The Rand Airport Challenge kicked off the SAPFA Rally calendar for this year in unprecedented fashion for this particular event - with a perfect weather day from start to finish. This was very welcome, especially since last year's event was attempted twice with only one team eventually flying.
The teams during the briefing
Six teams were entered, all of them in the Open class. There were no entries in the Fun category. This did not prevent the experienced crews from having a great time competing.
Anthony and Pamela Russell
Pam and Tony Russell were first-time organizers at this long-standing event. Pam acted as route planner and Competition Director. Tony was Safety Officer and scorer. There were a few hiccups - such as the fact they forgot to prepare any certificates for the winners - but the core tasks of preparing a route and running a safe event were executed.
The route was for the most part accessible but had some challenging elements. In the southern section, the wind also played a role and made things tricky. Legs have to be flown at a set groundspeed, and most competitors struggled with the strong tailwind. Two arcs back-to-back and a follow-the-feature immediately after that, made for an interesting second half. Photos ranged from straightforward to challenging, with some very good scores coming through. Observation can be one of the more challenging aspects to master, so this was great to see.
The best navigation score on the day went to Rob Jonkers (Pilot) and Leon Bouttell (Navigator) who accumulated only 241 penalty points over the route. There were 13 checkpoints in all. For each, they need to be crossed within a 1 NM gate and within 2 seconds of the designated time (calculated based on nominated ground speed) in order to accrue 0 penalties. After that, penalties accumulate at 3 per second early or late. This means that the pair passed over every checkpoint, and accumulated only 80 seconds of deviation from “perfect” timing over the entire route.
1st place father and son Apie and Frederick Kotzee
2nd place husband and wife Iaan and Tarryn Myburgh
3rd Fanie Scholtz and Herman Haasbroek
The best observation score on the day was achieved by father-and-son team Apie and Frederik Kotzee. They scored 265 penalties for observation. Observation refers to identification of checkpoint photos as true or false, and for the finding and correctly marking on the map of en route photos. For checkpoints, 50 penalties are given if the crew is unsure and does not answer, 100 accrue for an incorrect answer. For en route photos, 30 points accrue for a photo not found, 15 for one found but positioned more than 0.5 NM from the exact spot where it was taken, and 50 for one found but positioned more than 1 NM from where it was taken. For both sets of photographs, perfection is free (at least in terms of penalties). So a score of 265 suggests an aircraft with some very clean windows.
4th Rob Jonhers and Leon Bouttell
5th Piet Meyer and Adrienne Visser
6th Jonty Esser and Andy Gouws
The overall results saw Jonty Esser and Andy Gouws in sixth position, Piet Meyer and Adrienne Visser in fifth and Rob Jonkers and Leon Bouttell in fourth. The podium positions were earned by Fanie Scholz and Herman Haasbroek in third position with 745 penalty points in total, Tarryn and Iaan Myburgh in second position with a total of 676 penalties, and Apie and Frederik Kotzee taking first with a grand total of 596 penalty points.
It is sadly the case that post-COVID we are seeing a decline in fun and sport aviation. Flying schools seem very active, which is fantastic to see. But their students are focused on the fastest path to qualification - something which makes sense given the expense involved - and seem to have less time for adventures along the way. This is a great shame because fun is a great learning tool, hangar talk helps us benefit from the mistakes of others rather than having to make them all ourselves, and Rally in particular is a sport that really beds in the flying fundamentals.
So, instructors and senior/advanced students alike, if budget and inclination allow, please set aside the stress of goal orientation, think back to the joy that can be had learning through play, and come out and have some fun. You'll be a better pilot for it.