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SAC Ace of Base 2019 – Levelling the Playing Field

The annual Sport Aerobatic Club of SA Ace of Base competition is a competition like no other, all of the competitors stands a chance of walking away with the coveted title of “ACE OF BASE”. In any other competition the winner of the unlimited class in declared the winner of the competition, at Ace of Base however the pilot with the highest aggregate score form any of the classes is declared the overall winner. This really tends to encourage the competitors to up their game to a much higher level.

Barrie and Tristan Eeles

Baragwanath Airfield was the host for this year’s edition of Ace of Base and on a sweltering hot December weekend the cream of the crop of South African aerobatics pilots met for the final competition for 2019. Originally twenty-seven entrants were registered including three from Namibia, unfortunately due to botched bureaucracy all the NTC aircraft in our neighbouring state were grounded. It was really encouraging to see the growth in the Graduate class, although not all of the graduates went on to compete at sportsman level at this competition. This growth is a testament to the efforts of Gary Glasson, Eugene du Preez and their team in hosting coaching clinics throughout South Africa and our neighbouring states.

The Pilots

Ace of Base 2019 was held over two days which made for a more relaxed competition, attempting to fit a large field into one day often led to pilots departing late in the afternoon which is never ideal in December on the Highveld due to the risk of thundershowers.

The first day of the competition saw the graduates taking to air all of them graduated to sportsman class, although Gareth Gill, Ingmar Bezuidenhout, Riaan Pieters opted not to compete in the sportsman competition but undertook to take part at the next competition.

Graduate Riaan Pieters in his Christian Eagle

Then it was time for the “Real” competition to start, Sportsman class were first up flying their “Known” sequence. Once all the sportsman were back on “terra firma” it was time for the relatively new RV class to strut their stuff also performing their known sequence. The RV Class was introduced in an attempt to entice Van RV owners to fully utilise the aerobatic capability of their aircraft.

Newbie Gregory Clegg in a Pitss S2A

RV Class Dave Thomas in a RV 7

Intermediate class were next up, as one progresses through the classes the figures and sequences become more demanding and the height restrictions are relaxed. The intermediate competition was a close affair fought out between three competitors.

Andrew Blackwood-Murray in his Extra 300L

The Advanced Class then took to the air for their “Known” sequence, the sequences are made up of a number of figures from the Aresti catalogue and are designed to test the skill level of the pilots. Known sequences are a specific order of figures that the pilots have practiced beforehand whereas the unknown sequence is given to the pilots on the day of the competition and they don’t get time to practise them at all.

Glen Warden in his Slick 360

The final flights for the day were the highly contested Unlimited Class unfortunately two of the top pilots could not make the competition, Gary Glasson however flew a very impressive sequence in a Pitts Falcon, an aircraft not really suited to this extreme flying especially not at altitude.

Gary Glasson in his Pitts Falcon

Day two of the competition arrived and fortunately the wind from the previous day had died down a bit making for far more pleasant flying conditions, the landings on Saturday proved a bit challenging as Baragwanath has a very narrow runway and the wind was at 90˚cross the whole day.

Thys Kuhn taxing in his RV8

The flying order was much the same as the previous day starting with the Sportsman Class and leading up to the Unlimited Class, the only exception to this was Elton Bondi who wasn’t able to make the competition on Saturday but was afforded the chance to fly both his Known and Unknown sequences on Sunday.

Elton Bondi in his Extra 300L

Baragwanath laid out a wonderful sheep braai for all the competitors and officials at the clubhouse, this seemed to shorten the gap between the last flight and the release of the final scores. As soon as lunch was finished it was time to announce the results at the prize giving in Johannesburg Light Plane Club’s beautiful clubhouse.

Top honours in the RV class was taken by Dave Thomas in a RV 7 followed closely by Simon Berkeljon in a RV 4.

Dave Thomas

Sportsman Class was comfortable won by the young Tristan Eeles, son of Barrie Eeles, Tristan was competing in his first full competition after graduating at the Nationals held in Klerksdorp earlier this year. In second place was Machiel du Plessis in his RV 7 followed by Ivan van der Schaar in a Pitts S2A.

Tristan Eeles

Machiel du Plessis

Ivan van der Schaar

Intermediate Class was topped by Andrew Blackwood-Murray in his Extra 300L followed by Jason Beamish in his Extra 330LX and in third place was Conrad Botha in his locally built Slick 360.

Andrew Blackwood-Murray

Jason Beamish (unfortunately left before prize giving)

Conrad Botha

In Advanced Class Elton Bondi streaked ahead in his Extra 300L, in second place was Cliff Lotter in the monster Yak 55 and Glen Warden took third place in his Slick 360.

Elton Bondi

Cliff Lotter

Glen Warden

Unlimited Class as always was won by Barrie Eeles in his Extra 330SC, I do believe this is a first for SA Aerobatics where a father and son both won their respective classes at the same competition. Gary Glasson in his tiny Pitts Falcon took second place just ahead of Eugene Du Preez in his Extra 330SC.

Barrie Eeles

Gary Glasson

Eugene Du Preez

Young Tristan Eeles was crowned “ACE OF BASE 2019” with his remarkably score of 81.231%, achieving over 80% at any level of competition takes some doing, well done Tristan a well deserved victory. I sure that Tristan will be showing up the big boys for many years to come.

Tristan Eeles with proud dad Barrie

Special thanks must go to Adam Pucjlowski (Contest Director) and Quinton Hawthorne for organising a wonderful competition with the assistance of Ron Wheeldon and Elton Bondi, this was without doubt one of the best organised competitions I have ever attended. Thank you to Elton Bondi for allowing me to fly along with him from Rand Airport, Natalie Stark for calculating the scores. Last but not least Gladwin Sekgobela and Benji Phukubje the ATC's and all the judges.

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