Proceedings began on Friday at Virginia for the SAPFA Fun Rally. Mary de Klerk ran a training session from 2pm to 5pm for competing crews. She covered all aspects of rally flying from the various disciplines, how to prepare, and how the rally would be flown. Once the entry forms, indemnities and entry fees had been dealt with it was down to the serious business of route plotting. Durban Aviation Centre's (DAC) training room became a hive of activity, as pilots and navigators studied the check points and entered the route onto their charts in a flurry of maps, protractors, rulers and charts. The various tracks were supplied together with photographs of the various check points. The target times were given out that evening to enable participants to be fully informed and prepared on Saturday.
Mary then took the largely inexperienced rally flyers, on a Google Earth trip around the course. One or two check points were revealed as examples but the rest would have to be figured out by the pilots and their navigators. Mary should be complimented for her thorough planning and for her amazing dedication to the sport she loves. Once the session ended some crews remained to complete their preparation.
When the afternoon session ended the DWC had kindly arranged for complementary wors rolls and Castle Lager courtesy of SAB at a poolside braai. The braai and a lot of other hard work setting up the venue, was organised by DWC manager Dave Harrington who was assisted by his good wife Alwina. As additional motivation for the pilots, the beers were delivered by two attractive promotion girls. All in all, a very informative and enjoyable evening for all of those who attended.
Crews were delighted to learn from Brendan Adams of the Durban Wings Club (DWC), that half of their entry fee would be subsidised by the DWC. The Wings Club would also sponsor breakfast before the teams headed out into the blue on Saturday!
Saturday morning dawned and crews arriving at 07:30 were greeted with almost 100 percent overcast conditions, albeit at a fairly high level. The forecast predicted that the cloud would burn off and that conditions would improve throughout the day and so it proved. In fact, by the time the first aircraft was away at 09:45 conditions were almost perfect. The sun was out, the wind was negligible and a fine day of fun flying was in prospect.
After breakfast the crews busied themselves making final preparations. Following that they were given a final briefing and departure and sector times were confirmed. In total 11 crews took part. The numbers were slightly disappointing but those that entered were full of enthusiasm and rearing to go. Most teams were relatively inexperienced but they were joined by some of South Africa's finest rally crews, namely Frank and Cally Eckard and Thys van der Merwe and Barry de Groot. Together with organiser Mary de Klerk they gave the younger aviators benefit of their experience. These two teams competed in the open section. The open section is very exacting with double the number of photo check points (20) but also very tight (2 seconds) time tolerances over these points. Times outside these limits incur penalty points. In the fun section the allowed variance was 15 seconds, in other words seven and a half seconds on either side of the target point and they had 10 photographs to pinpoint.
In the fun section, by far the greatest turn-out was from Durban Aviation Centre who entered seven of the teams. All their crews were smartly dressed in DAC uniforms and the enthusiasm was tangible. The two open teams entered under the DWC banner. The other two teams were from Scottburgh and they were a most welcome addition to the rally. They flew a veteran DH Chipmunk that added to the variety of the entries. On Friday it seemed quite possible they would not make it to Virginia due to the weather but luckily this did not prove to be a factor. The Chipmunk with its tandem seating arrangement made things a little tricky with pilot and navigator unable to communicate visually with each other. Also having a low wing added to the difficulty of spotting check points.
So, on the day, the aircraft utilised were a Chipmunk (it flew twice), a Cessna 172H (also flew twice), a Cessna 182N, a Sling 2, a Cherokee 180, a Cherokee 140 and three Cessna 152s. The crews nominated their cruise speeds, varying from 70 knots for the Chipmunk to 85 knots for the Cherokee 180. First aircraft away was the Chipmunk ZS-OWJ flown by Karyn Hill with Lance Poynter as Navigator.
The course was inland, to the south of Durban and took on average an hour and twenty minutes to complete. As the Chipmunk had the slowest nominated speed it flew first and last and initially there was a 15-minute gap after their departure. After this, aircraft departed at 5-minute intervals. At the end of the rally section, crews returned to Virginia and had to perform a spot landing and this counted as part of the overall scores. The landing cones were manned by safety officer John Neilon and DWC flying committee member, Brendan Adams.
