The EAA convention this year was held again at Vryheid, which is situated close to the escarpment in very scenic mountainous areas and in the heart of the Anglo Boer & Zulu war zones. With the success of last year's Adventure Rally, which had a mainly battlefield theme, it was decided to hold another one, this one being a mix of a scenic route and some battlefield areas.
At registration time, there were 27 crews who had entered, this being a record for this type of event, but with weather still closed in on Saturday morning, some crews could not get to Vryheid in time to take part, and at last count 20 crews were able to take part, which is still one of the most attended Adventure Rallies, giving credit to EAA'ers enjoying this type of event.
For this year, the route started just northeast of the field at a big railroad U junction, and however one would fly, there would be a railway line that would be seen flying east or north, thus to converge on to the start would be an easy matter….., but guess what, some competitors could not find the start.
From the railroad U junction, the route went behind Lancaster Hill to a nondescript dam, and from there on west to north-west in the valley until a very prominent farm house complex was seen. From there south west to a more nondescript farmhouse nearby a quarry, turning more south east on a curved leg to be positioned to descend after crossing the mountain range known as Skurweberg into the Aasvoelskrans gorge where three distinctive waterfalls could be seen, making this the most worthwhile scenic part of the route. At the bottom of the gorge another farmhouse was a waypoint and then to the battlefield memorial of Blood River Poort, and from there to three dams that made up the last three turn points the last being the Klipfontein dam just south east of the airfield.
As part of this rally, it was decided that to add some spice as well, to track everybody with loggers to check how accurately they fly to keep within a 1 km corridor, which should have been easy given that one is allowed to fly with GPS. The map and task booklet were provided 20 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, and of course sometimes getting the wrong information from what was written up in the notes.
The briefing was eventually held at 10 am after the misty weather had delayed the start, and then papers were handed out with the first take-off around 11 am, with good flying conditions with hardly any wind. Most crews were able to find their way around, and appeared hardly anybody used a GPS, possibly with insufficient time to program them, there were a few crews that wandered off course somewhat, and one got totally lost and decided to return to the airfield aborting the flight. And then there was the only helicopter taking part in the rally, that being the Gazelle of Eugene Couzyn flying with Marie Reddy who took to heart the briefing that said enjoy the scenery of the 3 waterfall gorge, and hovered to take some pictures (see the header photo in this article).
With everybody successfully home, it was time for marking the exam papers which was left to Mark Clulow to do, with Rob downloading loggers and printing results. Then at the Convention prize giving and spit braai, Rob gave a presentation of everybody's logged tracks which had many in stitches for those who lost their way a bit, wherafter the prize winners were called up to received their prizes.
Carl Visagie with Navigator Niel Terreblanche in their Ikarus ZU-EUV came in first place, Greg Clegg and Keaton Perkins in their Jodel ZU-UEK attained 2nd place, with third place going to soloist and local Morne Strauss in the RV4 ZU-FVL. In the spot landing that everybody carried out after the rally, the winner was also Carl Visagie. Sean Cronin took the price for the for the most accurate route flown.
Thus came to the end of a hopefully enjoyable day for everybody who took part, and given the interest in the event, should bode well for future rallies of this type and also gain an expression of interest in the more formal and timed rallies.
The competition map showing the route.
An example out of the task booklet for one of the turning points.
The tracks of some of the competitors - the red one flown the most accurately and the yellow track of a competitor that got lost, the purple track was temporarily unsure of position for a short while and sort of recovered well.
The Overall Results