HOW TO ACHIEVE POSITION # 30 IN JUST 3 MINUTES
Preparing to fly an Air-race is great fun. The months, weeks and days ahead, the feeling of competition and the camaraderie. The final day dawning is really what makes us aviators keep coming back to up the ante, improve on the last performance and give it our best shot to prove to ourselves and our fellow competitors that we really CAN DO IT! Pilots Post has backed this horse (Race No 52) and despite flying in a different 'aery', we felt confident that we had a good chance of finishing in the Top 10.
The 2019 PTAR heralded a new era in Air-racing… Out with the old rules and in with the new rules. Even the weather causing the cancellation of Day 1 did not dampen the spirits of all the competitors. We all still had the chance to perform to the best of our ability on Day 2.
The Pre Race training went well and I found it a real honour and a privilege to have been asked to share the knowledge I have gleaned through years of racing with the less practiced teams. So what happened to Race 52?
Despite the strong headwinds that pushed us 3 minutes behind schedule at TP 2 already, everything was going according to plan. Actually, as a seasoned navigator, I found the route rather easy up until the first minor roadbump at TP 6. The fact that there was no Gazebo at this TP as per the schedule did not really bother us -we were confident of our position…. Maybe it had blown away in the wind? My instruction to Phil after TP 6 was “Hug the Coastline on your left” and I put my head down to refold my map (which in itself was a huge challenge with my recovering broken arm). By the time I looked up again, I noticed that we were hugging the wrong coastline, and quickly turned right to get back on track. We were quite low so could not actually see the correct coastline at Velddrif at this point. So potential disaster #1 was averted and we soon relaxed back into the next leg which was super easy over the sea. Mistake No 2 was about to hit….
We then turned inland and positioned ourselves correctly in the middle of the river heading 120. Ops normal and I found the long term point up ahead to follow. “Phil see that koppie out in the distance, I want you to keep it under your left wing”…. And off we went, never dreaming we weren't anything was wrong!!! By the time we got to the koppie, things started to look “not so lekker”…. However, as we all do, I had to make the roads fit the map. I needed a T-junction just past the koppie and 'voila' there it was, so we relaxed again. However, the picture of the T-junction just did not look like what we were seeing on the ground. Maybe the route planner had made an error? (Trying to console myself at this stage)
Leg 10 and suddenly we are a minute early…. No time to analyse the error now - let's hope it's not too serious… and off we go. TP 10, TP 11, Finish! Just too happy that we got past the finish line a minute or so ahead of schedule.
When we finally received our results, it was clearly apparent that we had clearly missed TP9 and turned around the wrong T-junction. But WHY? What happened? How could we fly such a good race with our 'steam driven' 1959 C175 and miss a TP?
It wasn't until a week later that I had time to analyse the error and learn from it - I hope others will too. Here's what happened:
1. The route appeared quite easy with no real challenges besides following the wrong coastline for a short spell.
2. Our guard was down and tensions were low…. We were going to nail this if we could fly to handicap…. Chuckle chuckle…
3. I'm a great one for highlighting features on the map such as high points and trig beacons.
4. I found my long-term point as a high ground point and headed for it without a question.
5. What I did not take into account was the fact that there was another koppie just to the right of the one I had identified which I had not highlighted. (Big Mistake) It was under the pre-printed arrow and my minute marker had obliterated it completely.
6. So, we headed for the wrong koppie feeling quite confident and without double checking that we were on track!
So. under the new rules, even though it was only a 1 minute penalty, it totally dislodged Race 52 from any position in the Top 20.
If any lessons are to be extracted from this article, I would highlight (no pun intended) 2 things:
1. DO NOT BECOME COMPLACENT if things appear easy
2. ALWAYS DOUBLE CHECK AND TRIPLE CHECK THE LONG TERM POINT.
The good news is that there are Speed Rallies happening almost every month now, so we all have the chance to redeem and re race…..
Thank you to Pilots Post for your ongoing confidence in Race 52…. We will redeem!
See you all in Bethlehem