The Heritage Day weekend was a very full one at Stellenbosch, with a well-attended Fly-In and breakfast on Friday and an Air Navigation Race (ANR) on Saturday. It was organized by Mauritz du Plessis and Tony Russell, who were both part of the Protea ANR team which went to Portugal in 2019. Mauritz won bronze in the landing portion of this world championship event.
ANR is a relatively new discipline. It's not a conventional rally and it's not really a race. It was designed as an accessible short-course option for those looking to compete without committing to a 100 nm route. It appeals to veteran flyers as much as it does to newly fledged PPLs.
ANR competitors are given a map per crewmember, with the channel indicated. There is nothing to plot but they can mark this up and brief one another before they go flying.
Once in the air, there are three tasks. Enter the channel at the given time. Remain in the 0.5 nm wide channel for the length of the course. Exit the channel at the given time based on your nominated speed. That's it.
Actually, there is one other task. To place your live tracker on the dash before you set off. This device is not just used to score performance, but also shows each aircraft moving through the course in real time on screens on the ground, or on the smartphones and laptops of anyone interested in following along.
ANR is a two-crew format, with each competitor "navigating" their side of the channel. The energy in the aircraft is high, as each crewmember actively communicates the aircraft's position relative to their side of the channel and course, corrections are negotiated. On the ground, things get equally vocal as spectators watch the aircraft edge closer to the edge of the channel.
The field at Stellenbosch certainly proved the breadth of the appeal. Intisar (Inty) Ahmed and Megan Nel have held their PPLs for 5 and 6 months respectively. Among their competitors were a few pilots who have been at the controls of airliners probably longer than those young ladies have been alive. Yet everyone had nerves before the start and all of them were amped on their return.
The morning route started off with a relatively easy leg, as most of the field had not competed at ANR before. The rest of the route was more challenging, but with all the turns between legs having a relatively clear ground feature to help the competitors. Seven teams competed with the honours eventually going to Alewyn Burger and Phil Bistrow in a Howard DGA-15. Notably, Alewyn was recently selected to the Protea Rally squad for the World Rally Championship that would have been held at Stellenbosch in November. He brought that same commitment to this new event and led by a significant margin. Thys Roux and Derek Lord came second in the Bosbok. Thys van der Merwe and Sally Shaw came third in a C172.
Scoring works on the basis of penalties, with 1 second leeway in the time over the start and end gates and 3 points per second for every second early or late outside that margin. Excursions out of the channel of 5 seconds or less are not penalised, but if the aircraft leaves the channel for longer than that, penalties accrue at 3 points per second.
With the easy route out of the way, competitors were given the option to try a slightly more challenging one in the afternoon. Everyone was keen to continue, but three teams had other commitments and needed to give it a miss.
The Moderate route swapped the start and end points of the Easy route and all of the turns were over open areas rather than clearly defined ground features. This made for quite a few excursions. Thys Roux and Derek were first up, but exited the course to the north. It became clear why, when Derek returned with an injury. He'd lost his map under the seat and cut his arm in his rush to retrieve it.
Willem Myburgh and Piet Matthee did extremely well on this route and excitement on the ground was high. Thys van der Merwe and Sally also put in a very good performance, similar to Willem and Piet, confirming where the challenges in the route lay.
With all the other competitor's home, Inty and Megan then put in a textbook first leg. The second leg started perfectly as well. They turned out of this leg slightly early, ending what was far and away the best start of the day. It was great to see how invested the other competitors were in their performance, while reliving their own. In the end, Willem and Piet achieved the lowest score overall for that round. Well done guys!
Combining the two sets of scores, the final results had Inty and Megan in 4th position, Thys Roux and Derek third, Willem and Piet second and Protea ANR pilot Thys van der Merwe together with novice navigator Sally coming first overall.
The day was great fun and will definitely be repeated. Tony and Mauritz are keen to set up future competitions at various levels and see the sport grow.
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