Stellenbosch Airfield was a hive of activity on the 4-6 April when teams from all over South Africa took to the air with the hope of earning National Colours and a chance take part in the 2020 world Rally Flying Championships. The World Championships, which will be held at this very airport, will be hosted to coincide with the Aero Club of South Africa’s Centenary year.
SAPFA have made a concerted effort to recruit new members and introduce them to this form of flying competition, the Speed Rally concept has proven to be a wonderful draw-card and has introduced many new pilots and navigators to Rally Flying. Their efforts are definitely paying off with the largest field of entrants in the Nationals for some years, seventeen teams took up the challenge.
The Cape weather unfortunately didn’t allow for any flying on day one, but Mary de Klerk jumped at the opportunity to share her vast knowledge with the newbies. Mary took part in this years Nationals despite taking a tumble and breaking her shoulder which needed major surgery to repair on weeks before, I guess she has now literally become SAPFA’s “Iron Lady” with all her added plates and screws.
The weather on Friday looked slightly better but not ideal and a decision was made to fly the route that was set out in case of bad weather. The teams got airborne and went to the North of Stellenbosch, in a clockwise track towards the coast, narrowly skirting around the South of Fisantekraal, then Eastward towards Riebeeck-Kasteel, following the railway line towards Wellington, then heading back towards Stellenbosch.
The all Protea team of Nigel Hopkins and Mary de Klerk emerged the leaders with a very healthy 192 points, their closest rival was at Jonty Esser and Sandi Goddard with 588 points. Third place on day one belonged to Anthony and Pamela Russell all three the top teams were flying Cessna 172’s
Mary de Klerk and Nigel Hopkins
Results Day 1
Saturday morning arrived and brought with it perfect flying conditions, blue skies and almost no wind. The teams couldn’t wait to get airborne not only for the competition but for the upcountry competitors it was an opportunity to experience the Stellenbosch in all her splendour.
The mountain flying route was chosen as flying conditions were as good as they can be. The route took the crews from Stellenbosch down the Franschoek valley, over the Franschoek Mountain, over Theewaterskloof Dam, and Villiersdorp, over Kwaggaskloof and Brandvlei dams South of Worcester, Northwest along the Breerivier then turning back over the mountains by way of the Bain's Kloof Pass, carefully following two "arcs" in opposite directions over Wellington and Paarl, finally ending at a railway station North of Stellenbosch.
This was a very taxing route for both the pilots and navigators requiring their constant attention, unfortunately it didn’t leave much time for sightseeing although some teams seemed to lose the plot and go on a bit of a sightseeing trip, not intentionally we hope.
Nigel and Mary once again ran away from the rest of the pack with a very good 515 points, well clear of Anthony and Pamela Russell in second spot with 1266 points. The father and son team of Andrew and Adam Pilling were in third place just ahead of Rob Jonkers and Martin Meyer, less than a thousand points separated the top four teams.
Results Day 2
There were two classes of competition “Class 1” which is normally seasoned rally teams and “Class 3” which is reserved for the newbies to the sport. At this level of competition, the only real difference is the time allocated for plotting the map before take-off, the Class 1 crews have to all plotting in the tight confines of the aircraft cockpit, Class 3 have enough time to plot in the clubhouse before jumping in the aircraft.
Results Class 3
Hosting the Nationals at Stellenbosch offered wonderful the pilots and navigators’ an opportunity for to learn to fly and navigate the area that will be used for the upcoming World Championships.
Mary de Klerk (Competition Director) and Colin Jordaan (Deputy Director) were able to meet up with local sponsors and with the management team of Stellenbosch Flying Club. Route Planners Frank and Cally Eckard were able to practice setting and scoring routes in the area and Judges Deon van den Berg and Jacques Jacobs, Ursula Schwebel and Barbara Friebose were able to see what needs to be done at the airfield to prepare Stellenbosch to hold a World Class Event.