SA Nationals in Air Navigation Racing 2024 - Stellenbosch Leg

By Pamela Russell


The Northern portion of the SA Nationals in ANR took place a few weeks ago out of Brakpan Airfield. This past weekend saw the corresponding Southern event at the beautiful Stellenbosch airfield. Running parallel competitions allows for greater representation from all parts of the country and will hopefully continue to fuel the growing participation by Western Cape pilots.

FASH - pretty as a picture

While a Nationals is there to allow pilots to attain a set standard and be available to the Selectors, it is also always important to encourage new participants. So, there was an Open and a Sportsmans class, and the field included a team that had not flown any type of aviation competition before.

Competitors studying the schedule

Also present were Alewyn and Oscar Burger, a father and son team comprising Protea Rally Team Captain dad Alewyn and his 11 year old son Oscar. The other Open crew were also a father and son team, with Christiaan and Mauritz du Plessis flying together - both are experienced pilots and Mauritz has represented South Africa in ANR among other events. In the open class, we had Sally Shaw and Thys van der Merwe; Thys Roux and Franklin Smit; Janneman Gericke and Michiel Brand; and Piet Matthee and Derek Lord. Franklin, Janneman and Michiel were first-time competitors, while Thys has flown on the Protea team. The others have previous fun event experience and were eager for more of the same.

Sally and Thys keeping their strength up

Kitplanes for Africa

The same route planning team of Pam and Tony Russell designed the Brakpan and Stellenbosch events.

Technically, it was easy enough to match the number of legs per route, the number of sharp turns, total distance, etc. But of course, the terrain is not equivalent.

The competition area fans northward from the field, constrained by the CTR on one side and the mountains on the other.

Most of it is hilly and even in the accessible area there are peaks to contend with.

Three routes were planned, with a fourth kept in reserve in case the wind was strong which would have taken the Yellow route off the table.

The scoring room with Tony Russell hard at work

Luckily the spare route was not required. May in Cape Town is by no means a sure thing, and the entire previous week had been wintery with just one glorious day on Thursday. Saturday obviously took inspiration from this, and although cloud built and dispersed over the field it was high, and there was little to no wind. An early ground mist cleared around 8am and any remaining low cloud burned off during the first planning session.

ZS-LOU getting a little technical assistance

Stellenbosch airfield is always a great hosting venue. Alewyn liaised with the club to make arrangements for us, and they really came to the party as always. Pam and Tony were welcomed at 7am with a roaring fire in the clubhouse. Tony was given an office upstairs as scoring headquarters and tables were provided in the adjoining hangar for a planning / quarantine area. Then it was down to the cozy clubhouse for the welcome and briefing. Rikus, the Stellenbosch club safety officer always steps up to assist in that same capacity for events, and he offered clear guidance to the teams on enjoying a safe competition.

First planning session of the morning

Open and Sportsmans class were offered the same routes, with the primary difference being more leniency in times of time spent preparing. Open competitors were allowed the standard 30 minutes maximum, followed by 15 minutes to get to the aircraft, set themselves up and be ready for take-off.

The first route was relatively straightforward but very busy. Novices Michiel Brand and Janneman Gericke flew a very neat route indeed with just a little bit of straying in the northern section. Alewyn and Oscar went out next and did even better. For a while as planner, I was concerned about the quality of the route. The finals scores thankfully showed we had just picked two very strong starters to head the field. Phew!

Mauritz and Christiaan demonstrating that they key to staying in the channel is to first fit in the aircraft

The challenge of the first route left the novice team ready for a lunch and a rest, so they opted out of the rest of the day. They are eager to come back and try more events, but two or three in a day on the first outing was not what they were ready for.

Alewyn and Oscar in their "no paparazzi" pose as they focus on the first route

The second round took the crews around Joubertspiek, and was the most scenic of the day. This route also went well for Oscar and Alewyn who scored zero penalties for navigation and timing, and so attracted points only on their landing. Derek Lord and Piet Matthee took the opposite approach, scoring a perfect zero on this landing and attracting penalties only on the nav section.

The third round was the most challenging in terms of navigation, and everyone did at least one personal excursion en route. It was also the closest route to the CTR which left the organizers carefully watching the explorers. All went well however. Once everyone found their way home, all that remained were the final landings and adding up the scores.

Our lone spectator

The results were announced in the lovely Stellenbosch clubhouse, and most entrants stayed a while for a drink and a chat. In a move I can strongly recommend, Alewyn and Oscar then took Tony and Pam for a flight as a thank you for the event.

Contestants Gallery

A huge thank you is owed to the Stellenbosch Flying Club and the management of their Clubhouse who are always generous hosts. Thanks also to SAPFA for making it possible for us to put events like this together and have a forum to push ourselves and keep our skills sharp.

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