By Garth Calitz
The economy is biting everyone and this was clearly visible in the is year's Presidents Trophy Air Race, just a few short years ago the race entries were capped at 100, sadly, this year only 28 teams entered. Middelburg Airfield was chosen as the host airfield and as always Richardt and Irene Lovett flanked by their team from Middelburg Aero Club went above and beyond to ensure the success of the event. The main hub for the weekend was the immaculate hangar that Richardt kindly made available for the weekend.
Teams started arriving on Wednesday afternoon as some had requested flight tests to lock in their 3D speeds before receiving their handicaps for the weekend flying. The handicapping process has been developed over years of trial and error with the popular speed rally playing a massive part in perfecting the system, Iaan Myburgh, the race director, has spent countless hours with the assistance of Rob Jonkers perfecting the system to ensure the handicaps are as fair and true as humanly possible and it seems to be working as there were no complaints from the contestants this year.
The Presidents Trophy Air Race has for many years been contested over two days of flying, with the first day being a rather long affair with the fastest aircraft leaving first and the slowest trying in vain to catch up to them. The day gets rather long for the slower teams. Day two of racing is way more exciting with the teams taking off with intervals determined by their handicaps, the idea is that if all the aircraft fly a perfect round they will all arrive at the finish line simultaneously.
For the first time in many years teams were given their final day maps the day before and they had to plot their routes themselves, in the past teams were given their pre-plotted papers 20 minutes before they were due to take off, this new format proved to be a winner with the teams.
The final day saw the teams flying a figure eight route passing over the airfield at approximately the middle point of the route, the fastest aircraft had just got off the ground when the slower aircraft started appearing for the crossover. Almost exactly on time the first aircraft of appeared on the horizon followed by others chasing for all that they were worth to make up that final position, the first aircraft to cross the line was the Bosbok belonging to Apie and Frederik Coetzee, followed closely by the Cherokee of Quintin Kruger Johan Whiteman battling to stay ahead of the Veteran PTAR team of John Sayers and Dion Raath in a Harvard. Although the finishing positions are a good indicator of the teams' success it is by no means the final result, loggers must be downloaded to ensure that no penalties had to be given to teams for missing turning points or other transgressions such as turning point altitude and the like. The entire field finished within 3.5 minutes of each other and that over 2 days of 300nm is proof that the handicapping system is as close to perfect as it can possibly be.
The final results would only be made public at the dinner that was to be held later on Saturday evening, which meant an agonising wait for all the competitors but nothing that a few cold ones couldn’t solve.
At 7 pm everyone assembled at Richardt’s hangar for an evening of fun and the al important results. David le Roux called everyone to order and kicked off the evening by thanking the all key players in the very successful PTAR23. This was followed by a short address by Iian Myburgh the Race Director.
After starters were served it was time for all important trophies, SAPFA decided a few years ago to no longer present the actual trophies as there are so many of them but rather award the winners with medals as the logistics of carting all twenty-six trophies around became a massive task.
Once all the trophies were awarded the anticipation had reached a fever pitch the Vincent Maclean Trophy for third place was awarded to Quintin Kruger and Johan Whiteman. In Second place were Dion Raath and John Sayers in a North American T6 Harvard they were awarded the Air Charter Trophy. And finally, the First place crew and recipients of the coveted Presidents Trophy for 2023 were Apie and Frederik Coetzee, this father and son duo won the 2021 PTAR which was held in Ermelo as well.
In a break with tradition, a beautiful photograph was handed to the winners and the host club, these photographs were signed by all the competitors.
The venue for the 2024 PTAR has not yet been decided so there was no handover of the official PTAR flag as is customary, I am sure this will be finalised very soon. Well done to the Middelburg team for staging a well-organised and exciting event.