Cape Town’s Morningstar Flying Club (MFC) hosted the third S A Power Flying Association (SAPFA) challenge of the season. This event proved to be huge fun and a winning formula for its organisers as well as its participants.
MFC is one of the most active airfields in the Western Cape, with more than 350 members and over 200 aircraft housed in more than 90 hangars. So it was a natural choice for SAPFA as host for the Cape Speed Rally. In line with one of its objectives to build excitement and experience for Presidents Trophy Air Race (PTAR) on 3 and 4 May, the Speed Rally was structured in the new format which SAPFA will be using for the PTAR.
This new race format is designed to create a fun and a fast-paced, high-energy environment for pilots and their navigators to pit their skills in a challenging yet safe flying competition. The competitors ranged from 17-year old PPLs to 60-something retired airline captains and the field of entrants reflected the enthusiasm for the new format with more than 30 entrants ranging from a 90 knot Savannah through to 175 knot RVs.
The weekend’s fun began on the Friday with Speed rally tyro Mary de Klerk providing an in-depth training session to the contestants with detailed hints ’n tips on how best to aviate and navigate accurately at low level and high speed. After a beer break, race organiser Jonty Esser followed with a ‘smoke, mirrors and lasers’ launch of the new style and then a pre-race and weather briefing by Rob Jonkers. The day ended with a traditional Cape spit-braai for the entrants, organisers, marshals, sponsors and guests. It was also an opportunity for Jonty to show off his unique taste in aviation ‘party-music’.
As Saturday dawned, the Cape weather looked like it would be traditionally ‘iffy’ and because the new format requires that the route is only disclosed to crews 20 minutes before takeoff, the only ‘knots’ were in the stomachs of the competitors. The race was formally opened by Cape Town City Mayoral Committee member, Alderman James Vos, an avid supporter of flying and aviation tourism. Also in attendance was South African Airways First Officer and founder of the Sakhikamva Foundation, Fatima Jakoet, who was excited to see how many younger aviators were competing.
The rally was planned over a difficult 120-nm course, with chicanes between the major turn points, which routed towards Paarl, on to Moreesburg then back towards the west coast past Melkbosstrand with a final high speed dash to the finish line overhead Morningstar. The aircraft were sent off according to their handicap speeds and first off were the all-ladies team of Suzanne Lang and Nicole Innes in their Savannah. Last away was the seriously quick RV-8 crewed by Ross Leighton and Guy Leitch.
The weather stepped in and added yet another handicap and a few pilots turned back because of low cloud and thunderstorm activity near the mountains. The brave (or crazy) crews pressed on and proved that Dirk de Vos had done his homework on the handicapping as the finishers were well bunched up as they powered over the finish line.
Since the speed rally format promotes both aviation and navigation skills, trophies and bragging rights were awarded for the first three placings in each category. The Winners of the navigation skills (tightest course) category was the team of Rynhardt Elstadt and Richard Brown in the Cessna 210 who narrowly beat the Rockwell 112TC of Christian Strauss and Jovan Barkenhuizen. The aviation skills (closest to handicap speed) category was won by Boy Louw and Martin Meyer in their Citabria Champion 7 with the team of Alan Fergus and Johan Walden in the V35 Bonanza close on their heels.
The results are notable in that the second placings in both categories included 17-year old PPLs. The second place best speed award was won by PPL holder and new S A Flyer columnist Johan Walden. The second place navigation award was won by Jovan Barkenhuizen, a PPL holder and also a passionate air race competitor. Both are also pursuing their Comm licences while still dealing with the daily grind of schoolwork. This level of enthusiasm and commitment shows that GA is alive and well in our youth.
The event was sponsored, planned, organised and executed with energy and professionalism and the excitement generated by the new format for competitive aviation is a good omen for SAPFA – who now maybe have the winning formula to wrest their lunch money back from the Botswana air race.
The next event is at Middleburg on March 8/9 – details at www.speedrally.co.za