BAFSA 2019 Nationals at Bill Harrop's Original Balloon Safaris

By Willie Bodenstein

A gaggle of balloons approaching a target laid out on the landing field at Bill Harrop's with the restaurant and visitors center in the back ground.

Hosted by the Balloon and Airship Federation of South Africa (BAFSA), the Afrox South African Hot Air Balloon Championships 2019 was held from 23 to 28 June 2019 at the Bill Harrop's "Original" Balloon Safaris Clubhouse Pavilion in Skeerpoort, Northwest.

Richard Bovell Chairman of the Balloon and Airship Federation of South Africa (BAFSA) in his opening address welcomed all to the 39th South African Hot Air Balloon Championships.

He also thanked title sponsor Afrox as well as platinum sponsor CDK, gold sponsor Legacy Lifestyle and Bill Harrop's "Original" Balloon Safaris for hosting the event.

"This year is significant for BAFSA," Richard said, "in particular given that we have just launched our pilot training scheme for previously disadvantaged pilots, with assistance of grant monies received from the Department of Sport and Recreation."

The three candidate pilots were all assisting in the championships.

Bill Harrop, owner of Bill Harrops Original Balloon Safaris is one of three who have had their balloon pilot's licenses for 40 years.

Daniel Honiball 22 and Zac Muller 19 were two youngsters who competed in the 2019 Nationals.

Three balloon pilots, Richard Bovell, Tony Corrie and Bill Harrop will also be celebrating forty continuous years of holding balloon pilots licenses. Another highlight this year was the entry of two youngsters', Daniel Honniball and Zach Muller. Their entering bodes well for the future of the sport of ballooning.

Events Director Mathijs deBruijn and Deputy Director John Grubbström

The competition started on Sunday at 10h30 with registration followed by a general briefing at 12h00. After the official welcome, the pilots were briefed by Events Director Mathijs deBruijn, who hails from the Netherlands but is a resident of Germany. Mathijs was responsible for the setting of the daily tasks. Assisting Mathijs was Deputy Events Director John Grubbström from Sweden. John, who served as the president of the FAI from 2010 to 2016 started ballooning in 1974.

At 15h30 competitors departed for the first flight task and officially the SA Nationals had started. Marc Nuthall, who started ballooning in 1998 and has currently logged about 2000 hours, was declared the winner followed by David MacGregor and Richard Bovell. Richard has flown in the Lorraine Mondial Air Balloon Festival in France five times.

Bill's two balloons getting ready to launch on Monday morning with the media and guests on board.

It was bitterly cold when members of the media and invited guests boarded two balloons for an early morning flight.

Competitors at their chosen sites.

During the championships pilots were required to complete a number of tasks set by the Events Director. These tasks have been created to ensure precision, accuracy and planning, the attributes each and every pilot needs to have and execute as they compete for the prestigious title. Since Hot Air Ballooning is a weather dependent sport, the Event Director evaluates the weather data when making the final task decisions just a few hours before the actual tasks are to be executed.

The target at Bill Harrops.

The competitors had departed earlier and the pilots had chosen their launch sites according to what they thought the wind will be doing. The task was a shaped target laid out on the landing area at Bill Harrop's.

Danie Minnaar approaching the target at task 4

Four tasks were flown on Monday. Task 4 was won by Zack Muller who was competing in his first nationals. Danie Minnaar, a maize farmer, who in 2017 was awarded his Silver Badge by the FAI, finished in second place and Marc Nuthall in third. Task 5 was won by Danie Minnaar. Danie has represented SA three times in the World Championships. Richard Bovell, who started flying in 1979 and has now logged close on 950 hours. Richard won the SA Championships in 1981 and 2009, was placed second with David Mac Gregor, the owner of Drakensberg Ballooning, in third.

Six balloons in the sky above Bill Harrop's.

Task 9, the first of four of Tuesday's task was a judge declared task and was won by Marc Nuthall. Alan Turner, who was competing in his third nationals and has logged approximately 160 hours, took second place with Neels van der Merwe, who has approximately 200 hours and who runs a highly successful AMO placed third.

Zack Muller approaching a target.

Eight of the balloons approaching the target.

Placed first in Task 14, the first of five set for Wednesday, was Marc Nuthall, who represented SA in the world championships held in France in 2002 and Japan in 2006. Alan Turner flew his balloon "Bumblebee" into 2nd place with young Zach Muller in 3rd.

Marc Nuthall was the winner of Task 18, a fly on flight, the last of the five tasks set for Wednesday. Zach Muller, the youngest competitor in the Nationals whose greatest influences in the ballooning industry are David Mac Gregor and the late Dani? Honiball, took second place. David Mac Gregor, who has logged about 950 hours, was placed third. Dave has represented SA twice in World Championships, once in Austria and once in Brazil.

Competitors roadside on Friday morning, the final day of the competition, searching for the ideal launch site.

Danie Minnaar's team rigging for launch.

Martyn Evers's Friday morning launch site.

Some of the competitors approaching the final target.

Since the majority of balloon pilots in South Africa are professionals who earn their living flying balloons on weekend excursions, the Nationals are held during the week with the final task set for Friday morning. The arrangement allows more pilots to participate in the event.

The team at Bill Harrop's that made it all happen. From left to right: Semakaleng Mathebula, Lorin Bowen, Bill Harrop, Sarah Bauling, Mary Harrop, Andrew Gregory and Daleen Terblanche.

Staging an event like the Nationals does not just happen, it takes a team of dedicated individuals and blood sweat and tears to put it together.

Martyn Evers receiving the Pilot of the Year trophy from Bill and Mary Harrop.

During the prize giving that was held at the clubhouse, it was announced that Martyn Evers was awarded the trophy for the Pilot of the Year. The honor was awarded to Martyn putting his life and a change to earn points at task at risk when he went to the assistance of a fellow competitor who was in trouble. Martyn was the SA Champion in 2010.

From left to right: 2nd place, Danie Minnaar, 1st place Marc Nuthall and 3rd Neels van der Merwe.

The final placings were from left to right as above. Rear row 4th David Mac Gregor, Zack Muller, Alan Turner, Richard Bovell, Martyn Evers and Danie Honiball.

My thanks to BAFSA, Bill, Sarah and Lorin and their incredible team for hosting Pilots Post. The Monday morning's flight was absolutely amazing, the breakfast scrumptious and the ambiance wonderful.

The Aero Club of South Africa in 2020 celebrates it 100the anniversary and I sincerely hope that Bill Harrop's will again be the venue for the BAFSA SA Ballooning Nationals.

Please support the sponsors who has made the event possible.

Events 2019
Hot Air Ballooning

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