The Pilot Insure Witbank Speed Navigation Rally

The Pilot Insure Witbank Speed Navigation Rally – 2 February 2020 by Rob Jonkers (photos by Willie Bodenstein, Rob Jonkers)

This first of the Pilot Insure Speed Rallies for 2020 has been held at Witbank, the 2nd for Season 2, successfully organized by SAPFA and hosted by the Witbank Aeronautical Association. Planning for this event began in November 2019 with a reconnaissance to Witbank to review the logistics for the weekend. The Witbank team went out of their way to make this a memorable event for the weekend, their members having got involved in many of the aspects of achieving a great competition.

With the first event of the season behind us held at Springs, the SAPFA team and competitors held a further debrief to review options on further improvements, most notably to look at the scoring of navigation accuracy which is now normalised to ensure slow or fast aircraft types have equal chance in scoring for navigation accuracy, also scores are counted for both Navigation & Handicap where before if you won in the handicap class in the first 3 places, the scores were excluded in the accuracy class.

Entries for Witbank were 34, with 4 GPS class competitors and 8 more in the Grand Prix part of the event. There were also two schools taking part, the Mach 1 school from Springs and first time entry from Rhino Park LST – Light Sport Aviation Training. The Grand Prix event is the 2nd event in this Season 2, and is proving very popular from the result of the 1st try out held in Springs.

The route for this weekend was planned at 146nm, had 10 turning points, and for added spectator value now included a crossover, this is where the course was anti-clockwise, to cross over the airfield, and then clockwise to return from the east. The cross-over was planned to have the first of the slower aircraft already passing over while a number of the faster aircraft were still waiting to take-off.

The route in the first portion was mostly to the north and west, at the starting point of some of the valleys and rivers meandering into the Loskop Dam, the second portion towards the scenic north-east towards the eastern shores of the Loskop dam, and then back around Middelburg and some not so scenic coal fields and flatter landscapes.

The weather on Friday started out real well, the forecast not predicting any rain, but there were plenty of thermals about. Flight testing was carried out all day with Mark Clulow and Sean Cronin, although with some strong thermals in the afternoon had to wait for this to die down before continuing.

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The team of Johan Sayers & Jack Coetzer preparing to mount their Harvard ZU-WSE

The Friday afternoon initial briefing started at 18h30, David le Roux being the new race Master, introduced Rob Jonkers who took to the stage and provided a briefing on what to expect for the next day in terms of the planned route, how many turnpoints, distance, departure and arrivals protocol, and also how the scoring system worked in terms of penalties as well as the expected weather conditions, which was predicted to be clear with a light and variable wind from the east swinging north east.

All the competitors were then treated to a briefing on Steroids with Race Master David le Roux introducing all the teams to come up to the stage with a fanfare of theme songs and handing out race stickers. thereafter everybody was treated to a lamb on the spit meal provided by the host club before retiring for the evening.

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The team of Pierre vd Merwe and Neville Ferreira plotting on their wing of the Sling ZU-FWY

Saturday morning dawned with perfect flying conditions, a clear day with virtually no wind, but as the morning wore on the wind started to pick up, and from the South East which favouring Rwy 22, except the planned runway to be used was 04, as the cross-over was at the threshold of 04.

The briefing started at 07h00 am and was concluded at around 8, where everybody dispersed first for a group photo and then to park their aircraft and prepare for the scrutineers and refuelers. The wind was remaining stuck in the south easterly direction and had increased in strength, with Rob fretting over whether to delay the start to a little later to allow the wind to swing more to the predicted north easterly direction, a quick phone call to Deon vd Mescht our weather guru, confirmed the wind would swing but ever so slowly. By 9h30 the wind started to die down a little, and it was decided to continue.

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Witbank Chairman Fife Delport with first time Navigator Marga Lombaard in their Sling ZU-STT

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Navigator James Braid in an unusual plotting position flying a Sling – ZU-JAR

Scrutineers Chareen, Lizelle, Karen, Ardyn and Alex were on hand to seal up all portable GPS capable devices, and also handing out papers at the allotted time, and also checking the fuel tanks were full. For this event we used a Grand Prix style flag to release the aircraft line up, with Christian du Plessis doing the honours, under starters orders given by the starter Mark Clulow.

