Smith: Like a frozen Butterball, Hermine flew

  • 63 women, including Sonoma County resident Hermine Baker, gathered at Skydive Arizona in Eloy to break the Woman's Vertical World Record. They succeeded on the 13th try. (Norman Kent Productions)

On Thanksgiving Day, while the rest of us feasted in advance of sinking into the sofa, Hermine Baker fell from an airplane 18,500 feet above Arizona and plummeted, head-first, at about 175 mph toward a world record.

She'd eaten no tryptophan-laced turkey.

“You can't be sleepy when you skydive,” said Baker, who's 30, a businesswoman/adventurer and wife of Brad Baker, the chief of Codding Enterprises.

A skydiver since age 16, she met at Skydive Arizona in Eloy with dozens of other female parachutists from around the globe for an assault on the record for the most women — 41 — to form and hold a mid-air formation.

On Thanksgiving, nearly 70 of the women went aloft in three planes. They bailed out, maneuvered into a loose bunch and then attempted, but failed, to join hands in a huge formation of linked circles.

Wearing oxygen masks for the ascent, they went back up and tried again. Again, no go. A few women who couldn't meet the challenge were cut.

This went on for the better part of three days. “I was almost starting to doubt it,” Baker admits.

Tired but determined, 63 women from 18 nations were on the 13th attempt last Saturday when the formation formed and, for several seconds, held. Jubilation rained onto southcentral Arizona.

Baker, whose primary sponsor was AspenAir Inside of Rohnert Park, said she and the others will train and tune and, in time, go for an even greater record.

“They're my sky sisters now,” she said.

As we might imagine, she finds it difficult to describe what it's like to create a choreographed formation while hurtling through the air.

“It's almost,” she said, “like dancing with God.”

LET'S EAT OUT on Thursday, perhaps the best day of the year to visit any of more than 80 of Sonoma County's biggest-hearted restaurants.

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