Thunderstorms and lightning on Saturday morning welcomed visitors to the South African Soaring Society's 18m, 15m & 2-seater classes Championships held this year at Madibeng (Welkom) in the Freestate.
Saturday was a practise day for the competition, but the weather had other ideas. The field of 21 (15 Jonkers, 2 Discus, 2ASG,1 ASW and 1 Nimbus), that included six visitors from abroad, was dominated by the entries from the open and 18 metre classes.
Sunday the 13th was the official start of the competition. The ground was still damp after Saturday night's downpour. The mandatory pilots' briefing Saturday evening gave newcomers to Welkom an introduction and briefing about the airfield operations, the safety aspects and of course, the necessary warnings about both airspace infringements and competitors were reminded that dangerous flying was not acceptable or permitted.
On Sunday morning's briefing, the first launch was planned for 11.30 and the task for the day was announced. It was a track of 337,1 km from Welkom to Westpoint and Hertzogville and returning to Welkom. A shorter fall-back task of 288,8 km. has been set to Dealesville & Hertzogville. The planned launch at 11.30 a.m. was delayed until 12 noon and then further to 12.30 and then finally until 13.15, when it was decided to a task chance to a shorter route of 236.7 km to Ventersburg & Schuttesdraai.
Three aircraft were launched when the weather started looking dubious but since the gate has opened the competition was on and all that they could do was to wait and see what transpires and if the pilots can get around. Not too long after the gate was opened the first few gliders started returning because of the inclement weather. Sven Olivier did not make it to the field and did an out landing while the other had either had to use their engines or to abandon the course and took short cuts to return. However, John Coutts and Laurence Hardman both completed the task, proof prove the task was possible.
The skies were clear and the sun was shining on Monday morning the 14th and the spirits of the competitors were lifting. The standings at that stage was John Coutts with a massive 83 pts., Peter Farrell 2nd and Marcus Nouwens 3rd both getting 66 points.
The bad news was that the weather was expected to be worse than the day before. The task set was a 288,78n km. track from Welkom - Dealesville - Hertzogville - Welkom. When the gate opened at 12.45, the weather looked somewhat better than Sunday at the same time.
The day's task
Reports from competitors were that the weather was actually better than expected and with speeds of 140 kph being bandied around, it wasn't even 15.00 when the first arrivals, all the JS.3s, crossed the finish line. 1st was John Coutts at 147.21 kph, followed by Oscar Goudriaan at 145.0 kph and 3rd brother Laurens at 141.62 kph.
It was clear blue skies on Tuesday the 15th, good enough for a task of perhaps 500 km. or thereabouts. Time was spent at the commencement of the briefing explaining the airspace in the Bloemfontein-Kimberley-Welkom area to ensure that the pilots understood where they should be below FL105, below FL145.
As was by then expected, the task for the day was a 523,1 km. track; Welkom - Hertzogville - Crossroads - Kalkfontein - Wesselsbron - Welkom. Launch was set for 11.30 and for the first time since the start of the competition, the first aircraft was launched at the set time.
Seven made out landings and all were retrieved. By day's end all gliders were accounted for. John Coutts again took 1st position with a speed of 125,89 kph, Dolf Pretorius was 2nd at 126,86 kph and Oscar Goudriaan in 3rd spot at 123,33 kph. Overall, this had John in pole position, Oscar in 2nd place and Riaan Denner 3rd.
Thunder and lightning lit up the skies on Tuesday night, but on Wednesday it was blue skies and sunshine, with remnants of cloud from the areas where there were storms and the air was a little cooler with a bit of a breeze.
Although the day's forecast was looking good, it did have limitations since the task area, according to the forecast, was expected to be surrounded by storms. For this reason, the start line was 20 km in length and the finish in a 5 km radius. This was to allow for possibilities if there was the need for competitors to avoid storms.
The day's task
The day's task was: Welkom Start - Bultfontein (15km radius) - Hoopstad (15km radius) - Schuttesdraai (15km radius) - Wesselsbron (15km radius) - Control NW - Welkom. Launching commenced at 11.30 a.m. with the first finishers expected by approximately 15.30. The task was perfect, but the last sector was closing in so the majority just clipped the last sector resulting in an invasion of gliders all finishing back at Welkom within approximately 15 minutes.
The only lady competitor, Katrin Senne, won the day with a speed of 123,41 kph and a distance of 300,48 km., 2nd was Oscar Goudriaan at 127,22 kph and a distance of 315,55 km and 3rd was Phillip Jonker at 123,86 kph and a distance of 315,19 km. Phillip, at age 17, is a pilot to be watched!
John Coutts was still in the lead with 2374 pts, closing the gap was Oscar Goudriaan with 2343 pts and Marcus Nouwens in 3rd place with 2215 pts.
Thursday 17th December and thankfully it remained dry at Welkom compared to much earlier in the week. The weather would be similar to Wednesday according to the official forecast. However, the event's forecaster Marcus predicted that it would be worse with more showers, more spreading out and cloud cover expected over Welkom by 12 noon.