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Husband and wife team of Eric & Antoinette Addison in the RV7 ZU-LAX

Each team then received their envelopes with their loggers at their 20 minutes prior take-off time, and then taxi to the starting line within 10 minutes of take-off time. 1st take-off was at 09h56 for the slowest aircraft and last take-off at 10h40, with planned arrival at 11h30.

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First Timers Kobus and Jacques Botha in their Piper 140 ZS – FHH

With all the competitors off towards the norhwest, the route had a mix of easy and challenging turnpoints, especially TP 1 and 6 which required a descent into the Loskop valley, and then some hard to spot turnpoints 7,8 and 9 in amongst the mielie and coal fields. The wind had also picked up in the interim starting to favour those already heading in the westerly direction. Just before 11h30 the first aircraft over the line was a Sling ZU-IHK. The landing sequence was fairly easy to do with everybody joining right hand downwind onto Rwy 22 with good spacing.

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The line-up of aircraft at the starting line

After all teams having returned and safe on the ground, the scoring team got to work to analyse the results, with the tracks for a number being quite accurate, although some had wobbles, only two got a bit lost.

Starter Christian du Plessis waving off the Sling ZU-STT

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In sequence take-off with 15 sec intervals of some close handicapped aircraft

Getting the results out on time proved to be a challenge, with changes in the scoring system there were some gremlins that had to be fixed, and that required extra time, and with potential late afternoon weather on the reef put some time pressure to complete the results, and eventually at 4 PM the results could be announced. The tracks for the routes flown was also shown, pretty much everybody except 2 competitors did not get lost, although the eastern turnpoints were missed by a few.

Race Master David le Roux and our main sponsor Franz Smit from Pilot Insure handed out the trophies, first up being the winners of the most accurately flown with father and son team Hendrik & Jandre Loots in their Sling ZU-IHK, in 2nd place another Sling ZU-JAR with David Ross & James Braid, and in 3rd place son and father team Quintin Kruger & Johan Whiteman in their Cherokee 235 ZS-FVV.

For the handicap results, a double win for Hendrik & Jandre Loots, in 2nd place Piet Meyer and Adrienne Visser in their Jabiru ZU-DUU and in 3rd place Michael Blackburn & Steve Briggs in their Sling ZU-IBM. For the GPS event the winner being local Witbank crew of Chris and Adriaan de Beer in their C182RG ZS-KUN. The club trophy was handed over by Jonty to chairman Fife Delport, with the winning school being the Mach 1 Training School who are becoming consistently better at improving their results at each event.

This weekend’s overall results has ZU-IHK in the lead followed by ZU-DUU and ZS-FVV. The overall season points standing has ZU-IHK in the lead followed by ZU-FVV and ZU-JAR.

Many thanks to the Witbank Aeronautical Association for hosting this fantastic event, supporting with ground marshals, logistics and great evening meals, the Pilot Insure team of Franz Smit David le Roux the Race Master at the registration desk together with the Warrick Wealth team, Nigel Musgrave as the Safety Officer, Dirk and Louna de Vos and Mark Clulow doing the scoring, Marc Robinson with his team from Century Avionics for Scrutineering, Chareen Shillaw, Lizelle Kruger handing out competition papers to the crews as well as Scrutineering with their team, Jonty & Lizelle for putting together an awesome Friday evening launch event. Thanks also extended to Santjie White of the ARCC who always watches over us..

Also thanks to our sponsors, Pilot Insure being our signature Speed Rally Brand Sponsor, Flightline Weekly for sponsoring the race numbers, team sponsors Excel E&I – Leon Bouttell and Martin Meyer, The Airplane Factory – David Ross and James Braid, Pilots Post – Phil Wakeley and Mary De Klerk, Fast Flame Laser Cutting – Hendrik & Jandre Loots, Beegle Micro Trackers – Quintin Kruger and Johan Whiteman, Prompt Roofing – Leon Joubert and Franz Smit.

Our next Speed Rally event will be in Bethlehem on the 22nd of March 2020.

1st placed Race 15’s accurate track

Nice perfect Track

Oops – Found Middelburg instead

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