A view across the airfield
A grey morning greeted the competitors at Stellenbosch airfield on Saturday 11 March. A cold front had moved over Cape Town and the remnants were just moving over when we arrived for the Western Cape leg of the National Rally competition.
Frank gives a thorough briefing
Pilots listening to the briefing with coffee in hand
Kally and Frank answering questions
A full briefing was held at 9:00am sharp conducted by Frank Eckard ably assisted by Kally Eckard. It was decided that flying would start around 10:45 to give the weather time to clear enough for safe flying. As Frank put it - "in the Cape, you wake up early, hurry to the airfield - and wait for the weather to clear".
This is the weather out towards Stellenbosch
Which gave me time to catch up on the world of air rallying as this was my first time delving into this interesting competition. Those that know me will know I have spent the last twenty odd years covering airshows both here, in the UK, and USA. Having moved to the Western Cape 18 months ago, it has given me a chance to do other sectors in the aviation field.
Maps and photos to be collected
A pretty close examination of the maps by a team member
One happy team
Kally and Frank shared their vast knowledge of what happens with this form of the sport. Kally showed me the map and photos which are given to each team before the start and explained that each team gets two trackers which will mark waypoints or turning points for each task on the map as they fly the route. The teams are then given a chance to work out where they thought these turning points are and to plan a route to fly. Timing is important and the navigator on each team will give instruction as they go.
Team Russell plotting the day
The first team I met were Anthony and Pamela Russell and they were looking at maps and wondering just where the day would take them - the only thing that they knew was that they were flying north. Pamela explained the previous days route which took them over the mountains and along the coast down south. It was quite an interesting flight according to them.
Team Russell heading out
Team Russell taking off
Team Russell touch down
The first team away was team Russell in ZS-OHI and take off time was 10:57. I watched them make a left turn out to the east and towards Stellenbosch and the first turning point and then head towards Paarl. The weather still looked a little dodgy but speaking to them on their return, they said it was absolutely fine. They flew over Stellenbosch and along the Simonsberg which was covered in clouds at that stage. Then onto Paarl and northwards.
Makro Nel and Leon heading for the runway
Domink and Zelen taking off
Justin and E~mil taking off
The teams followed with ten-minute intervals and soon, all but one team was on the way. The only team left - Megan Nel and Erik Steenberg had to wait for the return of ZS-OHI (the first aircraft away) to get into the air.
Alewyn gives a wave heading out
Alewyn and Steve taking off
Alewyn touching down on return
Chatting to Alewyn Burger and Steve van der Merwe when they returned, they seemed very happy with their flight. Alewyn was the "mad pilot" who did the spectacular low-level flying - crazy flying - during the Stellenbosch airshow last year. He is a very accomplished pilot.
Thys touching down after the flight
The teams that entered were:
∑ Antony and Pamela Russell - C172 - ZS-OHI
∑ Alewyn Burger and Steve van der Merwe - C180 - ZS-LOU
∑ Marko Nel and Leon Boutell - C182 - ZS OZS
∑ Thys van der Merwe and Jandre Loots - C172 -ZU-AFP
∑ Domink Prestele and Zelen Goldberg - C172 - ZS-SMS
∑ Justin Stanford and Emil Wissink - Sportsman - ZU-PFM
∑ Megan Nel and Erik Steenberg - C172 - ZS-OHI
It was a small field but apparently the sport is growing in the Western Cape. It would be nice to see a whole lot more teams participating. It seems like an interesting sector of aviation and a good way to sharpen ones aviating skills.
I look forward to the next rally - what a wonderful venue - there can't be too many excellent airfields to fly from!
The final combined results
Well done to the winning team.
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