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Brits ANR (Air Navigation Race) Nationals Championships

The South African Power Flying Association (SAPFA) held a very successful ANR (Air Navigation Race) Nationals Championships at Brits Airfield, spanning 3 days from 25th to 27th July 2019. This event was the qualifier event for selecting the National team to represent South Africa at the World ANR Championships to be held at Santa Cruz Beach Airfield in Portugal from the 5th to 14th September 2019.

This newest form of power flying sport still needs to take off here in SA, but with so much going on in the Rally arena in preparation for our 2020 World Championships, the ANR has taken a slight backseat, the last event was held in 2017. This meant that most participants were somewhat rusty in this type of event. Thus, in the run up to the Nationals, many teams were practicing in prior weeks some old routes and some practice routes.

For this event, it was planned to be held over 3 days, with Thursday being a practice day, with Friday & Saturday the Nationals days. The weather outlook being winter promised to be good, with the usual winter inversion layers and early morning fog, and essentially pristine wind conditions, except for Saturday which had morning fog in the Johannesburg region delaying some teams to arrive, and where the wind picked up somewhat.

For this ANR, Rob Jonkers took up the role of Competition Director, with still unfamiliar finicky scoring software, which proved daunting with the second route, but eventually solved.

There were 11 crews taking part over the 3 days, with 5 Protea team aspirants to qualify for the team to represent SA at the World’s. There were 6 Sportsman or fun teams, most first timers to compete in an ANR event. For Thursday, Jonty Esser provided 4 practice routes, thus the teams had the benefit of practicing how to prepare the map and fly the routes to assess how well they could maintain their track inside the navigation corridor.

In an ANR, there are only two objectives, the first being on-time at the start and finish gates, each second early or late attracts 3 penalty points. The second objective is to remain inside the corridor which in this case is 0.4 nm wide (+/- 800 m), any excursion outside the corridor also attracts 3 penalty points per second being outside the corridor.

For this competition there were four routes to be flown, each at around 25 nm, so the course takes around 20 minutes to complete, which is nice and short but given the amount of concentration and focus required to stay within bounds, a very daunting contest. The navigator has the unenviable task of keeping the pilot on the straight and narrow, and the pilot has to keeping checking that the navigator is doing his job…. Two routes were flown on Friday and the other two on Saturday.

The courses all had 10 legs (with the exception of route 3 with 11), which meant that on average the legs were around 1 min to 1.5 min in length, making flying these short legs quite daunting, as one is hardly on a leg when you have to think about turning onto the next leg, and keep track of the time.

First off was Jonty and Johnathon Esser in a C150 at 10h15 followed by the rest of the field in 5 minute intervals, some longer if there were aircraft being used twice by different crews. The next round started at 12H30, with the last crews in by 14h00. Then the big task of logger downloads, analyzing and printing results, which for route 2 was complicated by a software hitch, which was eventually solved.

For route 1, Shane Britz and Karen Stroud had the best result with 393 penalties, and for route 2 Jonty & Jonathan Esser with 72 penalties. It was very apparent that if you make a mistake, to recover from it is proven to be quite difficult.

Winning track of the Competition of Tony & Pam Russell

In the later afternoon, a landing competition was held, with a barrier landing and a glide approach landing, the winner of this was Hans Schwebel with a score of 44 points.

For route 3, Tony & Pam Russell aced it with 15 penalties, which were for timing at the end point, with no corridor excursions, and for route 4 Rob Jonkers and Martin Meyer with 99 penalties, although as Competition Director and having plotted the route a few days ago probably had a little bit of an unfair advantage…..

Overall, for the 4 combined routes, Jonty & Jonathan Esser came in 1st place, and with the landings combined, the overall ANR champions were Thys vd Merwe & Mary de Klerk, followed by Jonty & Jonathan Esser in 2nd place, with Tony & Pam Russell in 3rd place.

Mary de Klerk & Thys vd Merwe

Jonathan & Jonty Esser

Pam & Tony Russell

In the Sportsmans class, Leon Bouttell & Karen Purchase took 1st place, Shane Britz & Karen Stroud in 2nd place, Hendrik Loots & Pieter du Plessis in 3rd place.

