Revving engines, flashing starting lights, burning avgas, scud running aircraft, empty tanks, broken egos, arguments, divorces………… all just part of the air race. Like every year, this was another adrenalin pumping event with lots of spectacular views for spectators on the ground. Of course the pilots and navigators had just as much fun but the Northern Cape presented significant navigation challenges to most teams. The race day on Friday had the longest route making it the most difficult day of the event. Winds of 35 knots and turbulence added to the challenge but on Saturday the conditions were significantly better.
The Upington Flying Club organising the race under the auspices of SAPFA did an excellent job. This team attended the PTAR last year to learn from it and the experience they gained was evident during this highly successful race. The infrastructure at Upington was perfect with more than adequate parking for participating aircraft far away from the main terminal building. Robin Spencer-Scarr was once again the race director and apart from his emphasis on safety, he again entertained us with his jokes, comic remarks during the briefings (especially when sharing some of the flight tracks) and his dancing at the starting line. He simply is a part of the race and inspires every crew when they approach the line for their take-off slot.
Everyone takes the race serious but with fun as the secondary objective. Without any distinctive landmarks in the area, crews had to double check their maps and religiously follow their headings as this was probably one of the most difficult races of all time. By the sound of it, most teams struggled to find the first turning point on day one and lost valuable time searching for it.
Nothing beats the start on day two. Aircraft lining up in long queues and engines roaring every few seconds provided many exhilarating moments.
Smiles all over once the race was over, but some more than others depending on who found the turning points and who did not.
Well done to Alewyn Burger and Chris Ferreira in their RV-6 (ZU-JHA) for flying a superb race and winning it this year. Willie Griesel and Bobbie Hattingh took second place in their Cessna 210N (ZS-KJB) with Johan Doubell and Jannie Visser in third place with their Beech E33 (ZS-IBX). I have to add that it was Janie's 26th race, a special achievement on its own.
To conclude I must thank the Affinity Guest House in Upington for inviting us to stay with them right on the banks of the Orange River. We encourage everyone visiting Upington in the future to stay at Affinity not only for their friendliness and competitive pricing, but also for the tranquil atmosphere their environment provide.
Remember, support those who support you!!!
Tel: 054 331 2101