As expected, the after-rally post mortems had tales of missed check points and interesting diversions but in general things went well. The spot landings were not the greatest with a couple of exceptions. Some teams got really creative!
Lance Poynter and Karyn Hill
The overall results including the spot landings were as follows: -
1st Frank Eckard and Cally Eckard - ZS-ETO - 232 points - 1st Overall
2nd Thys van der Merwe and Barry de Groot - ZS-ETO - 278 points - 4th Overall
Cally and Frank Eckard
1st Fergus Snow and Kyle Chiocchetti - ZS-ILD - 251 points - 2nd Overall
2nd Niv Naguran and Ray Lee - ZU-FWI - 270 points - 3rd Overall
3rd Craig Flanagan and Michael Prinsloo - ZS-IEI - 440 points - 5thoverall
Kyle Chiocchetti and Fergus Snow
Fergus and Kyle's winning track
Obviously, as stated above, the level of difficulty for the open contestants was much higher than for the fun section.
The spot landing competition (on its own) was won by: -
1st Thys van der Merwe and Barry de Groot - 10 points
2nd (tie) Niv Naguran and Ray Lee - 20 points
2nd (tie) Craig Flanagan and Pieter Gent - 20 points
Post rally pile of loggers
Prior to the prize-giving Frank Eckard spoke about the benefits of Membership of the Aero Club. He also said that South Africa was bidding to hold the 2020 World Rally Flying Championships which would include a new event ANR (Air Navigation Racing) that involves precise corridor flying. He said the events would coincide with the hundredth anniversary of SAPFA and the Aero Club, which were both formed in 1920, only 17 years after the Wright Brothers first flight! He encouraged the youngsters present to become more involved and to try and win provincial and national colours. He mentioned that the experienced contestants were getting older but that they would be only too happy to mentor and coach any prospective pilots. The venue for the championships is yet to be decided but Virginia Airport would certainly be a strong contender, provided that sufficient sponsorship can be sourced. Durban would be a big drawcard for overseas competitors, the cream of the world's rally flying pilots and navigators. It should be noted that South African pilots, in the last year, have won a gold (Frank Eckard - in Spain) and a silver (Ron Stirk - in Austria) medals in world championship events.
Afterwards Mary asked if the teams had enjoyed themselves on the rally and received very positive feedback. Just looking around at the faces after the event, one could sense that much fun was had by all. In addition, the skill of dead reckoning navigation and precision flying was fostered and this would only serve to make them better pilots.
Mary then presented certificates and prizes to participants. All pilots went in to a lucky draw to win two nights at the Victoria Falls Safari Lodge (Andy Conn), this includes bed and breakfast and a dinner at the Boma Dinner and Drum Restaurant. This magnificent prize was won by Niv Naguran.
The first three places in the fun class, were awarded African Pilot magazine annual subscriptions (Athol Franz), as well as SA Flyer magazine special editions (Mike Wright). The special editions were also awarded to various participants as lucky draw prizes. Prizes of caps and bags were awarded to the best students, Siyabonga Mabaso and Justin Greef. The best instructors, Fergus Snow and Kyle Chiocchetti, received 6-month gym subscriptions from the Fitness Factory (Simon Vickers). Barry de Groot was awarded red wine as the oldest contestant (75) and Taylan Ayliffe (youngest competitor) was given a book “No Room for Error” donated by The Pilot Shop (Helen Bosland). The best lady pilot, Karyn Hill and the best lady navigator Cally Eckard received plants from Hingham Nursery. Les Rhind and Lance Poynter (“The Scottburgh Crew”) were given bottles of red wine. Muhammad Dadabhay and Jade Persson were awarded meal vouchers from Mama Lucianos (Marco Conti). Wine was donated by MCS Debt Collection (Saskia Hill) and Brendan Adams. Special mention must go to Chareen Shillaw who put in a lot of effort to secure most of the prizes for this event.
A lot of work went into this event and it proved to be very successful and enjoyable one. The training and experience received will be a great asset to those who took part. Next time it is hoped more pilots will take part. Something to look forward to.