World Yak-52 and Intermediate Aerobatic Championships Mossel Bay

By Cobus Brink

Hard work and perseverance by many people over nearly three years paid off three weeks ago when the first competitors started arriving in the Southern Cape to start practising for the world Yak-52 and Intermediate Aerobatic Championships. The Mossel Bay event was actually two events in one sharing infrastructure and judging resources. The event was jointly organised by the Sports Aerobatic Club of South Africa (SAC) and the Mossel Bay Aeroclub (MBAC).

A few teams spread themselves out between airfields in the Southern Cape to get some practise before the start of the event. Since local South African aerobatic aircraft were used, and shared, some teams could however not practise together. A large portion of the UK team was stationed at the Swellengrebel Flying Club at Swellendam where they were threaded like champions. From the sounds of it they might need to follow is strict diet back home to recover from the gastronomically abundant hospitality of the local Swellengrebel Flying Club members.

Marcio Oliveira from Brazil in the Pitts 1S1

The Russian team pushes back one of their aircraft after refuelling

Most of the South African team were active at Oudtshoorn where Patrick Davidson and Mark Hensman gave them valuable coaching. Cliff Lotter and Michel Leusch however missed this as they were sharing the Zlins with the Slovakians and the Czechs at Mossel Bay. Russian pilot and former champion, Valentina Drokina, and a frequent face at SA aerobatic events, coached Bertus du Preez and Charles Urban, the only South Africans competing in the Yak-52 Championship.

The waiting game. Cliff Lotter contemplating Michel Leusch's chances in the completion, with Michel waiting for the prophetical answer

The open air seating in front of the clubhouse was a popular spot for idle chat. L-r,Alan Cassidy (UK-Jury), Marcio Oliveira (Brazil), Cyrial Talon (Luxemburg), John Gaillard (SA- Contest Director), Kenny Chiang (Hong Kong/China) and Stephen Hipwell (UK).

Slowly the rest of the competitors and international support and judging personnel started arriving in Mossel Bay. Base for the event was split between the local airfield and the Diaz Beach Hotel and Resort where almost all competitors were staying. This made for an international blend of cultures and languages, and contributed greatly to the relaxed and informal atmosphere commented on by many participants afterwards.

Flight Director, Leif Culpin and the UK Team and husband and wife, Mike and Emily Collett who flew a Slick 360 of the the UK Team

The Lithuanian team busy working out their proposal for the next sequence

Registration went off well on Wednesday the 26th November. The official opening function was held at the hotel that evening where local Mossel Bay mayor, Elder Lady Marie Ferreira, welcomed the visitors on behalf of the host nation. She was followed by Roger Brink, MBAC Chairman, and Jeff Earle, Chairman of the Aero Club of South Africa, the latter delivering a very spirited and informative speech, which was enjoyed by all. Lars-Goran Arvidsson, President of the FAI Aerobatics Commission, officially opened the event. To finish off the evening the numbers for the next day's flying sequence were drawn.

Mark Jeffires (Team Manager Australia) chat with Phil Massetti (UK) in the Slick 360

Steve “first for ever” Geard from New Zealand, the first pilot to have competed in a World Intermediate Class Aerobatic Championship whilst Justus Venter, the contest warm-up pilot, had his work cut out landing the Pitts S1S in the brisk wind.

Thursday the 27th a howling wind was blowing. Weather forecasts did not look good and after sitting around for most of the morning, some appealing to their individual weather gods, the contest were called off for the rest of the day. This unexpected free period were grabbed by some to sample the local attractions, notably the Lithuanian contingent who secured themselves spots on a game drive at local Botlierskop Private Game Reserve. Hearing their stories many visitors also wanted to do the drive, but unfortunately no other suitable time presented itself during the contest to do so.

On Friday night the Mossel Bay Aeroclub laid on a typical South African spit braai which were heartily enjoyed by the visitors whilst Kenny Chiang, Michel Leusch, Cliff Lotter and others watch the action

Jacques Bodart of Belgium taking off in the Yak-52

On Friday, the weather again showed why it is the ruler of outdoor events by presenting the contest participants with low cloud and drizzle. Fortunately, the gale of the previous day has subsided to within flying limits. Just before lunch, the clouds lifted some and Justus Venter, the warm-up pilot was sent out to mark the box for the judges. After this flying started in all earnest. Drawn 15th, Michel Leusch, who's aim was not to be last, suddenly found himself leading the known sequence in the Intermediate class. After that his facial expression was a mix of the widest smile he has ever produced, and that of a deer in the headlights for being suddenly thrust into the spotlight. The day's flying ended when Aleksei Kapilevich (Russia) having the emergency crew scrambling when his Yak's right wheel did not extend on finals. A landing abort and some fancy jiggling during another circuit saw him getting three greens, followed by a safe landing. Friday evening the host club entertained the guests with a much enjoyed spit braai at the airfield.