The task is another AAT - 2 hr 30 min 176,5 km./346,4 km Welkom - Bultfontein (15km radius) - Winburg (20km radius) - Ventersburg (15km radius) - Control NW - Welkom. First launch was expected at 11.30.
A sniffer was launched to see what the conditions were like and after the report, the task was changed from a 2hr 30min AAT to a 2-hr. duration. Everyone was launched and the countdown for the gate opening commenced. However, before the gate was opened, the Contest Director announced that the status of the event was changed to standby, and eventually made the call to in the interest of safety to cancel the task.
Friday 18th December and the weather and skies are looking not too dissimilar to Thursday. There was a lot of cloud residue around and some top cirrus over the airfield and on Thursday evening, there were storms and some rain. The met forecasted good weather and everybody expected a bigger task.
The day's task.
They were right, the task was set for a 3 hrs. AAT 338,09 km/575,76km (455,08km) Welkom - Greylingsdrif (15km radius) - Crossroads (15km radius) - Wesselsbron (15km radius) - Herzogville (15km radius) - Control NW - Welkom. First launch was planned for 11.30.
The gate opened at 12.53 and the first finishers were expected just after 16.00. All the pilots had returned to Welkom and they all seemed as if they had a good day, some reporting getting up to about 11 - 12 000 ft with lift about 4 m/second.
The winner of the day's task was Danish pilot, Arne Boye-Moller, with a speed of 138,06 kph and a distance of 436,29 km. Arne who flew one of the early JS.1s proved that it can still beat a JS.3!! Second place went to John Coutts at 135,88 kph, completing a distance of 450,33 km and 3rd Oscar Goudriaan at 135,88 kph, covering 441,38 km.
Overall, John Coutts was still leading with 3343 pts, Oscar Goudriaan 2nd with 3314 pts and 3rd Marcus Nouwens with 3161 pts.
Saturday 19th December and the penultimate day of the contest. By all accounts, it will be a good day. There is a stiff little wind which is quite welcome after the calmness of Friday. The winds according to the Met were expected to be light with more cloud than Friday.
Initially the task set was a 3 hr AAT 413,2 km/507,7 km (460,1 km) Welkom - Kroonstad (10 km radius) Orkney (10 km radius) - Britten (10 km radius) - Welkom.
A sniffer was launched shortly before 12.00 and managed to stay airborne, in not the best of conditions. Based on his report, the AAT task changed from 10km radius, to 20 km radius and then 40 km radius at the turn points. Then task D was set, which would have been a 269,8 km. triangle, until finally Task E was settled upon - 199,5 km. Welkom - Greylingstad - Bultfontein - Welkom. Conditions did finally improve and launching started at 13.40.
Just after 17.00 and all the pilots returned to Welkom in a flurry of arrivals. At one stage there were approx. 6 lined up one behind each other on the runway as they still needed to be moved off.
John Coutts again won the day at 157,45 kph, Marcus Nouwens was 2nd at 155,24 kph and 3rd Dolf Pretorius at 156,58 kph. Overall, John Coutts remained in the top spot with 3673 pts., Oscar Goudriaan in 2nd with 3552 pts and Marcus Nouwens 3rd with 3478 pts.
Sunday 20th December dawned and the final day of the Nationals. There was some high cirrus to be seen, but also other clouds that were starting to form some distance away from Welkom.
The initial final task
At the start of the final task the standings were so close that the championship was far from over
The final task was a 347,13 km. Control N - Makwassie - Christiana - Welkom and just to be on the safe side a backup Task B was set just in case. This was a 286,7 km. Control N - Kingswood - Britten - Welkom. First launch as usual was planned for 11.30. However, it was not to happen and delayed to 11.30, then to 12.00 and then again to 12.30. The task eventually became task C which was 351,5 km. Welkom - 14Streams - Crossroads - Welkom. The weather and conditions, when the gate opened at 13.50, was looking good for the last task of the 2020 championships.
The first competitors arrived back at the field at 16.15, the last at 17.10. The final task was won by Marcus Nouwens with a speed of 153.56 kph, followed by Yves Gerster in 2nd place at 146,34 kph, and 3rd John Coutts at 153,67 kph. John, unfortunately incurred some penalty points.
From left to right: Peter Farrell, Katrin Senne, Phillip Jonker, Riaan Denner, Arne Boye-Moller (from Denmark), Dolf Pretorius, Laurens Goudriaan, Oscar Goudriaan, Marcus Nouwens, John Coutts - It seems that it was taken in order of placings 10th through to 1st
Peter Farrell with Dennis Jankelow trophy for Safety/Airmanship…John Coutts with various trophies
Uys Jonker with son Maarten Jonker (they flew together in 2-seater, contest no. EN), Carol Clifford behind….Maarten Jonker with Carol Clifford
Photos, all the way from Germay, by Katrin Senne the only lady that took part and finished firts on one of the day's tasks.
The nationals was over, all that needed to be done was for the scores to be released. Taking the SA Nationals 2020 trophies were: 1st John Coutts 4379 pts. 2nd Marcus Nouwens 4192 pts 3rd Oscar Goudriaan 4188 pts.
Many, many thanks to Carol Clifford without whose's assistance and help this report would not have been possiable. Carol, you are a Star!
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