Frank and Cally Eckard must have woken with very heavy hearts on Saturday 25 January, it was pouring with rain and seriously threatening the sixteenth SAPFA Rand Airport Challenge. Frank and Cally have been putting the Rand Airport Challenge together since its inception all those years ago. With well over 150 rallies to his credit Frank is undoubtably the most experience route plotter in the world, Cally on the other hand is closing up on Frank very quickly with a whopping 95 under her belt.
SAPFA recently embarked on a massive drive to recruit “new blood” to the sport of Navigation Rally Flying in an attempt to bolster the National Team that will have home ground advantage for the World Rally Flying Championships that will be taking place in Stellenbosch in November this year. This campaign is definitely bearing fruit, on the back of a very successful SAPFA Training no less than six teams took on the challenge of competing in the Open class-or Class 1 as it is now known.
The inclement weather unfortunately prevented some of the teams from getting airborne at their respective home basses, but for those that did manage to get to Rand a very demanding day laid ahead. Cally designed the route to world standards and even included two back to back arcs, something that many of the contestants have never experienced before. Confidence was high after the training the previous week and the navigators tackled the task to varying degrees of success, the majority of the teams managed to get the plotting done correctly, Take a bow Mary de Klerk.
By 9:00am the weather to the west of Rand started to clear and seeing that’s the direction the route took the contestants Frank, the Competition Director for the event, decided to go ahead with the Rally. A briefing was held outlining the rules and criteria that would be used for judging and then it was time for the first team to receive their papers. The first team out was the father and son duo of Hendrik and Jandre Loots in their Sling 2.
The route took them west from Rand Airport via the Silver Ball to the start point at a train station near Nasrec, then it was off to Carletonville to negotiate the dreaded Arcs which brought them to Fochville area. From there southerly to a turning point just north of Vanderbijlpark, and then north again to Ennerdale, the off to the finish at the "Stirrup Club".
All the teams manged to find their way around the course, well sort of, unfortunately none of the contestants were in the league that will be needed to secure a victory in the world championships but the year is still young and there are many more Rally’s and coaching sessions planned. One of the teams didn’t take-off as they realised, they had plotted the start point incorrectly and nothing else would work out from there, they did however replot the route and go fly it later in the day without a logger.
Once all the teams were back safely it was time to announce the results. Frank started with the one and only entrant in the Sportsman Class or Class 3. Michael Cruse and his navigator Edzart Verseput managed the course with 1161 points.
Thys vd Merwe and his novice navigator Kerry Matthysen, the only entrants in the Intermediate Class, Class 2, manged a very respectable score of 392 points
The Advanced Class was comfortably taken by the seasoned team of Jonty Esser and Mary de Klerk and they were also crowned the Rand Airport Challenge Champions.
Tony and Pam Russell came in second place with 798 points
The team of Andre Kluyts and Don Lucas managed a third place with a score of 1709
Thanks to the management of Rand Airport for making the airport and the Customs Hall available for this competition. If anyone is interested in taking up the challenge and attempting to earn National Colours for the upcoming World Rally Championships here is a summary of all the events planned for the year.
· 7 March - Brakpan Rally (Classes 1, 2 and 3)
· 3 - 5 April - Rally Nationals in Stellenbosch (Class 1 only)
· 5 April - Stellenbosch Rally (Classes 1, 2 and 3)
· 8 August - Rally Training Camp in Brits (Class 1)
· 22 August - Krugersdorp Rally (Classes 1, 2 and 3)
· 3 October - Witbank Rally (Classes 1, 2 and 3)
Look out also for our very exciting Speed Rallies.
Please see the website Sapfa.co.za for our events calendar
Please Browse our Gallery of this Event