Kelly McCauley records the g-meter readings on the Yak of Igor Turik

Hannes van der Linde, the fuel jockey at Mossel Bay airfield, had his work cut out to refuel all the aircraft before the next share pilot needed it

By now the main topic of discussion was the weather. Saturday morning presented the contest with nice weather and eventually the flying started with the last few pilots flying their known sequence. This left Michel still first clear by nearly 4% from 2nd placed Jan Tvrdik of the Czech Republic and with five South Africans in the top ten of the Intermediate class. In the Yak competition Charles were laying 4th and Bertus 8th. The program carried on until clouds were becoming a problem and flying was stopped for the day. The rest of the afternoon was spent on working out the free unknown sequence submissions.

Old hand in South Africa, Todd Montgommerie, lands the Slick 540

Sunday started as a sunny windless day and since much time was lost due to the weather and late starts in the mornings, the Contest Director, John Gaillard, decided to start earlier than usual and to carry on until late, weather permitting. With all involved now being well schooled in their duties 8 - 10 flight were flown per hour. With two out of four sequences now having been flown by all, the contest became valid for scoring. At close on Sunday the Free Unknown was started with eleven pilots having flown their sequences.

Former and 2014 Yak-52 World Champion, Vladimir Kotelnikov, waiting while his ground crew prepare his Yak

Glen Warden does a walkthrough of his Free Unknown sequence before his flight whilst Steve Geard (New Zealand) getting ready to board the Yak-55 he was sharing with Jacques du Plooy (SA)

Monday morning it was clear there would not be time for the 4th sequences as rain was forecasted for Tuesday, the last flying day. Chances for the remaining 18 pilots to finish the Free Unknown was also not too great as a stiff breeze was blowing measuring higher than the regulated 12 m/s limit. By lunch, it was decided by all teams, except the Russian team, to lift the limit to 14 m/s as per regulation so that flying can continue. Even with this concession and a sunset finish, the day finished with a few pilots not having had a chance to fly their Free Unknown.

Phill Masetti, Paul Brice, and Mike and Emily Collett waiting for Paul's slot time

SA team: L-r, Bertus du Preez, Neville Ferreira, Pierre du Plooy, Jacques du Plooy, Cliff Lotter, Rob du Plooy, Leigh le Gonidec, Stan Oliver (manager), Glen Warden, Charles Urban, and Michel Leusch

As predicted the weather on Tuesday was rainy with a low cloud base and a brisk wind. Hopes were high the whole morning, but by lunch it was clear the weather is deteriorating instead of improving, and it was decided to call it quits. Since not all competitors flew their Free Unknown it did not count and thus only the Known and the Free results were used in determining results.

The Zlin 50 that was used by the Slovakian and Czech teams

The awards ceremony was held at the Diaz Hotel on Tuesday evening. It turned out being a most enjoyable event for all who participated.

SA team: L-r, Bertus du Preez, Stan Oliver (Manager), Pierre du Plooy, Michel Leusch, Rob du Plooy, Cliff Lotter, Glen Warden, Neville Ferreira, Leigh le Gonidec, Jacques du Plooy, and Charles Urban

The organisers wish to thank all sponsors and helpers for their efforts in making this event a success.


1st: Vladimir Kotelnikov (Rus).
2nd: Roman Ovchinnikov (Rus).
3rd: Igor Turik (Rus).
1st: Russia.
2nd: Lithuania.
3rd: South Africa.


1st: Michel Leush (RSA)
2nd: Dieter Ebeling (Aus)
3rd: Neville Ferreira (RSA)

The winning SA team with the World Intermediate Aerobatic Team trophy. Leigh le Gonidec (5th), Stan Oliver (Manager), Michel Leusch (1st), and Neville Ferreira (3rd).

1st: South Africa.
2nd: United Kingdom.
3rd: Czech Republic.

Detailed results can be viewed at

Events 2014
Sport Aerobatics

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