I am drawn to microlights. I can remember somewhere in the early nineties, a group of farmers buying a trike and having Craig Couzens drive up from Durban every weekend to train them. I finally had the opportunity to fly with Craig myself during their training. I can remember the distinct wail (there is no elegant way to describe the sound of a Rotax 503) early morning over weekends. When I was home from boarding school, I ran out and watched for hours on end how the trike went around and around. Trikes are magical!
Roll on the long weekend in September when it was time for the MISASA Africa Cup at the Numbi Hotel. A well organised, carefully thought-out weekend of competitive flying and good fun. Of course, the Africa Cup is not exclusive to microlight trikes. A gaggle of Savannah's joined from their home at Kroon Airfield, a gleaming Sabre fixed wing, Gyrocopters as well Cheetah or Bushcat aircraft and a Skyranger. The balance was a mixture of different microlight trikes.
I arrived at Numbi Hotel early on Friday morning and was graciously welcomed by the reception staff. Mention must be made of Willem Fick and Richard Vorster their team at the Numbi Hotel. Nothing is ever too much trouble for them to either arrange or plan. It is a fantastic establishment just a short ten-kilometre drive from the Kruger Park.
The breakfast on the Friday morning was a lovely buffet with a lot of variety, very soon, arrivals started to trickle in as visiting pilots started arriving from Pretoria, Tzaneen, Mooketsi and Polokwane. It was great seeing some old friends. The balance of Friday morning into Friday afternoon was spent indoors hidden away from the intense Lowveld heat, which reached 41 degrees on the "real-feel scale". There was some tinkering happening also in anticipation of the afternoon flying activities. Most visiting pilots took to the air to get their eye in before the competition started in all earnest on Saturday morning. I managed to fly along with the Kroon team in their gaggle of Savannah's and captured these moments over the beautiful green lowveld.
Friday evening also saw the official briefing taking place as well as the initiation of the new pilots. Brett Hickman opened the proceedings by welcoming all visitors to the Africa Cup 2023. He also introduced Nico Willemse (Competition Director) and Rob Mcfie (Safety Director). After the formalities it was time for dinner on the pool deck with a delicious selection of meat on the braai and accompaniments.
Kitchen Staff - Hotel Numbi
After dinner it was off to the Olive and Vine bar where the new pilots to Africa Cup received the customary initiation.
With the Saturday program needing to be condensed a bit to ensure that prizegiving is concluded before the very important Springboks vs Ireland rugby match, it was decided that the participants will complete a navigation challenge early on Saturday morning, with the runway tasks following directly after breakfast.
First departures took place at sunrise. Excitement filled the air as the crews readied their craft for the departure along the navigation route that would see them fly past Inyaka Dam, Graskop, Da Gama dam and returning to Numbi.
The crews and solo pilots arrived back overhead after the navigation challenge and was to conduct a spot landing.
With all the participants safely on the ground, it was time for breakfast on the pool deck. Again, the variety and quality of the food was outstanding! With the pilots re-charged, it was time for the runway challenges to continue. All participants were required to fly a four-minute circuit, followed by three flour bomb runs then going directly into the bog roll cut. This meant that the flying program was completed by 11am, which made for a wonderful afternoon off to enjoy by the pool or somewhere in the shade to take refuge from the Lowveld heat!
Everyone gathered in the conference area for the announcement of the winners early in the evening. There was a heightened sense of anticipation! Who would be crowned the champion of Africa Cup 2023! The contest director and judges adjudicated the following winners in each category:
Best Dressed Award - Christo and Deirde Smit
Top three Rookies: (L to R 1st Martin du Preez, 2nd Sylvester de Beer, 3rd Wayne Zandberg)
Best Gees Award: Willie and Linda van der Merwe
Draad Trekker Award (Marius and Nelis)
Honorary Airmanship Award (Oom Polla)
Navigation 1st Place Pieter & Elsabe' Steenkamp
Flour Bomb 1st Place Wayne & Sonia Zandberg
3rd Place Africa Cup 2023 - Willie van der Merwe
2nd Place Africa Cup 2023 - Martin Burt
1st Place Africa Cup 2023 - Steven Shulman
This year's theme was "V". I saw Vikings, Vampires, and a lot of other beings in between. All in the name of good fun!
The prizegiving and Gala evening ended in time for the start of the rugby, which was watched and cheered on by all present. Unfortunately, South Africa had to concede to the Irish, which elicited mixed responses from those who managed to watch all 80 minutes.
Once again, Africa Cup Numbi delivered a great event, fantastic atmosphere and safe and enjoyable flying.
I must express my gratitude to Brett Hickman, Rob McFie and the entire MISASA team for again inviting PilotsPost to cover this most enjoyable and memorable event. See you next year - at Africa Cup!