This year's EAA Sun & Fun flying event was planned similar to previous Sun n Fun events as a format that EAA'ers enjoyed, as a more relaxed fun kind of event mostly involving observation out of the window recognition of ground features and learning about the area being flown over. This was the first time it was held at Rustenburg, and the local Rustenburg club pilots had no idea what they were letting themselves in for, with around half the field were from the club.
The theme this year was exploring the Rustenburg environment, overflying most of the dams in the area, and there are plenty, some of them not even on the map, those towards the north of Rustenburg related to platinum mining, and those near the Magalies mountain reservoirs for drinking water and irrigation.
Competitor's aircraft prior to the rally starting.
The route was anti-clockwise starting in the north, around the Rustenburg mountain which is a nature reserve, through Olifantsnek towards Buffelspoort dam, across the N4 highway where the last part of the rally was a short Air Navigation Race (ANR) route. For this year, it was decided that to add some spice to the rally by giving a short zig-zag course to test some navigation skills over and above the pre-planned 1st section where headings and distances were given. The map and task booklet were provided 30 minutes prior the take-off for everybody to either plan their route with traditional map plotting tools or to program their GPS's - if they were more at home following the magenta line.
Each route's leg had turning point photographs to be recognised (either being correct or incorrect), then a few questions had to be answered on ground features or sites that were historic or scenic, mostly cryptic in nature.
The booklet contained a section of wiki notes that would enable the crews to answer all the questions - with a warning - "Don't read at your peril….", and guess what…., most forgot to find the answers in the most obvious place…. Some crews of course were googling for answers on their cell phones - because they can - somewhat inefficient given everything was right in front of them.
The Competition Map, the blue part of the route being the scenic part and the red part of the route was the Air Navigation Race (ANR) part.
There were 18 crews who registered by briefing time which was delayed somewhat as some fog had to lift over some parts of Gauteng, with a broad spectrum of aircraft participating, from a fast Cessna 210 to slow open cockpit Bat Hawks.
After the briefing, and with 30 minutes prior take-off - of handing out papers, the first competitors took to the skies at 11:00, with the last off at 12.45. The weather was brewing hot and humid after the recent rains with the wind fairly calm with some turbulence; one of the competitors had to abort with a navigator turning a bit green.
Of course, there were always some tricks in the rally, turning point 3 was an airfield, but this was not the airfield marked close to it on the map…., then there were two Easter egg photos that very few could find along the route.
The ANR part of the rally proved tough for most of the competitors, even finding the start point which was a dam wall at turning point 7 was a challenge, then following a narrow half a mile wide ( around 1 km) corridor accurately which zig-zagged to nowhere in particular over some hilly terrain. The ANR is the newest rally format which is an attempt to make rally's shorter, more exciting and also more visual for spectators on the ground watching on a live tracking screen.
One of the more interesting ANR tracks…. The zig-zag appears as if north & south were confused, at least the start and end gates were found.
For this year, as with some of the other events, a live track was set up with some of the competitors with the idea to watch them on the projector screen, which unfortunately had some technical issues thus could not be seen in real time on a big screen, but the live tracks were being recorded which could be seen later. Each of the competitors was issued with a GPS logger that followed their tracks which were downloaded after they returned to get the results of the ANR portion of the rally.
One of the almost perfect ANR tracks- having missed 63 seconds being out of bounds.
With everybody successfully home, it was time for marking the exam papers which was left to the strict invigilators Rene Clulow and Joan Homan to record the points. Between the clues and photo recognition, a total of 30 points could be scored, with the ANR worth 6 points giving a total of 36 points.
The winners line-up, Rene Clulow, 2nd placed Keaton Perkins and Greg Clegg, Event Organiser Rob Jonkers, Winners Ron & Dusty Stirk, 3rd placed Pierre Dippenaar and Martin Meyer.
Winners Ron & Dusty Stirk with the Sling floating trophy.
Some of the competitors during the spot landings. Photos by Deon Prins.
On returning, the competitors had to carry out two spot landings where landing line judges Dave Lister and Steve George were on hand to adjudicate, where Niel Terreblanche closest to the line came 1st followed closely behind by Ron Stirk with 1 point difference, Niel was flying Marie Reddy's Ikarus ZU-EEE.
The livetrack routes followed by 5 of the competitors, the yellow track virtually spot-on all the way, the green track was close with a few wobbles, the red track went to the wrong side of the mountain and the purple went over the mountain and got lost in the ANR track.
When all was tallied up, the crew of Ron and Dusty Stirk in a C150 ZS-IWD attained first place, Greg Clegg and Keaton Perkins in a Jodel ZU-UEK attained 2nd place, with third place going to Pierre Dippenaar and Martin Meyer in their C182 ZS-IVC. The Sling floating trophy was presented to the winners Ron & Dusty Stirk.
1st place for the Spot Landing went to Niel Terblanche in ZU-EEE
Thus came to the end of a hopefully enjoyable day for everybody who took part, and given the large amount of competitors, it should bode well for doing this again in the future, the members of the Rustenburg club were particularly enamoured by this event around their area.
Many thanks are extended to Marie Reddy for the assisting with the administration of the event and keeping order in the competitor line-up, Rene Clulow & Joan Homan for invigilating the answers, Dave Lister and Steve George manning the spot landing line; also the prize sponsors, Pilot's Post donated T-shirts, Comet Aviation Supplies, Aviation Direct (the makers of Easy Plan), Wings & Things and Shell Aviation. African Pilot and SA Flyer provided Magazines.