By Garth Calitz
Three years ago a few determined SAPFA members decided to “rock the boat” and introduce a completely new and very exciting format to the Racing/Navigation fraternity, the new format was aptly named a “Speed Rally”. Since the first event held at Secunda, the popularity of these competitions has grown exponentially. The enthusiasm around Speed Rallies has introduced many new aviators to the wonderful world of navigation rallies, with some of the speed rally inductees going as far as achieving National Colours in precision navigation flying and were hoping to compete in the World Navigation Championships in November on home soil, Sadly the World Championships had to be abandon due to the pandemics ever-present threat.
Secunda once again hosted this event, the third of Season 3, unfortunately, due to Covid-19 restrictions and the obvious challenges posed by lock-downs the field had to be capped at 25 entrants. The desired 25 teams, however, didn't materialize by the cut off time on Friday only 22 teams had entered, the bad weather predicted for the weekend definitely played a part in keeping some teams from taking up the challenge.
As was predicted the weather was far from ideal, with storm cells scattered all over the race area, this however didn't dampen the spirit of the competitors in the least. The weather did however lead to delays in the programme as the test flights scheduled for Friday had to take place on Saturday morning before the race could get underway. The test flights were quickly handled by Mauritz du Plessis and Iaan Myburg, with Iaan also taking up the role of scorer for the, a perfect opportunity to put his newly developed scoring software to the test.
On Friday evening the competitors were invited to the customary “Briefing on Steroids”. Jonty Esser as the MC and Race Master introduced Rob Jonkers who took to the stage and provided a briefing on what to expect for the next day in terms of the planned route, how many turn points, distance, departure and arrivals protocol, and also how the scoring system would world work and the expected weather conditions. In the past a crossover in the route proved very popular with the spectators, Rally flying is not exactly a spectator sport but seeing the contestants position halfway through the course definitely gets the excitement levels up amongst us ground-bound mortals.
Jonty Esser then welcomed all the teams and issued the teams present with their official race numbers accompanied by their theme song and a short video for all the sponsored teams. The Speed Rally team do make an effort to publicize the sponsors offering them as much mileage as possible. The evening was closed off with a braai that was supplied by the host club.
Saturday morning started with a mandatory briefing where much of the ground covered the previous evening was once again covered for those that couldn’t make it. The weather once again threatened to plug a spanner in the works with some nasty wind early but that did calm down to approximately 10 to 15 Knots. Some line squalls were also in the area, with the cloud base at least more than 1000 ft, and good visibility.
With the briefing over and group photo done and dusted teams prepared their aircraft, while the organisers got the papers ready. Each team would then receive an envelope with a map, turn-point photos, a minute marker and a GPS logger to record their track. Aircraft were then also scrutineered with all portable electronic devices sealed up in bags. Marc Robinson and Shane Somerville from Century Avionics as always were at hand to cover aircraft GPS and autopilot systems as well as check that the fuel tanks were brimmed.
The Pilot Insure Scrutineers sealed up all portable GPS capable devices and checked the aircraft for any contraband. The paper's team under the guidance of Lizelle Kruger handed out papers at the allotted time, Chief Marshall Adrian Cronje. Starters Mauritz du Plessis and Chareen Shillaw set up at the starting line adjacent to the threshold of Runway 29, ready to release each aircraft at their allotted time slot. Each team then received their envelopes with their loggers 20 minutes prior take-off time, taxi to the starting line within 10 minutes of brake release. The first take-off was at 10h20 for the slowest aircraft which was a Magni Gyrocopter, the first time a gyro has taken part and the last take-off at 11h10, with a planned arrival at 12h00.
With all the competitors off towards the southwest, the route had a mix of easy and challenging turn points. In general, the competitors found the course easy enough. At just before 12h00, the first aircraft over the line was a little early and then followed by at least three-quarters of the field within 1 minute, with tail-enders after that.
After all teams had returned, the scoring team got to work to analyse the results, completing the individual scores by 14h00, with prize giving planned for at 15:00. In the meantime, most of the competitors being concerned over deteriorating weather decided to return to their home bases, thus a call was made at 14h30 to rather hold a virtual prize giving, which Race Master Jonty carried out at 5 PM on the WhatsApp platform.
The winners in the handicap category were Deidre Batchelor and Dave Naude in their Jabiru ZU-EBU, in second place Mike Blackburn and Steve Briggs in a Sling ZU-IBM and in third place the Evans Racing Team of Jonty and Jonathan Esser in their C150 ZU-BLL. The first thirteen placings were the only crews who managed a clean penalty-free round.
The winners in the accuracy category were the Gem Air sponsored team of Phil Wakeley and Mary de Klerk in their C210 ZS-CNY, in second place Fanie Scholtz and Herman Haasbroek in their Sling ZU-FZF, and in third place Leon Bouttell and Martin Meyer in their Evektor Harmony ZU-FWS.
Overall Standings were dominated by father and son teams taking the top three positions, in first place Apie and Frederik Kotzee, in second place Johan Whiteman & Quintin Kruger in their Cherokee 235 ZS-FVV, and in third place Hendrik and Jandre Loots flying their Sling ZU-IHK.
Many thanks to the Secunda Aero Club for hosting this fantastic event, the SAPFA team of Adrian Cronje as the Chief Marshall, Nigel Musgrave as the Safety Officer, Iaan & Tarryn Myburg doing the scoring, Mauritz du Plessis doing test flights and starting, Marc Robinson and Shane Somerville from Century Avionics for Scrutineering, Chareen Shillaw as the Event Secretary, Lizelle Kruger, Clarissa Dacostaesilva, Ariana Rompel, Leonie du Plessis for handing out competition papers to the crews, the PilotInsure team under David le Roux for Scrutineering, Jonty, Lizelle and Sandi for putting together an awesome Friday evening launch event, and Anneke Pretorius for looking after officials lunches. Santjie and Jean Marie White were also on hand to ensure all aircraft are accounted for during and post the event.