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The Queen Of Skydiving

The Queen Of Skydiving

Carolyn Clay Receives the USPA Gold Medal for Meritorious Service

Features | February 2016
Monday, February 1, 2016

A T-shirt made in honor of her 10,000th jump during a July 1996 boogie showed the Energizer Bunny skydiving and said it all: “She keeps going and going and going!” These words are just as true today as they were then.

Currently with more than 18,000 jumps and 300 hours of freefall time, Carolyn “the Queen” Clay, D-3347, from Williamsburg, Virginia, doesn’t show any signs of slowing down after 47 years of continual skydiving.

In 1969, as a cure for boredom, Clay was looking for something to do on weekends while stationed at the Patuxent River Naval Air Station in Maryland. She approached the local skydiving club and made her first static-line jump. It took her a while to master a stable exit with all of the bulky gear, but she finally graduated to short freefall delays on her 19th jump and never looked back. After leaving the Navy in 1975, she went to work for Virginia Power in Surry, Virginia, as a telecommunications specialist. West Point, Virginia—home of Peninsula Skydivers and then Skydive the Point (after a tragic 1995 plane crash and lawsuit resulted in the club’s reorganization and name change)—became her weekend home for the next three decades. When the drop zone closed in 2011, she continued jumping at Virginia Skydiving Center in Petersburg. Through all the years she maintained a passion for sharing the skies with anyone, from brand-new jumpers to world champions and large-formation record holders. She just loves to jump.

Perhaps the most remarkable fact about her large accumulation of jumps and freefall hours is that she has done it all as a weekend warrior. While she was an active static-line jumpmaster in the 1970s, the vast majority of her skydives have been formation skydives with her friends on any given weekend. She competed off and on throughout the years, participating in countless 4-way events in Virginia Parachute Council competitions, and she frequently traveled to the USPA Nationals in the 1980s to compete in 4-way, 8-way, 16-way, 10-way and 20-way formation skydiving. Her best Nationals finish was a 1991 bronze medal in 20-way with the team Bad Dog 20/20.

In addition, Clay’s big-way skills are exceptional. She served as a plane captain for many large formation events and organized several large formation state record attempts. Her former first-jump student, Kate Cooper-Jensen (who also received a Gold Medal for Meritorious Service in 2015), could always count on Clay to help build successful Jump for the Cause women’s formation skydiving world records. From 1999-2009, Clay helped lead the way to completing the 118-, 132-, 151- and 181-way formations as the charity group raised money for cancer research and treatment.

Larry Jaffe, then the editor of Parachutist, gave Clay her nickname in 1987. Early one morning, he bowed down to her as she was dirt diving following a particularly hard night of partying and called her “the Queen” for her ability to shake off a hangover and never miss a chance to skydive. Clay is always one for a good time, whether it’s skydiving all day or dancing and partying all night. Her can-do attitude and positive spirit is inspirational, and her poise and compassion during challenging times is admirable. USPA awarded her the Gold Medal for Meritorious Service in 2015.The inscription reads, “For more than 45 years of skydiving and inspiring jumpers around the world as a competitor, record holder and organizer; for mentoring new skydivers and serving as a role model to women entering the sport.” Clay truly is the Queen of Skydiving.

Jim Crouch | D-16979

Ruther Glen, Virginia

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