Looking forward to seeing where he goes next in this awesome sport…

Yury taking home first place at the Tony Suits Cup!

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