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SA Power Flying Association Air Navigation Race Nationals 2024

By Rob Russell

Photos by Rob Russell and Rikus Erasmus

A somewhat overcast and cool Saturday greeted the competitors in the SA ANR championships, held at Stellenbosch Airfield. Some patches of fog in the area threatened to delay the start, but it soon cleared up and the day’s events got going without any hassle.

For those of you not familiar with this format, it’s very much different from the old rallies so many are used to. It's not a case of racing around a course, flying more or less accurately, trying to identify some obscure picture you have been given, looking out for a hidden timekeeper hiding under a tree, trying not to interfere and get in the way of fellow competitors and getting back to the endpoint in your designated time.

The ANR format requires accurate flying along a defined track, keeping to certain defined times and then finishing off with a spot landing. And to ensure everyone has a good chance of winning, there are three routes flown in the day. They are not too long and close to the airfield, but it’s quite intense and requires good coordination and understanding between the pilot and their navigator. You also don’t have to look far and identify objects along the routes. It’s all IT based with each team having an event logger and GPS tracker given to them.

A Pensive Alewyn watching his opposition

The event was organised by Alewyn Burger and supervised by a very capable team, with the wife and husband team of Pam, who was the Competition Director and route planner and Tony Russell, who was the scorer and IT boffin and Rikus Erasmus, as the Safety Director.

The secret to these rallies is to keep to your time. Ample time is given to each team between the races to plan, get airborne, and complete the course.

Tony Russell hard at work

Once crews have nominated the speed they are going to fly, the organisers work out an order for teams to fly, as well as the time you are required to complete the route. The idea, because of the short legs, is to ensure that, well in theory that is, no team will catch up and overtake the team in front, making for a safe organised event.

Derrick Lord and nav. Refueled and heading off for route 2

There are two categories in the event: the open and sportsman categories. The former is for serious teams and for those who want to have a fun day, they are welcome to participate in the sportsman category. The same courses are completed and marked accordingly.

A thorough briefing took place and all the procedures were explained to the crews. Each team is given a GPS tracker and an event logger to assist the judges. A large TV in the clubhouse enabled all to watch the progress of the various teams. Being live and online, meant that anyone anywhere could watch the teams! And competitors could see where the opposition was or wasn’t!

How it all happens:

  • At your designated time, you report to the briefing room and are given an envelope with the route and all the information you need for the first route. You then have 30 minutes to complete your planning and then have to leave the room. Each team is handed their event logger and tracker here.

  • You are then required to get airborne 45 minutes after your designated time, so it takes 15 minutes to get to your aircraft, taxi to the hold and get ready. Lots of time and no pressure there.

  • You then have 5 minutes to fly to the start point of the route. The start point is nearby to the airfield. Time penalties are afforded if you take off late and don’t cross the start line at the designated time. And don’t get there early and do an orbit and try again. That’s a big no-no

  • The route is flown, with the emphasis being on staying in the corridor at all times. 360-degree turns are frowned upon. It’s a narrow corridor, hence accurate flying is required and it is important to nominate a speed, which ensures you are able to comfortably navigate your aircraft around the route, whilst staying in the corridor.

  • Once you have finished the route, you fly back to the field for a spot landing.

  • On landing you hand in your event logger and then have a 45-minute break, to debrief, refuel your aircraft, etc, eat and get ready for the next leg. And then your papers are given to you and the whole procedure repeats itself.

Derick Lord and his nav, multitasking, planning and uplifting catering.

As the emphasis is on safety and timing, penalty points are awarded for missing your allocated times, low flying (hence the GPS tracker) and for not getting the spot landing correct!

Sounds complicated, but it's really not. If the author could understand it, anyone can! All in all, it is fun, not too hard to compete and makes for some good fun flying and an enjoyable day, it was just a pity there were not more teams, 6 teams completed.


The open class

1. Alewyn and Oscar Burger with 1305 points

2. Christiaan du Plessis and Mauritz du Plessis with 2803 points

The sportsman class

1. Thys vd Merwe and Sally Shaw with 2365 points

2. Derek Lord and Piet Matthee with 3173 points

3. Thys Roux and Franklin Smit with 6690 points

The landing competition

1. Alewyn and Oscar with 69 points

2. Derek and Piet with 123 points

3. Christiaan and Mauritz with 336 points

(Oscar is Alewyn’s son and proved to be a more than capable nav, keeping his pilot well under control)

Overall, it was a great day, well organised and the teams had great fun. As the weather cleared up, it was good to see the locals popping in to watch and enjoy some of the fine food and even better liquid refreshments available, at the club.



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