This event was for sure enjoyed by all, with the Nationals participants having made the cut-off of 20% of max score, and have been selected to represent South Africa at the World Championship this year in Portugal.

Protea team for the World ANR Championships to be held at Santa Cruz Beach Airfield in Portugal

View from a Novice to ANR – Piet Meyer

My navigator and I have been taking part in the SAPFA Speed Rally championship and browsing through the events calendar, noticed the ANR National and just entered having no idea what it entailed. We were under the impression it is just another Nav or Speed Rally. Later when asking the start times etc. we realized that this is no easy and fun flight but the actual National championship for teams to qualify for the world championship held in Portugal later this year.

Adrienne Visser and Piet Meyer

The race format is a very tricky route which is to be flown at 80kts in a 0.4nm corridor. Penalties are allocated for time outside the corridor as well as for each second outside of the allocated start and finish time. Seconds count here and an early finish here will end you up in more hot water than an early finish on your wedding day. Part of the competition also includes two spot landings. One glide approach and one power landing over an obstacle. The Thursday 4 practise routes were flown with two official routes on Friday followed by the spot landings. Saturday two routes with prize giving in the afternoon and then the announcement of the teams qualifying for Worlds in Portugal.

We entered as Sportsman class just to compete and see how we stacked up against the Professionals. Having never done this type of race before we were nervous on Thursday and did the first practice run. Total mess as we missed the first turn and with legs being anything from 45 seconds to 2 minutes, a small mistake can cost you hundreds of points. Here the crew with the least points win. Getting some tips from the professionals, we did the second route and did better. Stayed in the corridor for most of the route. Third and fourth went even better. Our scores ranging from 1200 to 1700. I mentioned to my navigator that “we did not do too bad?” after she repeatedly had to say, turn, watch your speed, stay on track. I got that look from her with the smile that I give parents with new-born babies while saying “What a beautiful baby” although you hope for their sake that the little rat will turn into a human someday. The response from Adrienne “Not too bad. We can do better” ….smile…. One of the routes we scored just over 700 points so we were getting better. The top pilots scored under 100 for some of the routes with Jonty Esser and his son with a score of 23 in one of the routes.

Friday and Saturday, each team is allocated a take-off time, start and finish time. The routes are handed out 45 minutes before your allotted start time. You are given 30minutes to plot the route, 10 minutes to go to the plane and get to the runway for take-off. Then 5 minutes to get to the start and then cross the start on the exact time. Only maps and compass to be used so no GPS, cell phone, Fitbit, or anything allowed. For newbie pilots or those who are getting bored with the cabbage patch flying or the coffee at Zebula, challenge yourself to one of these events. Your skills as a pilot and navigator is greatly increased. My confidence in my flying as well as my aircraft grew more in this one weekend than in the hundreds of hours flying to go get a coffee. When I started flying and saw the articles of these championships and the guys with Protea colours, I always thought that this is way out of our league. I did not want to make a fool of myself amongst these flying gods of whom you read and always watch in awe from a distance. Even though it is a Nationals Championship, the atmosphere is relaxed. Pilots talk, help each other and give tips to us newbies. Everything is well organized with Rob Jonkers doing the official part of downloading loggers and working out scores. Brits Flying club did well in having coffee and food available and a nice fire in the clubhouse to keep all nice and warm in the morning.

Well done to SAPFA and all the guys involved to make this event possible. As a newbie to the sport, I can highly recommend all to try these events. It is not as intimidating as it looks and the knowledge you gain is priceless. Thanks to all for a great weekend and thanks to my navigator who is after everything still flies with me. So, all the weekend warriors, cabbage patch flyers and other flying professionals, dust of those maps, switch off the GPS and come join these SAPFA events. I must warn you however, it is very addictive and you will more likely be able to kick a Heroin addiction but this flying racing habit will stick and there is no cure. We are counting the days to the next event.


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